Body And Blood Of Christ – Year A.
Commentary Theme for this Sunday:
“Take And Eat”!
All the three readings of today help us reflect on the meaning of the Eucharist.
The first one speaks of manna, an unexpected gift of God that gave life to the people of Israel during their stay in the desert.
The second reading tells us that the Eucharist is not bread to be eaten all alone. It is broken out and shared among all the brothers and sisters of a community as a means and sign of unity with Christ and each other.
The Gospel presents a gift immensely superior to manna: the ‘Bread that gives Eternal Life’. To eat such Bread means to accept to be identified with Christ.
It is recommended that the actual readings are first studied and then meditated upon with a prayer to the Holy Spirit to grant you the gift of ‘wisdom’ to understand the meaning of the messages of Love, Forgiveness and the Offer of Salvation that the Lord has for each one of us in the Holy Bible.
These commentaries, which have been extracted and summarized for our meditation are from the published works of priests who have by their Divine inspiration become acclaimed scholars of the Scriptures and generally reflect the Church’s understanding of the readings.
These commentaries are not meant to replace the Sunday Homily at Holy Mass but are provided as an additional guide to assist and further enhance our understanding of the Sunday Liturgical Readings.
‘Daily Reflections’ and a Prayer are included to enable us to ‘Live the Word’ during the week following the Sunday Mass. We will begin to understand the meaning of gratuitous love and our life’s true purpose. Through His Word we will follow the Light to help fulfil the mission that has been given to each one of us by our Creator.
“In the Old Testament the ‘New’ is hidden.
In the New Testament the ‘Old’ is laid open”.
Deuteronomy 8:2-3, 14b-16.
In chapter 8 of the Book of Deuteronomy, some words are repeated rather persistently and we find them in the reading of today: “remember”, “learn”, “keep” and “do not forget”. Why this emphasis on not forgetting the past?
When this part of Deuteronomy was written, the people of Israel were in a rather desperate situation, and close to destruction. No human help could prevent an imminent national disaster. What could they do? Today’s text is an invitation to “remember”, “not to forget” what God had done for their fathers. It was not the first time Israel was in difficulties that looked insuperable. Let them remember what happened in the desert.
In that arid place the difficulties were many, extreme hunger, thirst, poisonous snakes and the risk of getting lost. Had they depended on their own resources, all of them would have perished. Who saved them? Deuteronomy replies: it was “the word of God” that brought them manna in the desert and that was an unknown nourishment, completely new food. Had God saved Israel by sending them bread, this would have been counted as a great miracle. He had prepared for them something even more sensational: a food they had never tasted before.
The author of Deuteronomy wants to teach his people (and us!) a very important truth: the word of God is capable of solving situations that humanly speaking are desperate, and the way this happens comes to us as a great and welcome surprise. The first reading prepares us for the message we will find in the Gospel. To those who are getting exhausted as they journey through life, Jesus offers completely new bread: his Word and his Body.
Psalm: 147:12-16, 19-20.
The Psalm gives many reasons to Jerusalem to praise God. Among them is God’s two-fold gift of food: the material food of wheat, which gives bread and the spiritual food of his Word. It also reminds us of God’s generosity, and how God cares personally and unfailingly for all his people: it is God who keeps the city safe and ‘filled you with finest wheat’. With it all, a sense that it is all for us:‘God did not act like this for all gentiles – they know nothing of such rules. Halleluiah!’ The ‘New Covenant’ tells us of God’s love and care for ‘all’ people.
1 Corinthians 10:16-17.
Paul speaks of the food that the manna prefigured. “The cup of blessing that we bless, is it not sharing in the Blood of Christ? The bread that we break, is it not sharing in the Body of Christ?” The Eucharist is not only the celebration of our union with God and our identification with Christ, but it also celebrates our union with our brothers and sisters. Can Christians share the Eucharist and as soon as they leave the Church, go on deceiving each other, and ruining each other’s lives and families? If any one goes to Communion with such evil in their heart, are they not as Paul will say later, eating and drinking their own condemnation?
Sacraments are powerful acts, gestures of assent that Paul, at least, took very seriously and with great deliberation. When we incorporate the ‘Body and Blood of Christ’, the ‘Eucharist’ into our own bodies, we let it become one with our life. When we take the ‘cup of salvation’ in our hands; do we truly understand our commitment we are making to Jesus?
Chapter 6 is known as the ‘crises’ in John’s Gospel. Many of those who have followed Jesus up to now desert him after this teaching. It is at this time too that the decision is made to seek an opportunity to put him to death. This teaching about the ‘Bread of Life’ was the most controversial and most costly to Jesus in all of the Gospels.
The Body of Christ has suffered much through the centuries for the sake of this understanding. The Church has been rent into two camps, Protestant and Catholic, divided in our belief about the ‘significance’ of this meal. These words of Jesus are startling and to one without proper understanding and faith, they sound grotesque. Jesus, the Word made Flesh, has come to be our food. The Life of God is offered to us as ‘consecrated bread and wine’. Take and eat, the priest recites at every Mass, for this is my Body, which is given up for you. We do this in holy memory, as Jesus bid us. In fear and trembling, in wonder and gratitude, daring and desiring, we Catholics take this food that will make us one with Christ and with each other.
In the Gospel Jesus states, “I am the Living Bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats this bread will live forever…. Unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood you have no life in you. Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood have eternal life, and I will raise them up on the last day.” These are extraordinary words! They promise that in and through the Eucharist we are being introduced into an ever-closer union with Christ and with one another.
The Eucharist, like all interpersonal relationships, works mysteriously, not magically. To participate fully in this meal from heaven we must constantly strive to put on the mind and heart of Christ. The more we do so, the more nourishment we will receive from the Eucharist. What happens when we eat material bread? This food is assimilated and becomes part of ourselves. It is transformed into our own flesh. Jesus says that he is the ‘Bread’. It is his person that must be eaten and be assimilated. It is his very existence given up for men and women that must become our own existence.
Communion in the Body of Christ means to accept to identify ourselves with him. It means to offer up our own selves to him so that he can keep living, suffering, giving himself and rising again in us. We need to become ‘one’ in Christ. This is why Paul insists that before eating this Bread, the Christian must “recollect themselves” (1 Cor 11:28), and see if they are ready to let the life of Jesus continue in them.
There are some Christians who consider Holy Communion as a medicine that acts automatically. If the Eucharist is to have effect it must be received in faith and in a state of grace and we must be ready to be transformed into the person of Jesus.
We all know that we cannot receive the Eucharist before listening to the Word of God. This is because in the reading we discover new aspects of the person of Jesus, which we need to imitate; then, in eating his Body, we intend that his “Flesh” may shine through our own in an ever clearer and in a more luminous way. After communion, whoever meets us, whoever looks at our deeds, at our ways of acting with others should be able to recognize Jesus who continues to love, act, speak, teach and smile through us.
Our humble listening to the Word of God and our sharing in the
meal of the
‘Body and Blood’ of Christ, will work this miracle.
‘Acknowledgement and Thanks’ to ‘Recommended Source Material’ by:
Archbishop Daniel E. Pilarczyk, Fr. Fernando Armellini SCI, Peter Edmonds SJ,
Richard Baawobr M.Afr, Joseph A. Slattery Ph.D, Adelmo Spagnolo MCCJ, Silvester O’Flynn OFM Cap, J.E. Spicer CSsR, John R. Donahue SJ and Alice Camille – Master’s degree in Divinity.
Reflections for each day this Week to lead us in the ‘Way’:
Almighty God and Father, on the… of the week following the Solemnity of the Body and Blood of Christ Sunday: Year A,
we reflect on ….
Sun … We must trust in God. God still sends us the means to survive our difficulties whether it is in the form of a special inspiration, a determination to get up from the fall of our failures and to succeed, or the unexpected help from a stranger, friend or family member. It all comes from God.
Mon … The Israelites experienced ‘wonder-bread’ manna, which formed miraculously in the night, which could be gathered at dawn. When we put our total trust in God and pray for his help, many answers to our problems form miraculously during the night while we rest under God’s protection and are given to us in the light of the new day.
Tues … Moses tells his people that it was not the bread that sustained them, but God’s desire that they might live. Likewise we are not supported from the help we received to solve our difficulties, but God’s desire that we too may live. There is no magic in prayer but rather in the wonderful way our loving God extends his hand. God will always find a way.
Wed … Sacraments are powerful acts that
Paul took very seriously. When we take the ‘Cup of Salvation’ in our hands, how would we answer Jesus should he ask us: are we too prepared to drink of the cup from which he drank?
Thurs … When we eat his Body and drink his Blood it is his person that must be assimilated. It is his very existence given up for men and woman that must become our own existence. It is a means to offer up our own selves to him so that he can keep living, suffering, giving himself through us and rising again in us.
Frid … The manna foreshadowed the real Bread from heaven given to us in the Eucharist as the food to sustain us on the journey to heaven. ‘Anyone who eats this Bread will live forever; and the Bread that I shall give is my flesh, for the life of the world.
Sat … Having consumed the Body and Blood, we become bread and wine for others. Let us seek a way to celebrate God’s calling to be food for others either in a spiritual way through the passing on of the ‘Good News’, or bringing the bread of our presence to someone who is in need or to share a lunch with a hungry or lonely person.
Prayer after the Daily Reflection.
Father, the life of Christ is offered to us as the Eucharist. “Take and eat”, Your priest recites at every Mass, for this is My Body, which is given up for you. As Jesus bid us, in fear and trembling, wonder and gratitude, daring and desiring, we take this Bread of Life.
This we ask through our Lord Jesus Christ, Your Son, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, One God, forever and ever. Amen.