By Father Kavungal Davy, C.M.I.
This is the fourth Sunday in a row we are reflecting upon the Scripture passage about the life-giving bread.
The first and second readings encourage us to turn away from the things that do not nourish and sustain us, and to turn toward the divine source. From the Book of Wisdom we read that Wisdom has built her house, she has set up her seven columns. Biblical scholars consider these seven columns as seven sacraments. The invitation to come and eat the food and drink the wine refers to a special banquet, the Holy Eucharist.
Jesus tells us the bread that came down from heaven is His own body: “My flesh is real food and my blood is real drink. He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood lives in me and I live in him.” Moses pointed to the manna and said, “This is the bread the Lord has given you for your food” (Exodus 16:15). Jesus points to Himself and says, “I am the bread of life.”
Once I asked the participants of a Bible study group: Why did Jesus say, “This is my body and blood”?
I explained that it symbolizes offering oneself completely. For example, parents love their children more than anybody else. Why is it so? Parents know that the children are a portion of their body and blood. There isn’t any other deeper relationship than the blood relationship. Jesus could not have made our relationship with Him any closer, any more personal and intense and intimate.
Sometimes people struggle to believe in the words of Jesus: “My flesh is the true food and my blood is the true drink … unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you do not have life within you.”
We explain it with the eucharistic term “transubstantiation.”
Once a Hindu attended an interreligious conference. He got attracted to Christianity and approached a priest with his desire to become a Christian. The priest personally prepared him. He gave him the Bible, Catechism of the Catholic Church, etc. After several sessions and before the baptism, the priest scheduled a viva voce (oral exam). After asking the basic catechism and prayers, the priest asked him: “How do you believe in the transubstantiation?”
His response was quick. He said: “Father, we read in the Book of Genesis that God created the whole world. God created you and me with flesh and blood. If God could create the whole world, you and me from nothing, it is very easy for Him to transform bread and wine to Body and Blood.” The priest gave him A+ and baptized him.
Today, we don’t doubt the real presence of Jesus in the Eucharist. Our challenge is how to prepare for Holy Communion. St. Paul’s Letter to the Ephesians helps us to prepare ourselves to receive the Body and Blood of Christ: “Do not continue in ignorance, but try to understand what is the will of the Lord. And do not get drunk on wine, in which lies debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit, (Ephesians 5:17-18).
I have seen parents feeding their children. Young children don’t know how to eat. Parents teach them how to eat with table manners. Then they watch how they eat. In the same way God, our Heavenly Father, watches us eat. I am sure His heart is also warmed by our taking in the food He gives us. I am also sure He is saddened when we refuse to eat or if we eat carelessly. The Lord must feel like the parents who are upset that their children are refusing to eat the food they prepare.
Therefore, let us remember the four dimensions of the reception of Holy Communion: taking, blessing, breaking and eating. In every meal these four actions are involved. In the eucharistic celebration, these four actions are repeated with reverence. When we take, bless, break and eat the bread, the words and actions of Jesus are made alive and effective.
Let the discourse on the living bread help us to receive Holy Communion with reverence and make it a personal experience! After receiving the true food and drink, let the transformation happen in us as well!
Let the words of Jesus echo in our ears: “My flesh is real food and my blood is real drink. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life.”