Dt. 8:2-3; 14b-16a; 1 Cor. 10;16-17; Jn. 6:51-58.
This year A, Mother Church presents to us very fundamental teachings on the Holy Eucharist. The 1st reading from Deuteronomy shows us the prefiguration of the Eucharist in the manna, which the Israelites in the desert called “bread from heaven.” The 2nd reading from 1 Cor. 10 shows us the faith of the early Christians in the Eucharist: the “cup” as the “blood of Christ” and the “bread” as the “body of Christ.” The Gospel reading from Jn. 6 gives us the Eucharist as expressed in the words of Jesus himself. Let us study this passage slowly.
“I am the living bread”: Jesus says “I am”, he is God, and he became man, material and physical, to be the living bread. “That came down from heaven” when he took flesh in the womb of the Virgin Mary. “Whoever eats this bread will live forever… for the life of the world”; giving physical life by the healing of the body: many bodily healings through the Eucharist had been recorded. Emotional healings were also recorded wherein depression was turned into optimism, confusion to calmness, anger and hatred to acceptance and understanding. Spiritual healings were noticed when vices gave way to virtue, and enemies were forgiven. Through the Eucharist life was restored to many persons: physical, emotional and spiritual. “My flesh”: not a symbol of his flesh, not an emblem, not a logo; the words of Jesus are clear. And the Jews understood it that way because they retorted: “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?” Up to today many people still object to these words of Jesus: “We are not cannibals!!” This is the second reaction of the Jews that John observed. In v. 41 the Jews “murmured”, but Jesus went on to say, “I am the bread of life” in v.48. Now the Jews “quarreled” but Jesus did not capitulate; rather he insisted, v.53 “Amen, amen, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you do not have life within you.” “Son of Man”: precisely as God made man, Jesus becomes our bread and drink. He became man not only to suffer, die and rise from the dead for our salvation, but also to leave us his body and blood as food and drink and as continuous sacrifice on the altar.
V.54 “Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him on the last days.” V.55 “For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink.” Take note that Jesus does not say “symbol of my flesh” nor “symbol of my blood.” He insists “my flesh” and “my blood” and he calls them “true food” and “true drink.” Surely a symbol cannot be true food nor true drink. Furthermore, is Jesus not the Word of God and “by his Word all things were made?” (Jn. 1:3). Clearly, Jesus has the power to make this bread his flesh and make this drink his blood. Thus, when we eat this bread, we are eating his flesh; and when we take this cup we are drinking his blood (cf. 1 Cor 10:16). Many Eucharistic miracles have been documented wherein the consecrated host bled. The nearest to us is Sis. Julia Kim of Korea who showed to Fr. Jerry Orbos, SVD, the bread in her tongue that was bleeding. “Raise him on the last days”: Our receiving communion is the pledge of our resurrection. St. Paul tells us: “It is no longer I that live but Jesus lives in me” (Gal 2:20).
V.56 “Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me and I in him.” Jesus now tells us the effect of our receiving him in Holy Communion: he unites himself to us and unites us to himself. In him we become sons and daughters of the Father. Many though we are, we are one body in Christ. When we eat ordinary food, the food becomes us; when we eat him in Holy Communion, we become whom we eat.
V.57 “Just as the living Father sent me and I have life because of the Father, so also the one who feeds on me will have life because of me.” Therefore, the life in us is ultimately because of the Father who is in Jesus. We call it divine life or sanctifying grace. Because of this divine life in us, v.58b “whoever eats this bread will live forever” becomes true. Receiving Holy Communion gives us the promise of the resurrection and of eternal life. Our Mother Church teaches that what we have in the Eucharist is Jesus’ Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity. Do I recognize his presence as such, that in the Tabernacle is not just bread, but the very Person of Jesus? Many non-Catholics have declared that while attending Protestant and Born-Again worships they felt the Presence while the people were there; but when the people have gone, there was no presence, the place felt empty. On the contrary, they testified that when they entered the Catho0lic Church even when empty of people, they felt the Presence. What about us Catholics? Do we feel this presence? And do we behave accordingly?