Pastoral Reflections

Corpus Christi – 2017

I have a hunch that many of us would love to meet Jesus. Wouldn’t you love to meet Jesus? I believe that many of us have an ongoing desire to experience a closer relationship with him. I would go so far as to say that many of us would prefer to have more of Jesus in our daily lives. The reality is that we are able to accomplish all these things, if we come to the right place, that is, to Holy Mass and the Eucharist.

There is no doubt that the best place to meet Jesus is in the Eucharist. If we desire to be intimate with Jesus, he tells us exactly how we can accomplish this. Jesus states, ‘whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me and I in him. (John 6:56) Our most intimate moment with Jesus is when we receive him in Holy Communion. At that point, we actually receive Jesus into our very bodies and he receives us into his glorious life. We could not be any closer with Jesus then at the moment we receive him in Holy Communion. We become one. ‘Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me and I in him’. (John 6:56) It reminds me of what we read in Genesis about a man and woman becoming one in marriage. When we receive Jesus in Holy Communion we are no longer two but one; we and Jesus are intimately united. Jesus gave himself for us on Calvary and gives himself to us in Holy Communion.

In today’s Gospel we hear Jesus say, the bread that I will give is my flesh for the life of the world. (John 6:51) This is really the same as what Jesus says during the Last Supper, ‘this is my body, which will be given for you (Luke 22:19). In today’s passage Jesus says, ‘the bread that I will give is my flesh for the life of the world’. (John 6:51) And during the Last Supper Jesus says, ‘this is my body, which will be given for you.’ Jesus gave up his body for us on Calvary and he gives up his body for us in every Mass so that we may receive him in Holy Communion.

Mass is the one sacrifice on Calvary extended through time to us. Some misunderstand and think that we as Catholics sacrifice Jesus again during every Mass. No, it is the one sacrifice of Jesus on Calvary, which is extended through time
to us in every Mass. So truly Jesus can say to us, the bread that I will give is my flesh for the life of the world. (John 6:51) This is my body, which will be given for you (Luke 22:19). So we and Jesus can enjoy intimacy together, as ‘Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me and I in him’. (John 6:56)

If there is any doubt about the real presence of Jesus in the Eucharist, we can resolve this doubt via three understandings. First, we only have to turn to Jesus’ words, which we have heard thus far in my scriptural reflections. Jesus is without sin, so he is incapable of lying or distorting the truth. The real presence of Jesus in the Eucharist is so, because Jesus says it is so. This should be enough, right? Unfortunately, for some, as sad as it is, this is not enough.

So, secondly, in the Gospel passage today, Jesus is explaining what takes place during the Last Supper and at every Mass.  It is another take on the Last Supper, looking at the Last Supper from another angle so that we get a fuller understanding. At the Last Supper Jesus was not speaking in symbols and metaphors. The Last Supper was an un-bloody sacrifice, like the Mass, which was followed by the bloody sacrifice the very next day, Good Friday. At the Last Supper, Jesus intends us to understand that the bread becomes his Body and the wine becomes his Blood, that transubstantiation takes place both at the last meal with his apostles and during the consecration at every Mass.

Those who were listening to Jesus in the Temple precinct talk about the Eucharist, (John 6), knew he was not talking in symbols; as they started arguing afterwards about what he had just said. In John 6:52 we read, “The Jews quarreled among themselves, saying, “How can this man give us (his) flesh to eat?” It was clear to them that Jesus was talking about his flesh as bread and it would become clear for his listeners later that he really did mean that the bread of the Eucharist becomes his flesh. Frankly there is no room for confusion on this issue.

Thirdly, in the Old Covenant the supreme dwelling place of God on earth was in the temple in Jerusalem, but in the New Covenant God is with us in Jesus anytime we celebrate Mass and receive the Eucharist. Jesus gives himself to us in the bread and wine changed into his Body and Blood during Mass. In the Old Covenant God fed his people with manna when they were wandering in the desert as we heard in our first reading (Deuteronomy 8). In the New Covenant Jesus feeds us with his own Body and Blood through his Real Presence in the Eucharist.

When we read what Jesus said in the original language of the Gospel, namely Greek, we see that what Jesus said was very strong and clear. In the original language Jesus didn’t just say “eat my flesh” (φαγειν) but something much stronger like, “chew on my flesh” or “gnaw on my flesh” or “crunch my flesh with your teeth” (τρώγειν). So in the original language of the Gospel the last line of today’s passage reads something like this, your ancestors ate (ἔφαγον) the bread that came down from heaven and died but whoever gnaws and crunches (τρώγων) on this bread will live forever. So reading the Gospel in its original language leaves no room for confusion, Jesus really did intend us to understand that the bread of the Eucharist is his flesh.

Our conclusion is that Jesus really is present in the Eucharist, and the Eucharist is the Real Presence of Jesus. Because our faith in the divine presence in the Eucharist is weak from time to time, God sends us miracles to remind us that the Eucharist really is food and drink for our souls. In the history of the Church a small number of people from time to time have been given the grace to survive only on the Eucharist, eating no food except the Eucharist. Blessed Alexandrina of Portugal, following an apparition of Christ, during which he said to her, “You will not take food again on earth. Your food will be my Flesh; your drink will be my Divine Blood …” lived only on the Eucharist during the remaining thirteen years of her life. Marthe Robin in south eastern France did not consume anything except the Eucharist from 1928 until her death in 1981. There are others who have also received this grace.

On more than one occasion over the centuries, the communion bread transformed itself into actual flesh, following the words of consecration. The most recent event like this occurred in Poland.

We all want to meet Jesus. We want to have a closer friendship with Jesus. We want to have more of Jesus in our lives. In order to accomplish this, we have to come to the right place, to the Eucharist. The best place to meet Jesus is in the Eucharist. Each time before we receive Jesus in the Eucharist we want to be as pure as possible. If you want to be intimate with Jesus, he clearly tells us how, ‘whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me and I in him’. Let us approach Holy Communion with deep reverence, not only today, on the feast of Corpus Christi, but at every Mass in which we participate.

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