4.20.18 Wed.. 3rd wk of Easter (II)
Acts of Apostles 9: 1 – 20
Gospel of John 6: 52 59
The Jews quarreled among themselves, saying: “How can this man give us his Flesh to eat?” †Jesus said to them:
“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. Whoever eats my Flesh and drinks my Blood has eternal life, and I will raise him on the last day. For my Flesh is true food, and my Blood is true drink. Whoever eats my Flesh and drinks my Blood remains in me and I in him. 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. This is the bread that came down from heaven. Unlike your ancestors who ate and still died, whoever eats this bread will live forever.” These things he said while teaching in the synagogue in Capernaum. The Gospel of the Lord.
Homily: Fr. Mike Murphy Mystery of the Eucharist
“Unless you eat the Flesh of the Son of Man and drink His Blood, you do not have life within you”. (Jn.6:52f) These are simple elements of bread and wine becoming the Living God. We try to understand it but it remains a mystery. When I hold up the host (and Fr. Mike holds up the unconsecrated host for all to see) at the consecration of the mass, it goes through my mind: “How can I be holding, how can this become the Body of Christ because of a few words that I say”? It is an incredible mystery that we don’t fully understand! So it is not surprising that first century Jews found this difficult to accept, because Jewish Law prohibited consuming the blood of birds and mammals, along with their flesh. And yet, †Jesus is now telling these pious Jews, many of whom are His own disciples, that this is the only way to have life – to eat His flesh and drink His blood. How can this be? The Scriptures shed light upon a three-fold mystery of the Eucharist.
First: In the Eucharist, we are mystically transformed into Christ. †Jesus gave us the gift of the Eucharist as the reminder of His love; we are united in His love. This is what †Jesus said at the Last Supper. He prayed: “So that there may be one, as you Father are in me and I am in you; that they may also be one in us”. (Jn.17:20-21) †Jesus gave His life on the altar of the cross, the greatest gift of any human being, so that we can be united with Him at this altar. “Whoever eats my Flesh and drinks my Blood remains in me and I in him. (Jn. 6:54) The Eucharist, †Jesus says: is essential to our life. It is the heart of the Christian life.
Last month during his general audience, Pope Francis said: “Each time we receive Communion, we resemble †Jesus more. We transform ourselves more fully into †Jesus. As bread and wine are converted into the Body and Blood of the Lord, so too, those who receive it with faith, are transformed into a Living Eucharist”. (General Audience: 21 March 2018) We become a Living Eucharist!
The second mystery: The Eucharist is also about feasting on the Word of God. The Liturgy of the Word, precedes the Liturgy of the Eucharist. We read this from the Book of Deuteronomy. Moses said: “Not by bread alone does one live, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God”. (Deut. 8:3) When †Jesus was being tempted in the desert, He repeated those words to the evildoer. The mystery of the holy Body and Blood of †Jesus is more than just receiving Communion, more than just a wafer of bread and a little sip of wine. It is much more than that – it is feasting on the teaching of †Jesus. You can come to Communion and go out that door and forget all about this – and this will have done you not one bit of good – if we don’t adhere to the teachings of †Jesus; that is very important. As †Jesus spoke of eating His Body and drinking His Blood, there was a great defection amongst many of His disciples – they just could not accept this teaching. Now, these were good people, who believed in †Jesus, but His teaching was too much; they didn’t understand what He was saying. And then †Jesus said to some of His disciples: “Are you also going to go”? (Jn.6:67) And then Peter replied: “Lord, to whom shall we go – you have the Words of
eternal life”. (Jn.6:68) (The “words” – the Word of God.) So it is not just the Sacrament, the Bread and the Wine – the Body and the Blood; it is feasting on the Word of God.
†Jesus said in John’s Gospel: “The one who feeds on me has life”. The Greek word that is used for ‘feed’ in this passage – has the connotation of an animal eating. Animals tear apart and they gnaw – they are very passionate about how they eat and chew – and that is the sense that †Jesus was saying – it is to truly tear apart His Word and consume it with passion – with passion. The words of †Jesus must be the only words that matter in our life – calling us to love and compassion and mercy. It is to live the mystery of the whole of †Jesus – Word and Sacrament!
The real encounter with Christ in the Eucharist unites us to the mystical Body of Christ. That is like Paul’s encounter with the Lord on the road to Damascus. The Eucharist incorporates us into the Mystical Body of Christ. This is the third part of this mystery of the Most Holy Body and Blood of †Jesus – to see others in the Body and Blood of †Jesus; to see the person of †Jesus in other people. Before his conversion as we heard in the first reading – Saul saw Christians as heretics, they were traitors to the Law of Moses. But after his conversion, Paul saw the truth! He would later write: “We share in the one Bread and the one Cup because we are ‘One’ in Christ †Jesus”. (I Cor. 10:17) We are ‘One’ in Christ †Jesus!
Again from the Gospel, †Jesus said: “Whoever eats my Flesh and drinks my Blood remains in me and I in him” (Jn. 6:54). †Jesus is among us, †Jesus will be in your home when you go home after mass, †Jesus is in our community. Again, Pope Francis teaches: “As it unites us to Christ, tearing us away from our selfishness, Communion opens us and unites us to all those who are a single thing in Him.
This is the wonder of Communion – we become what we receive!” (ibid)
Do we venerate the Most Holy Body and Blood of †Jesus in one another? We are all part of the Mystical Body of Christ. As you encounter other people today – remember – †Jesus is among you; †Jesus is in that person. We are all part of that great mystery. It is a gift that has been given to us. Let us feast on the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ in the Eucharist, in His Word and in His presence with one another.
Bishop Robert Barron writes: “It is not correct to simply say that God is Spirit and we are matter. Matter has been invaded by Spirit…It means that He wants to be Lord of my flesh and bones…to move into every nook and cranny of my life, my work, my recreation…all those fleshy things that I do. He wants to be Lord of all of that”! (Bishop Robert Barron; Word on Fire; Daily Gospel Reflection, 20 April 2018)
This is the mystery of the Eucharist. It is the way to live life – and to live it to the full.
In the Name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.