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My Flesh for the Life of the World

All of the signs are there

You’ve seen the crowds grow larger by the day, following one man. You’ve seen him heal the blind, the deaf, and the mute. You’ve seen him cure the sick. You’ve heard his great teachings. You’ve seen him walk on water. All of the signs are there: Jesus of Nazareth is the one to follow. You’ve been sure for weeks now. Your heart is pumping. You’re talking about him with everyone. You have been reading the Scriptures more frequently, reviewing what Isaiah and the other prophets wrote about the Messiah.

You Can’t Put Your Finger on It

You haven’t talked with Jesus yet, but you feel a connection there. The words he uses, the way he speaks, the manner in which he conducts himself. He has such a powerful way about him. But you haven’t been able to put your finger on it just yet. You just know you want to be near him and learn from him. He is different, a man set apart from the rest. This man has stirred your heart and mind like no other person has ever done.

It’s So Confusing

And, now, he is introducing a brand-new teaching. “The bread that I will give is my flesh for the life of the world” (John 6:51). He is telling everyone that the bread to which he is referring is his flesh. While you begin to process this, those around you quarrel. People are outraged but are mainly confused. So, Jesus gets more specific and emphatic. “Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life… My flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink” (53, 55). Whoa! Jesus of Nazareth wants to give his flesh and blood as food and drink.

Too Hard to Accept

This realization spreads through the crowd. It is such a large gathering, and it takes a while for everyone to hear what’s been said. Slowly, people start to leave. “This is a hard teaching…who can accept it?” (60) is what you hear some of them say as they turn away from Jesus. And, you agree, this is a hard teaching. But, you haven’t moved, and aren’t planning on leaving just yet.

You look over at Jesus’ closest disciples. You notice a very perplexed Peter. Jesus asks them if they are leaving, too. Peter says, with probably a dazed and confused look, “Lord, where are we going to go? You have the words of eternal life” (68). When you hear these words come from Peter’s lips, your heart skips a beat. You are thinking, ‘Has Jesus just been speaking the words of eternal life? Is this, in fact, a message from heaven? Could this be true? Is he really going to give us his flesh to eat? And, will it get us to heaven? Is this the newest, most radical teaching from God? Do I believe what I am hearing?’

What Would You Do?

This is the beginning of the pamphlet I wrote years ago, “C.O.O.L.,” which has been in the vestibule of our church for a while. My goal was to place you (and any reader) in the scene of John 6 which is the Gospel for today’s feast of the Body and Blood of Christ (Corpus Christi). You’ve heard this Gospel passage many times, but what would it have been like to be there when it was first heard by anyone? Would you have been with the crowd, and rejected the “hard” teaching? Or, would you have been with the Apostles and stayed with the Lord because Jesus has the “words of eternal life”? Please meditate on this.

Two significant points from this scene which is known as the Bread of Life Discourse

  1. The Jewish crowds took Jesus’ teaching about the Eucharist literally. They had a pretty visceral reaction to all the talk about flesh and blood – they quarreled, grumbled, etc. When Jesus heard this, he didn’t back off; in fact, he went deeper. He repeatedly referred to his flesh and blood: “flesh” five times, and “blood” four times. And, when he said we must eat his flesh, he actually used the word, “gnaw” (“whoever gnaws on my flesh”). After hearing all of this, the crowds decided to leave the Lord. They rejected the Savior. They walked away from salvation. They did all of this over the teaching of the Eucharist. How many Catholics have done the same whether knowingly or not?
  2. Jesus didn’t stop them from leaving. He didn’t say, “Wait, hold on. I wasn’t speaking literally.” In John 3, he does this with Nicodemus. When Jesus teaches Nicodemus about baptism and being “born from above,” Nicodemus thinks this means for a man to literally “reenter his mother’s womb and be born again.” The Lord basically said, “No, I wasn’t speaking literally. I meant to be ‘born of water and Spirit.’ He doesn’t make this correction with the crowds in John 6 because he was speaking literally about the Eucharist.

Both of these points help us considerably to interpret John 6 as a literal teaching. So, what we celebrate today and every time at Holy Mass is really and truly the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ!

As we honor our fathers today and thank God for all the daily bread they have provided us, we thank our Heavenly Father for the greatest sustenance which is the Bread of Life.

May you know the peace of Christ,

Fr Greg

Corpus Christi homily by Pope Francis

Below is the Vatican provided translation of Pope Francis’ homily for the Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ (“Corpus Christi”) given May 29 in the square in front of the Basilica of St. John Lateran in Rome.

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«Do this in remembrance of me» (1 Cor 11:24-25).

Twice the Apostle Paul, writing to the community in Corinth, recalls this command of Jesus in his account of the institution of the Eucharist. It is the oldest testimony we have to the words of Christ at the Last Supper.

“Do this”. That is, take bread, give thanks and break it; take the chalice, give thanks, and share it. Jesus gives the command to repeat this action by which he instituted the memorial of his own Pasch, and in so doing gives us his Body and his Blood. This action reaches us today: it is the “doing” of the Eucharist which always has Jesus as its subject, but which is made real through our poor hands anointed by the Holy Spirit.

“Do this”. Jesus on a previous occasion asked his disciples to “do” what was so clear to him, in obedience to the will of the Father. In the Gospel passage that we have just heard, Jesus says to the disciples in front of the tired and hungry crowds: “Give them something to eat yourselves” (Lk9:13). Indeed, it is Jesus who blesses and breaks the loaves and provides sufficient food to satisfy the whole crowd, but it is the disciples who offer the five loaves and two fish. Jesus wanted it this way: that, instead of sending the crowd away, the disciples would put at his disposal what little they had. And there is another gesture: the pieces of bread, broken by the holy and venerable hands of Our Lord, pass into the poor hands of the disciples, who distribute these to the people. This too is the disciples “doing” with Jesus; with him they are able to “give them something to eat”. Clearly this miracle was not intended merely to satisfy hunger for a day, but rather it signals what Christ wants to accomplish for the salvation of all mankind, giving his own flesh and blood (cf. Jn6:48-58). And yet this needs always to happen through those two small actions: offering the few loaves and fish which we have; receiving the bread broken by the hands of Jesus and giving it to all.

Breaking: this is the other word explaining the meaning of those words: “Do this in remembrance of me”. Jesus was broken; he is broken for us. And he asks us to give ourselves, to break ourselves, as it were, for others. This “breaking bread” became the icon, the sign for recognizing Christ and Christians. We think of Emmaus: they knew him “in the breaking of the bread” (Lk24:35). We recall the first community of Jerusalem: “They held steadfastly… to the breaking of the bread” (Acts 2:42). From the outset it is the Eucharist which becomes the centre and pattern of the life of the Church. But we think also of all the saints – famous or anonymous – who have “broken” themselves, their own life, in order to “give something to eat” to their brothers and sisters. How many mothers, how many fathers, together with the slices of bread they provide each day on the tables of their homes, have broken their hearts to let their children grow, and grow well! How many Christians, as responsible citizens, have broken their own lives to defend the dignity of all, especially the poorest, the marginalized and those discriminated! Where do they find the strength to do this? It is in the Eucharist: in the power of the Risen Lord’s love, who today too breaks bread for us and repeats: “Do this in remembrance of me”.

May this action of the Eucharistic procession, which we will carry out shortly, respond to Jesus’ command. An action to commemorate him; an action to give food to the crowds of today; an act to break open our faith and our lives as a sign of Christ’s love for this city and for the whole world.

You Are Christ’s Body

3rd Sunday – “You are Christ’s body”

2nd reading
bones of the human body
Body of Christ
Honoring Gospel

March for life
Witness to unborn as “all the more necessary”
Unity of group = Body of Christ

Each one of us is same to God
“Same concern”
Inherent value, dignity
You are as important as pope

Eucharist
united w Christ
Food for the soul
Food for the “body” (of Christ)