Why is so much attention given to the Body and Blood of Christ? Well, basically because Our Lord suffered and died for us. He gave His Body and shed his blood so all can have the doors of Salvation opened to them.
Moreover, Christ emphasized the importance of His Salvific work on the Cross by leaving us the Holy Eucharist. During the Last Supper, Our Lord took bread and wine, blessed it and distributed among the Apostles saying that they were His Body and Blood. He instructed them to do this in His memory. (Luke 22:7-20) In other words, this meal was not a one-time thing. It had to continue.
Was Jesus Crazy?
Was Jesus joking around when He said that bread and wine were His Body and Blood? The answer is no. We will see this in today's Gospel. In John 6:22-69 Jesus gave a long talk about the "Bread of Life." He goes on to say that the bread Moses gave wasn't the "True Bread." The people asked Him for this "Bread of Life" and He then makes the radical statement that HE is the "Bread of Life" and the "True Bread from Heaven." The people began to murmur among themselves because they knew Jesus was the son of Joseph, and not to mention that His words were a bit strange and in today's postmodern world would be interpreted as psychotic and delusional.
Real or Symbol?
Moreover, something interesting happens here in regards to how serious Jesus was about eating His flesh and drinking His blood. Many of our separated brothers and sister in the Protestant faith believe the Holy Eucharist is a symbol and not literally Christ's Body Blood Soul and Divinity. Let's think about this for a moment: When people started abandoning Jesus for saying that one has to eat His flesh and drink His blood, Jesus didn't run in front of them and say "hey, wait a minute, I was joking." Instead, Jesus let them go. This shows that He was very serious about His flesh and blood being actual things or foods that someone has to consume. In 1 Cor 10:16 St. Paul reminds the people that the bread and wine are the Lord's Body and Blood. He never calls them a symbolic representation of them.
In Genesis 14:18 we read about Melchizedek - priest of God and king of Salem- giving Abram bread and wine. He then blesses Abram. Jesus uses bread and wine to make the connection to the Old covenant and to show that He is the True Priest who offers the True Sacrifice - Himself.
Bread is a food that is delicious. It has a lot of carbohydrates which in turn gives a lot of energy to the body when burned as calories. It is a food that is easy to make, but does a lot to appease hunger and give nutrients. Then there is wine. It is used to party with and used as medicine as well as a disinfectant agent for wounds.
Jesus as Bread and Wine does exactly that to our souls. He appeases the hunger for God and nourishes the soul. He brings our souls to jubilation by uniting with it when one receives Holy Communion. He heals the soul from the harm sin has caused.
One may ask: at Mass, the Bread and Wine still look, taste, smell, feel like Bread and Wine, so how can it be the Body and Blood of Christ? Well, God knows us well. God designed the human body and mind. He knows that human beings would cringe at the sight of eating raw meat and drinking blood. How many times have we ourselves have gotten disgusted at looking at our own wounds? It is not easy seeing blood and flesh in a traumatic form.
A few years ago, there was a big story about the "Zombie" in Miami which involved a man high on "bath salt" drugs who attacked a homeless man and literally ate his face. People were disgusted at the news and the reality of how a human can even succumb to this evil cannibalistic act. That being said, God would not give us tangible and biologically tactile flesh and blood to eat and drink in the sense we are used to. Rather, He would use matter that we are all familiar with and that we enjoy: food and drink.
At consecration, the Bread and Wine do not turn into a piece of meat and human blood with DNA, platelets, red/white cells etc - unless a Eucharistic Miracle has taken place which sometimes does occur. These are heavily documented. The outside, or the accidents of the bread and wine remain the same, but what it is, or the essence changes. Think of it this way: We see leaves on trees. During spring and summer, they are green. However, during fall they begin to change colors. They turn red, orange, yellow and brown. Now let's think: which one is the REAL leaf? At one point it was green, then red, then orange, then yellow and then brown. The leaf changed colors, so is it the same leaf when it was green? The answer is yes. The outside or accidents of the leaf changed, but the essence or what it is, remains the same. The same with the Bread and Wine at Mass but in an opposite manner. The outside remains the same (bread/wine) but the inside or what it is changes and becomes the Body Blood Soul and Divinity of Our Lord Jesus Christ. Similarly, we ourselves go through many changes. Our bodies grow and change as we age; however, our temperament remains the same.
In today's first reading, we read of the mysterious food God gives the Hebrews after they embark on the Exodus to the Promised Land. This "Manna" from heaven gives them sustenance. God provides for His people, even in the desert. There is much speculation on what this substance was, but it was given to the Hebrews to help them on their journey. They ate of it and even stored it for later consumption. Today, many of us were afflicted with hunger, as the first reading says. The Covid-19 Coronvirus restricted Mass attendance nearly throughout the world. Many of us were left without our spiritual nutrition: The Eucharist. This was indeed a desert where we felt abandoned. However, God still provided. Now many of us are blessed to return to Mass in some form or another and can receive the true Bread from Heaven, Jesus Himself in the Holy Communion. This brings us all to shout out praise to God as the responsorial Psalm calls us to. We praise the Lord as the New Jerusalem.
In today's responsorial Psalm we say, "Praise the Lord, Jerusalem." We glorify God who merits all glory. He has been our strength, even in times of despair, weakness and pestilence. The Lord fills us with the best wheat. This wheat is Jesus, His own Son who died on a Cross for us. Jesus becomes bread and wine for us to give us life and salvation. He is truly present under the form of bread and wine consecrated by a priest at Holy Mass. This is not a parlor trick or some psychological placebo meant to give us a sense of spiritual satisfaction. This is something that is real. We see this in the second reading.
Today's second reading reminds us that Jesus is truly present. St. Paul asks the people of Corinth, "The cup of blessing that we bless, is it not a participation in the blood of Christ? The bread that we break, is it not a participation in the body of Christ?" Here St. Paul is reminding the people that the cup of wine and loaf of bread is truly Jesus Christ. We truly partake in the body and blood of Christ; His entire essence as God and man. Now when he says "we bless," he is not saying that we consecrate the bread and wine. Only the priest can do this. The "we bless" here means that we invoke or seek God to look favorably on us via His presence in the Holy Eucharist. The reading ends with St. Paul saying that "Because the loaf of bread is one, we, though many, are one body, for we all partake of the one loaf." This is where the word "Communion" comes into play. We are in union with Christ and one another as the Church. So when we received Holy Communion, we not only united with Jesus Christ's body, blood, soul and divinity, but also one another as the One Catholic Church. This is why those who are not Catholic cannot receive Holy Communion. Receiving Holy Communion is also an act of unity with the Catholic Church. So if one is in mortal sin, heresy, outside of the Church via another religion or simply do not believe; one is not in union with the Church so one should not receive. Similarly, a Catholic should never receive any parody of Communion from another Protestant Christian denonmination. Receiving Holy Communion is a profession of faith and a manifestation of unity with the Catholic Church; which means, unity with the Pope and adherance to the Church's teachings.
Finally in the Gospel, we read how Jesus is serious when He says that the bread is His flesh and His blood is true drink. We touched on this already, but it does not hurt to look at it again. Jesus reminds us that He is the bread from heaven. The first reading links to this. Jesus is not the Manna God sent to the Hebrews. That was regular food for the body. In a sense, it was a preparation for the true bread from heaven, Jesus. This bread is literally Jesus Himself which is given tot he world for the life of the world. The people around Jesus could not understand Him. They argued among themselves showing disbelief. "How can this man give us His flesh to Eat?" This is what they asked each other. They were puzzled, probably disgusted thinking Jesus was promoting cannibalism. However, despite this commotion. Jesus doubles down stating, "Amen, amen, I say to you, unless you eat this flesh of the Son of man and drink His blood, you do not have life within you. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him on the last day. For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink." One can imagine the faces of the people as Jesus said this. Jesus was not kidding around. He was serious. In today's jargon, "dead serious." Jesus goes on to say, "Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me and I in him." This is the very definition of "Communion," or com (with) unus (union: together in oneness). This Communion gives life because it is God Himself who comes to us. This is the true bread from heaven that gives life.
I also urge you to visit our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament and spent time with Him. Many parishes have Eucharistic adoration for a period of time, sometimes perpetually. As parieshes and chapels are starting to reopen after this alleged pandemic, take the time to visit the Lord and adore Him.
There is nothing like getting lost in the presence of Christ in the Blessed Sacrament. Go visit our Lord, share your life, your activities, your stresses, your desires, etc. He is there waiting for you. May Jesus present in the Holy Eucharist be praised forever!
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