Bulletin: June 18, 2017
The Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ
The unifying motif of this year’s readings for today is God’s gift of living, life-giving Bread. Prefigured in the manna, which not only nourished individuals but defined Israel as a community under God’s special care, Jesus, the living bread, bestows on us—individually and as a community—eternal life that, in John’s perspective, begins here and is fulfilled hereafter. This “already/not yet” theme is alluded to by the Communion invitation’s reference to Revelation’s vision of the kingdom-feast: “Happy are those who are called to the supper of the Lamb” (Revelation 19:9) once slain who lives forever. For Saint Paul, the eucharistic bread and cup are both sign of what the community is called to be and source of the community’s strength to live that ideal.
FLESH AND BLOOD
Today’s Gospel verses, John 6:51–58 are a “eucharistic version” of the previous verses, 6:35–50, in which Jesus asserts, “Whoever believes has eternal life” (6:47). Now Jesus replaces “believes” with “Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life” (6:54). This parallelism is mirrored in the complementarity of the Liturgy of the Word and the Liturgy of the Eucharist, the intimate relationship between ambo (lectern) and altar, “the table of God’s Word and the table of Christ’s Body.”
But today’s Gospel presents a further parallel, the complementarity of flesh and blood. By using “flesh,” a word he sometimes uses to denote the whole of human nature rather than “body,” John seems to suggest that, in receiving Christ’s Body in the Eucharist, we disciples are to assimilate the whole of Jesus’ humanity, his own radically self-sacrificing-unto-death lifestyle as our distinctive manner of being human. Moreover, the very reason the law forbade partaking of sacrificial blood is precisely why Jesus says we must drink his blood, “for the blood is life” (Deuteronomy 12:23). By partaking of Christ’s Blood in the Eucharist, we “have eternal life” here and now; that is to say, we live by Christ’s victory over death in this life, a victory that will be made permanent when Jesus raises us up on the last day (6:54).
WE ARE ONE
As we partake of this gift, we become one with Christ in reality. But there is more. We also become one with each other. As we all partake of the mystery, we are united in flesh and spirit—in the Holy Spirit—with each other as well. As Paul says, “Because the loaf of bread is one, we, though many, are one body, for we all partake of the one loaf” (1 Corinthians 10:17).
Today we celebrate this wonderful gift. Even though we do not fully understand it, we believe and accept it with joy. We are one with Christ and one with each other. We too become the Body of Christ in the world.
Today’s Readings: Dt 8:2–3, 14b–16a; Ps 147:12–15, 19–20; 1 Cor 10:16–17; Jn 6:51–58