Faith: You Are What You Eat
The Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ
In John’s Gospel, Jesus gives a long discourse on the Bread of Life. The first part talks of bread as a sign of God’s loving care for the people. Like the manna in the desert, Jesus represents God caring for the people in a new way. But the part we hear in today’s Gospel is more specific. He says the bread he will give is his flesh. The leaders of the Jews don’t understand. Hopefully, we can do better.
In the pagan world at the time of Christ and before, a sacrifice was also a meal. An animal was ritually killed and burnt (i.e., cooked) to be shared at a meal with the people. The sacrifice was a gift to the god(s) that joined the people to their deity and also to each other. So Jesus used that understanding of sacrifice to explain his gift of self. He would die on the cross as a sacrifice to the Father and we would share in the meal by consuming bread and wine, which are his Body and Blood. That meal is shared today in the Eucharist.
Better than the pagan sacrifice, the Eucharist unites us with God because Jesus is both human and divine. His humanity allowed him to represent us to the
Father, as a lawyer represents a client to the court. Jesus’ divinity allowed his sacrifice to be worthy of the Father, as no merely human gift could be. So giving his life on the cross was the best and only way that he could offer a true sacrifice to the Father.
The Eucharist also unites us to one another. We share this meal with other Christians as a sign of our common faith. Christ who gave himself to the Father on the cross also gives himself to us in the Eucharist. And because the food we share is the Body and Blood of Christ, we in a sense become what we eat. So we are all members of the Body of Christ. We show this by our love, by sharing our faith, by forgiving each other, and by our service to each other. If we believe that Jesus is divine, we must believe his word that the Eucharist is truly his Body and Blood, given for us.