John 6: 51 – 58
This Gospel is part of a larger portion of John known as the Bread of life Discourse. It begins with the multiplication of the loaves and ends with many disciples leaving Jesus, followed by Peter’s beautiful profession of Faith, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe and are convinced that you are the Holy one of God.” There is a lot happening in this chapter of John’s Gospel, and for the Solemnity of the Body and Blood of Christ we hear the center piece of the chapter when Jesus teaches that He is the Bread of Life.
The miracle of the multiplication of the loaves satisfied the hunger of the crowd that had gathered to hear the Sermon on the Mount. It was amazing that thousands were fed from the five loaves and two fish, and in addition to that there were twelve baskets of leftovers. After this miracle a large crowd continued to closely follow Jesus. Where they following Jesus because of who he was, or because they found the ticket to free meals? Jesus challenges them on and four times tells them that he is the bread of life, or the living bread. He is even clearer when he tells them that his flesh is real food and his blood is real drink. It is at the end of this discourse that some made the decision to stop following Jesus for they found this teaching too hard. And it was then that Jesus questioned the Apostles and reminded them that they also had the freedom to leave, but Peter, speaking on their behalf, made the beautiful profession of faith.
Today we celebrate the gift of Jesus in the Eucharist. The bread and wine become for us the body and blood, soul and divinity of Jesus. How can this be? It is by transubstantiation. The Catechism of the Catholic Church (1376) tells us, “Transubstantiation: The scholastic term used to designate the unique change of the Eucharistic bread and wine into the Body and Blood of Christ. ‘Transubstantiation” indicates that through the consecration of the bread and the wine there occurs the change of the entire substance of the bread into the substance of the Body of Christ, and of the entire substance of the wine into the Blood of Christ – even though the appearances or ‘species’ of bread and wine remain.” Yes, his flesh is real food and his blood real drink, and he gives it to us in the Blessed Sacrament.
A friend of mine studied in Japan and her host asked many questions about the Catholic Faith and was amazed at the belief in the real presence. As she was preparing to leave the host told her that he still did not understand this “Real Presence.” He said that if he believed that the host and wine were God he would not be walking up the aisle, but crawling on his belly. We are blessed in that we have the ability to receive the Body and Blood of Christ every week, if not every day, and of praying before the Tabernacle. Jesus is the Bread of Life, and in the Eucharist he gives us himself so that we may have life. Do we take the Real Presence for granted? Maybe we could be more mindful of his presence when we enter a church or chapel. Maybe as we walk up the aisle for Holy Communion we can be more mindful, not of what we are about to receive, but of who we are about to receive.
Fr. Killian Loch, O.S.B.