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Blog

Holy Eucharist is Real!

Posted by cfcbermuda on August 18, 2009 at 6:08 PM

Twentieth Sunday – B (Prov 9:1-6; Ps 34:2-3, 4-5, 6-7; Eph 5:15-20;

Jn 6:51-58)


 

In October 1972, a charter flight from Uruguay was crossing the Andes

Mountains to Chile. It never reached its destination. All forty

passengers on board were presumed dead. But 72 days later, 16 emerged

alive to tell how they had survived on the snowcapped slope where their

plane had crashed. For food, they had eaten the flesh of the passengers

who had died in the crash. And especially for this fact, the world was

stunned to learn their story.


In today’s Gospel, Jesus’ listeners are likewise stunned to learn the

incredible promise that He makes: One day He will give a special bread

for them to eat, a bread that in reality will be His own flesh. Is it

any wonder that they object, “How can this man give us his flesh to

eat?” Certainly, Jesus’ assertion demands some kind of explanation.

Jesus’ discourse in today’s Gospel passage is enlightened by its

proper context of John, chapter six. As we can still remember from a

couple of Sundays ago, the chapter begins with Jesus feeding the crowd

of 5,000 by multiplying five small loaves of bread. Normally, bread

results from a long and tedious process—beginning with spring planting

and ending in an oven. But Jesus’ simple blessing dispenses with both

time and effort. His action is a resounding declaration: “I can suspend

the laws of nature for BREAD!”


Later that night, while the disciples are struggling to steer their

boat on the storm-swept sea, Jesus comes walking towards them on the

surface of the water. This is the strangest of all the Gospel miracles.

To walk on water seems to smack of what occurs in pagan myths. What’s

the point? A most important one, actually: The law of gravity mandates

that weighty objects seek their rest at the lowest possible level. By

preventing His body from sinking, Jesus was implicitly declaring: “I

can suspend the laws of nature for my BODY.”


The next day, some of the crowd that had been fed came to Jesus on

the other side of the lake in order to make him their “bread king.”

Jesus used the occasion to promise that someday He would give a special

BREAD that would be His own BODY (Jn. 6:51).


In short, when Jesus fed those hungry thousands with only five small

loaves, He proved, “I can do what I want with bread.” By walking on the

water, He confirmed, “I can do what I want with my body.” That

afternoon, He drew the logical conclusion: “Someday, I will give a

special bread that in reality is my body.”


When did Jesus fulfill the awesome promise He made that afternoon? At

the Last Supper, when He blessed the bread and wine saying: “Take, eat.

This is my body. . . .Take, drink. This is the cup of my blood.”


For almost 2,000 years the Church has firmly taught that whenever the

priest at Mass does what Jesus did at the Last Supper, the bread and

wine are changed in substance to the Lord’s true flesh and blood, even

though the accidentals (that is, appearance or properties) of the bread

and wine remain. Does this seem incredible? Perhaps an illustration

might shed some light on this marvel.


You grasp an iron bar. How do you know that it’s iron? From its

weight, its color, and its hardness. But in outer space, the bar

becomes weightless, and in a blast furnace it becomes a red-hot liquid.

Is it still iron? Yes, of course, for its substance remains the same.

Only the accidentals (weight, color, hardness) have changed.

In the blast furnace of God’s love at Mass, the reverse of this takes

place. The accidentals of the bread and wine stay the same; the

substance changes into the Lord’s own body and blood. This marvelous

change the Church calls transubstantiation.


Ever since that afternoon of the promise at Capernaum, many have

refused to take Jesus at His word. Some have said that the Eucharist

only represents Him. However, if Jesus had meant a mere symbolic eating

of His flesh, why did He allow His listeners to take Him so literally?

Indeed, elsewhere in John’s Gospel, whenever Jesus’ listeners had

understood Him incorrectly, the misunderstanding was corrected at

once.


For example, in John chapter 2, Jesus told the chief priests—who were

standing in the Temple courtyard—“Destroy this temple and in three days

I will raise it up.” The chief priests thought He meant the temple of

stone. So the Evangelist added the clarification that Jesus was

referring to the temple of His risen body. In the next chapter, when

Nicodemus concluded that Jesus had in mind a physical rebirth (“Surely,

a grown man cannot enter his mother’s womb a second time to be born”),

Jesus pointed out that He had meant a spiritual rebirth. And in the

eleventh chapter, when the disciples thought that Jesus wanted to

awaken Lazarus from natural slumber, He had to specify that He had

meant the sleep of death.


However, when His listeners at Capernaum objected, “How can this man

give us his flesh to eat?” far from correcting any misunderstanding,

Jesus went on to reinforce His statement by adding that they had to

drink His blood as well—something utterly abhorrent to a devout Jew!

When they refused to accept this “intolerable teaching,” Jesus

allowed them to walk off and leave Him. He did not call them back so

that He might restate His message to make it more palatable, by

rationalizing. No, He turned to the Twelve and asked, “Do you want to

leave me, too?” Why was Jesus prepared to risk so much—even the loss of

His chosen twelve? The only possible answer is that the presence He

spoke of was not symbolic but real.


Recent surveys indicate that many Catholics are entertaining serious

doubts about the Real Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist. However, a

serious examination of the sixth chapter of John leaves no room for

doubt that Jesus is really, truly, and substantially present in the

Eucharist—the Sacrament of His Love and Life.


So much does Jesus love us that He conceals himself under what looks

like bread in order to ravish us in the love embrace of Holy Communion!

To receive Jesus’ Body and Blood is to receive his very life. Indeed,

to the quarrels of Jews Jesus replies reiterating and insistently

repeating in today’s Gospel: “I am the living bread… whoever eats this

bread will live forever… my flesh is for the life of the world… unless

you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink from his blood, you do

not have life within you… whoever eats this bread will live forever.”

Lots of repetition to help us to understand something very basic: to

share this Eucharistic meal is to share in the life of Jesus.


Therefore, in comparison to what was stated in the Gospel reading of

last Sunday, in today’s Gospel Jesus goes one step further in teaching

on eternal life. He implies that besides the necessity of believing in

him, Eternal life comes actually from feeding on Him. Those who share

in the Eucharist are not believers who merely hope to enjoy eternal

life in the future, but instead, they already posses it.


My brothers and sisters, for us, the current hearers of Jesus and his

companions at the Eucharistic table, should be no doubt that being fed

by his real body and blood we will live forever. Amen!

 


Fr. Evandro

Categories: Faith, Philosophy

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