Unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you; he who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him at the last day. My flesh is food, and my blood is drink.” (John 6:53-55)
Last Sunday, we celebrated the solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity, the mystery of God who is Father, Son and Holy Spirit, one God in three persons. The summary of last Sunday’s message is this: the Trinity represents God’s attempts to show us the depths of His love for humanity. God created us out of love, took our human flesh, and died for us, and out of love, God remains with us as Holy Spirit.
Last Sunday, we also noted: Do not try to understand the Trinity. Instead, know that God loves you so much that He will do anything for you. We are celebrating this wondrous love today; while in our human flesh, God gave us His flesh to eat and His blood to drink to sustain us and guarantee our entrance into eternal life. There are indeed so many great lessons for us today:
*1. The Eucharist is God’s Gift to Humanity*
Recall that in our Gospel passage last Sunday, we heard the words of St. John: “For God so loved the world that He gave….” You may wonder, what did God give to us? If you say, Jesus Christ, you are correct, but to be more specific, God gave us His body and blood in the Holy Eucharist.
We can read John 3:16 in this way: “For God so loved the world that He gave us His Body and Blood that whosoever eats His flesh and drinks His blood would have eternal life and be raised on the last day.” (cf. John 6:54). In other words, today we are celebrating God’s greatest gift to humanity; the gift of Himself made readily available in the Holy Eucharist.
*2. The Eucharist is Our Communion with God*
As proof of His love, God offers us His flesh and blood to eat so that by so doing, we would be in communion (blood covenant) with God, share in His life, and God Himself would enter and remain inside us. “He who eats my flesh, and drinks my blood abides in me and I in him.” (John 6:56). In all the religions in the world, Christianity is the only religion where God is this close to the people.
God declared in Deuteronomy 4:7, “For what great nation is there that has a god so near to it as the LORD our God is to us….” In Holy Communion, we enter into God, and God joins us. As the saying goes, “You are what you eat.” If this saying is true, it implies that when we eat the Body and drink the Blood, we become part of God, and God incarnates himself in us.
*3. The Eucharist is the New Manna for all who are Heaven-bound*
In today’s Gospel passage, Jesus noted: “This is the bread which came down from heaven, not such as the fathers ate and died; he who eats this bread will live forever.” (John 6:58). This way, Jesus employs a compelling image to teach what the Eucharist is about.
In our first reading, we see Moses instructing the people of Israel as they were about to enter the Promised Land that: 1. The desert experience was a test. 2. God fed them with manna which they did not know. 3. God used the occasion to teach them that man does not live on bread alone but on everything that comes from the mouth of God. 4. God did all of these so they would not forget Him.
When you take this moving speech of Moses and apply it to what Jesus says about the Holy Eucharist, you cannot but see the following: 1. While manna was a test, the Eucharist is the real deal (just as the bronze serpent was a prefiguration of Christ on the Cross). 2. As God fed them with manna to sustain them on their journey, God provided us with His Body and Body to support us on our journey to heaven. 3. We cannot depend on physical food but on the Eucharist, because it proceeds from the mouth of God. 4. God gave us the Eucharist, never to forget Him. In the words of Jesus Christ: “Do this in memory of me.” (Luke 22:19)
*4. The Eucharist is More than a Mere Symbol*
As we know, Jesus’ teaching on the Eucharist did not go down well with many of His followers. Many walked away because they could not understand how Jesus could feed them with His Body and Blood. Jesus kept on repeating Himself, again and again, showing that He was not simply mincing words. He wasn’t speaking in parables. He meant every word; He didn’t mind that people were leaving. Jesus even asked twelve if they wanted to go as well.
Knowing that the Holy Eucharist is God and not just a representation of God entails that we worship it with all the reverence and dignity that God truly deserves. This is what St. Paul warns us “Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of profaning the body and blood of the Lord… For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment upon himself. That is why many of you are weak and ill, and some have died.” (1 Corinthians 11:27-30)
This is why we do not allow everyone to partake in the Holy Eucharist. We ensure that those who come to receive it understand that it is God, not just a wafer and that they are in a state of grace (free from sin, having gone for confession and fasted for at least one hour before). Even the manner of reception is such that we give all dignity and respect to God.
*5. The Eucharist unites us as One*
In celebrating the Trinity last Sunday, we noted that just as God is perfectly united as Father, Son and Holy Spirit, we who are children of God must learn from God to be attached and live in peace with one another. Once again, in the Holy Eucharist, we see another encouraging factor for us to live in unity.
An African adage says: “You cannot eat from the same plate as me and still be my enemy.” Dear friends, St. Paul, teaches us today, “Because there is one bread, we who are many are one body for we all partake of the one bread.” (1st Corinthians 10:17). It is a shame and a big scandal that after eating from the one bread, we could still be having quarrels, hatred, suspicion, gossips and betrayals in our midst.
Let us pray: Almighty Ever-Living God, may my reception of your body and blood not bring me judgement and condemnation but, through your loving mercy, be protection in mind and body for me. Through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Bible Study: Deuteronomy 8:2-3,14-16, Ps. 147:12-15,19-20, 1 Corinthians 10:16-17, John 6:51-58)*
@Rev. Fr. Evaristus E. Abu