The Body and Blood of Christ
Deut 8:2-3 & 14-16; 1 Cor 10:16-17; Jn 6:51-58 (Year A)
‘Remember how the Lord your God led you for 40 years in the wilderness. He fed you with manna, to make you understand that man does not live on bread alone but on everything that comes from the mouth of the Lord.”
The manna that sustained Israel on its long journey to freedom was a prefiguration of Jesus who entrusted himself to the Church as the “living bread which has come down from heaven”.
Looking back on their shared wilderness experience, Moses had invited the people to understand the challenge represented by the manna. In the wilderness they had been consumed by hunger that had fuelled a restless grumbling against Moses. The manna had demonstrated that it is God alone who feeds our deepest hunger, and that his graciousness is a call to fidelity.
As we celebrate Christ as the living bread come down from heaven, let us be mindful of the Eucharist as a call to fidelity. Sinful humanity is vulnerable to deceptive hungers. Christ alone promised that whoever eats the bread that he shall give will live forever.
St Paul understood the Eucharist as a Communion with the Body and Blood of the Lord. It is a communion in which we surrender ourselves to the Lord who gives himself to us, so that we might live in him as he lives in us. The gift of the Eucharist, like the manna of old, is therefore a call to fidelity. The commitment it implies touches every aspect of our lives. “The Bread that we break is a communion with the body of Christ. The fact that there is only one loaf means that, though there are many of us, we form a single body because we all have a share in the same loaf.”
The Eucharist, therefore, is a call that the many might become one. The invitation to “eat this bread and drink this cup” reaches far beyond the liturgical celebration of the Eucharist. It is an invitation to work for unity at every level: in our homes, our congregations and at every level of a divided society. The Eucharist challenges the divisions that we sustain.
The Eucharist also enables our longing to bring healing to a divided world. Alone we cannot reconcile a divided world. Our communion with Christ as the bread of life enables him to become our strength in reconciling that world. “As I, who am sent by the living Father, myself draw life from the Father, so whoever eats this bread will draw life from me.”
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