Reflections on the Readings
Twentieth Sunday in Ordinary Time - August 16, 2009, Year B
The Eleventh Sunday after Pentecost
By Dennis Hankins
"...And the bread which I shall give for the life of the world is my flesh...unless you eat the flesh of the Son of man and drink his blood, you have no life in you."(Jesus)
I remember since I was a little boy wanting to be close to our Lord. John the Beloved was close to Jesus. He is the one who had lain close to Jesus' breast at the supper. (John 20:21) At the cross Jesus committed to John the care of his mother. And it is to the believers of Jewish background he wanted to woo more deeply into the life of Jesus; thus the bread of life discourse in John's gospel, chapter six.
In today's Gospel reading there are no less than twelve exchanges referencing eating the flesh or drinking the blood of Jesus. The dispute among the Jews is about 'how' this man can give his flesh to eat. Not backing off a bit, Jesus presses home the point: "Unless you eat the flesh of the Son of man and drink his blood, you have no life in you."
Writing to the Church at Ephesus, St. Paul speaks of the Church 'always and for everything giving thanks in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to God the Father.' This is coupled with 'lifting up your hearts' or as Paul puts it: 'making melody to the Lord with all your heart.' This is the same language and form of the liturgy of the Eucharist. I say this to remind you of the continuity of scripture on this matter. Whether Paul or John, it is the same Lord, the same faith, the same celebration. The focus of the earliest Christians was the Church gathered to partake of the 'medicine of immortality,' the bread of angles, the bread of heaven. (CCC 1331) The life of Jesus is the encounter of all who eat his flesh and drink his blood.
The nearness of Jesus to his people is what the word 'eat' conveys. Jesus is as close as the breath we breathe when eat the bread and drink the cup; a consummation of his life in us. In his life we enter the presence of love, the life of the Father and of the Son, from whom proceeds the unimpeded power of the Spirit of love. In this holy meal we receive the riches of his glory; that we being rooted and grounded in love, may have power to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fulness of God. (Ephesians 3:16-19)
Herein is the true nature of the Church, of those who profess the holy name of Jesus. Lifted from the muck and mire of the Fall we are raptured into an Abyss of Love, the unending story of God's enduring embrace of the whole world, as we taste and see that the Lord is good.
Jesus did not make the cup and bread a symbol but rather a means of participating in the life of the living Father, that as he lives because of the Father, we might live because of him. This life is as tangible as the bread on our tongue and the wine passing our lips. Jesus in the Eucharist gives to us the power of his endless life to take into our world, our jobs, and our homes. This is the power to forgive, to prefer others, to think pure thoughts, to resist evil and to courageously defend the truth.
In the Eucharist is the true source of our origin and the true summit of our destiny. It is the Lord who invites us to come to him and to eat, for he who eats this bread will live forever.
Let us pray: God of all life, renew us in the life that is above, the life that comes to us in the faithful eating of the Body and Blood of Jesus; the glorified Lord of heaven and earth. May we always approach the Feast of the Church in the Spirit of love. Amen.