To read the texts click on the texts: Deut8:2-3, 14b-16a; 1 Cor 10:16-17; Jn 6:51-58
A team of Russians and Americans were on a common expedition. Among their cabin foodstuff was Russian black bread. It was tasty but hard on the teeth. During a meal an American bit into a piece and snapped a tooth. He threw the bread overboard and growled: “Lousy Communist bread.” The Russian countered: “It is not lousy communist bread, but a shaky capitalist tooth.” Some of us may complain in a similar manner about the Eucharist being useless. However, if we do not experience the transforming power of the Eucharist it is not on account of the Eucharist but on account of our shaky faith and lack of understanding of what the Eucharist really means.
The feast of Corpus Christi is usually thought to be the feast of the Eucharist and while this is certainly true, it would be a mistake to restrict the understanding of the feast to the ritual of the Eucharist. The feast goes beyond the ritual to life itself, just as the Eucharist does.
The Eucharist is both a sacrament and a sacrifice. The Eucharist is a sacrament, an outward sign in and through which we meet Christ who shares his life of grace with us. Through signs of bread and wine he nourishes and strengthens us for our journey through life. We see with human eyes what looks like bread and wine. We see with eyes of faith, not bread and wine, but the risen, living Lord Jesus.
The Eucharist is a sacrifice, the representation or reliving of Christ’s sacrificial death on Good Friday and of his Resurrection on Easter Sunday.
The scripture readings today stress how God made a covenant with His people, first through Moses and then, finally and forever, through Christ, a covenant sealed and ratified by his blood. This covenant or bond of love between God and us is renewed and deepened through and in every Eucharist or Mass.
The second reading today, from Paul, is the earliest recorded story of anything Jesus did. And that earliest story is about a meal, the Last Supper, which Jesus shared with his disciples. In a very particular way, he made that meal a way to remember him. It brings forward his sacrifice and death and resurrection, his fellowship and unity with us, and everything he taught us. And he did not want his followers to eat it just once that night but to do it again and again, so that we continue to remember.
St Augustine often stressed to his parishioners a unique quality of the Eucharistic food. The ordinary food we eat, he says, becomes part of us. We are what we eat. But partaking of the Eucharist, we become part of Jesus, We become more Christ like, more patient and kind, more forgiving and understanding. We still live our ordinary daily lives, but it is Our Lord who inspires our attitudes and actions. We begin to see people and events through his eyes, to think as he did. When Jesus was on this earth, he used his own hands to reach out to people, but when he wants to feed the poor today, he uses my hands, your hands to do this.
Surely, we hunger and thirst for something new, when we share in the grief, anger, misery and neglect of the impoverished, the unjustly accused, and victims of violence caused by religious intolerance, ethnic hatred, terrorism and racism. We are hungry indeed for peace and thirsty for reconciliation in this our troubled world. We are hungry and thirsty for a new world, a world where we will look one another in the eye and recognize the kinship of sisters and brothers who are all children of God. The promise of this new world is set forth in the strongest possible terms when Jesus declares, “Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood abide in me and I in them…”
This feast, then, of the Body of Christ, sums up three important confessions of our faith. First, and most important, God became physically present in the person of Christ – true God and true Man. Secondly; God continues to be present in His people as they form the Mystical Body of Christ in his Church. And, thirdly, God becomes present in the form of bread and wine on the altar at Mass. Eucharist, then, should not remain simply a “going to” or “taking of” that begins and ends in the sanctuary. It should become the deepest expression of our communion with Christ.