Year A: The Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ, Corpus Christi

John 6: 51-58

I am the living bread that came 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.”

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.”

Discussion Questions:

  1. Eating and drinking in the name of Christ implies being united with Jesus in his self-giving, his dying, and his rising. In what specific areas of life, are you growing or still struggling with your; self-giving, dying and rising? How does receiving the Eucharist each week help you?
  2. When was the last time you felt “in communion” with another… outside of Mass? Explain what was happening, what brought the realization? 
  3. Do you think of all who are united to Christ as being one body of Christ? What ramifications does this have for you ecumenically?
  4. The essence of God’s love for us expressed in the self-giving of Jesus is… serving the needs of others. How is your participation in the mass and in this weekly gathering feeding the “service to others” part of your faith life?

“When we eat material food, it becomes part of us. When we eat spiritual food, we become it.” Unknown spiritual teacher.

Biblical Context

John 6: 51-58
Sr. Mary M. McGlone CSJ

Today’s Gospel comes from the last part of John’s Eucharistic discourse in which Jesus explains that as the bread of life, he offers life to the world. Perhaps the most important thing we can do as we begin to study John 6 is to remember that it was written by the evangelist who is famous for leading disciples through faulty interpretations into the depths of Jesus’ message.

The first statement Jesus makes in this selection is rather straight forward: “I am the living bread that came down from heaven.” Within this passage, Jesus draws on his audience’s memory of the Exodus. Jesus tells them that just as God sent the mysterious manna, he himself is God’s ultimate and living gift, sent for the life of the world. In the next phrase, Jesus moves from the symbolism of the manna to saying that he is giving his flesh — his mortal, human self, all that he is — for the life of the world.

With the startling vocabulary about eating his flesh and drinking his blood, John is trying to move us from the physical to the spiritual plane. The crowds who quarreled among themselves asking “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?” echoed Nicodemus who focused on the impossibility of re-entering his mother’s womb to be born again. They mirrored the Samaritan woman-apostle whose questions to Jesus were fixated on the physical-geographical plane while he tried to introduce her into the realm of the Spirit.

The people who heard Jesus speaking the words of today’s Gospel knew well that eating and praying together implied communion. They knew that the God of Abraham and Moses was God-with-them, the God who had been involved in the events of their past. The blessing they traditionally said as they broke the bread during a meal recalled and rejoiced in God’s presence in their ongoing history. The truly shocking thing Jesus did by calling himself the living bread had nothing to do with cannibalism. The scandal was the declaration that in his very humanity he embodied divine life being offered to them. Jesus claimed that communion with him was the way to the communion with God that he already enjoyed. What tripped them up was that he brought God too close.

By comparing the gift of himself to the desert manna, Jesus reiterated the most basic fact of his life: he had been sent by the Father for the life of the world. He also claimed that there was no comparison between the first manna and what he offered. Those who ate the desert manna survived for a time and then died. Those who find their sustenance in Christ the living bread will share his victory over death and the life he has from the Father.

Ultimately, the real scandal of Jesus’ claim to be the bread of life was his claim that God was revealed in his mortal flesh. A God who is majestic and unreachable is far easier to deal with than one who invites us to communion in the here and now. It doesn’t cost much to worship a god to whom we can offer placating sacrifices and then go on with our lives as normal. But God who initiates communion with us is going to claim everything we are as we come to abide in Christ and allow him to abide in us.

Consuming Christ

Fr. Michael K. Marsh

A friend of mine called last week. She asked, “How are you?” It’s a common question, one we ask and are asked every day. You and I both know the standard answers and I gave them. I said, “Fine. I’m doing well. Things are really busy right now. I’m good.” She laughed and said, “Are you trying to convince me or yourself?

I suspect I’m not the only one who’s had this type of conversation. Most of us have these kinds of conversations several times each day. We offer the usual answers. Sometimes we add something about our family, our health, where we have been, or what we have been doing. More often than not those conversations focus on the circumstances of life. We might be fine and busy, getting our work done, meeting deadlines and commitments, fulfilling obligations, volunteering our time, and loving and caring for our families but there is a difference, a vast difference, between doing life and having life within us.

Doing life or having life; that’s the issue Jesus is concerned about. That’s the focus of today’s gospel. It is important enough that it has been the subject of the last several Sundays of gospel readings. Each week has brought us closer to the unspoken question behind today’s gospel: Is there life within you?

That’s a hard question and one which many will avoid or ignore. They will turn back and walk away rather than face the question. “Fine,” “busy,” “good,” and “doing well” do not answer the question. They cover it up. The question pushes us to discover the hunger within us and the life Jesus wants to feed us. That’s what Jesus has been after these last few weeks.

Three weeks ago, 5000 hungry people showed up. They were fed with five loaves and two fish. They didn’t understand. They thought it was about loaves and fish. It was really about life and where life comes from. Two weeks ago Jesus challenged us to consider the bread we eat. Is it perishable bread or does it endure to eternal life? Last week Jesus declared himself to be the bread of life, the living bread they came down from heaven.

Today he says, “Eat me. Drink me.” This is the only way we ever have life within us. Jesus is very clear and blunt about it. His flesh is true food, and his blood is true drink. Any other diet leaves us empty and hollow, hungry and bereft of life. “Very truly, I tell you unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood you have no life in you.” Those are ominous words, words that haunt and challenge us to consider whether there is life within us.

Jesus is talking about more than just physical or biological life. He’s talking about that life that is beyond words, indescribable, and yet we know it when we taste it. We get a taste of it when we love so deeply and profoundly that everything about us dies, passes away, and somehow, we are more fully alive than ever before. Sometimes everything seems to fit together perfectly, and all is right with the world; not because we got our way but because we knew our self to be a part of something larger, more beautiful, and more holy than anything we could have done. We were tasting life. There are moments when time stands still, and we wish the moment would never end. In that moment we are in the flow, the wonder, and the unity of life, and it tastes good.

Most of us spend a fair amount of time, energy, and prayer trying to create and possess the life we want. In spite of our best efforts sometimes we live less than fully alive. Sometimes the outside and inside of who we are don’t match up. We ask ourselves, “What am I doing with my life?” We wonder if this is all there will ever be. Is this as good as it gets? We lament at what has become of us and our life. Nothing seems to satisfy. We despair at what is and what we think will be. Despite family and friends, we find no place in which we really belong.

Those questions and feelings are not so much a judgement on us, but a diagnosis of us. They are symptoms that there is no life in us. We are dying from the inside out. There is, however, treatment for our condition and food for our hunger. Life in Christ, not death in the wilderness, is our destiny. The flesh and blood of Christ are the medicine that saves; what St. Ignatius called “the medicine of immortality.” One dose, however, is not enough. We need a steady diet of this sacred medicine, this holy food.

Jesus is our medicine and our health. He is our life and the means to the life for which we most deeply hunger. We don’t work for the life we want. We eat the life we want. Wherever human hunger and the flesh and blood of Christ meet, there is life.

In the eating and drinking of Christ’s flesh and blood he lives in us, and we live in him. We consume his life that he might consume and change ours. We eat and digest his life, his love, his mercy, his forgiveness, his way of being and seeing, his compassion, his presence, and his relationship with the Father. We eat and drink our way to life.

Reflection from, Interrupting the Silence. Fr. Michael K. Marsh. Used with permission