(Deut 8:2-3, 14b-16a,Ps 147:12-13, 14-15, 19-20,
1 Cor 10:16-17, John 6:51-58)
Jesus is very clear in his teaching—his flesh is real food and we must eat it if we want to have life. Actually the verb we find in the Greek text is not simply eat but chew, gnaw and really digest what we receive. The Word cannot just enter one ear and come out the other but needs to become part of us. How can we do this? How can we listen to the Word of God in a deeper way?
The first reading gives us a clue —Moses said to the people, “Remember” (Deuteronomy 8:3). It was a very important action of the people of God in the Old Testament—to remember what God had done in their lives, to remember what the Lord had told them. Many times their problems came when they forgot what the Lord had promised them.
Remembering something brings it to mind, something that was probably already in the heart but lying forgotten, neglected and maybe a little dusty. Again Moses reminds the people a few verses later, “Remember, the Lord, your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, that place of slavery; who guided you through the vast and terrible desert with its saraph serpents and scorpions, its parched and waterless ground; who brought forth water for you from the flinty rock and fed you in the desert with manna, a food unknown to your fathers” (Deuteronomy 8:14-16).
To remember all the good things God has done for us makes us grateful for the present and fills us with trust for the future journey.
One concrete way to remember and to digest the Word of God is to recall what the Lord has told us and try to assimilate it. Assimilation is what a cow does to the cud. It chews and chews it and even after swallowing it will store it in the various stomachs and regurgitate to draw more nutrients from it.
Last Sunday one of the readings talked of God being “slow to anger.” This really struck me and made me reflect during various moments this week. Am I slow to anger? In the letter of James it says, “Know this, my dear brothers: everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry” (James 1:19).
Often similar passages can help us to deepen on a theme. Even in the book of Proverbs it tells us, “A patient man is better than a warrior, and he who rules his temper, than he who takes a city” (Proverbs 16:32). The Holy Spirit reminds us and helps us to remember the city” (Proverbs 16:32). The Holy Spirit reminds us and helps us to remember the Word of God we have prayed with and to assimilate it in the various situations of life. The Word of God can really nourish us and strengthen us on our journey too.
The people of God were fed with manna which gave them strength to get through the desert. The psalmist says that God fills us with the finest of wheat. Jesus picks up this theme in the gospel today and announces a teaching which was hard for the Jews to digest – “I am the living bread come down from heaven; whoever eats this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give is my flesh for the life of the world”(John 6:51-58). This is the truth of our faith—that the Eucharist is the living bread come down from heaven and Christ is truly present in the consecrated bread and wine. In the mass we hear the words, “This is my body.” Jesus gives us his body in a gesture of great intimacy. Lord, teach us how to receive the Eucharist for what it really is.
The reason we receive the body and blood of Christ is for our transformation – so that we can be like Christ. The Church teaches us that we are to become what we receive. Our lives are also called to be nourishment for others. Is my life really food? All of my life? St Paul says that we are one body. In other words, the Church and its members, we are known as the body of Christ (1 Corinthians 10:16-17). We are called to grow in holiness as Christians and to be able to offer our lives in a generous and free gift of self.
This self-donation is what Jesus teaches us in every Eucharist. A kind of self-giving that nourishes others. Sometimes the pelican is used as a symbol of Christ in the Eucharist. Legend has it that when the young are hungry, the pelican will peck her breast and the young feed on the flesh of the mother and drink from the blood that flows. This Eucharistic mystery is for each one of us to live out—in priesthood, in our daily lives, in married lives.
Lord, teach us how we can give our body and blood to nourish the life of many others in our world of today. May this feast inspire us and help us to realize that our whole life can be food, nourishment for others. If we are well fed, well nourished by Christ’s love then our flesh becomes food for others too. Amen.
[Solemnity of Corpus Christi, Sunday June 22, 2014.]