At different times in the gospel Jesus makes amazing, challenging statements. “I am the light of the world”, “I am the way the truth and the life, no one comes to the Father except through me”, “I am the Good Shepherd”, and today we hear another ‘I am’ statement, “I am the bread of life.”
The response of the people is normal, how can this man give us his flesh to eat? Eating someone’s flesh, drinking someone’s blood is barbaric. When preparing children to receive the first Holy Communion I ask them,’ what does eating someone’s body and drinking someone’s blood sound like to you? The usual response is ‘yucky.’
Jesus goes on to say.”Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood live in me, and I live in them. Just as the living Father sent me and I live because of the Father so whoever eats me lives because of me. Jesus makes us a promise,’ those I nourish will draw the strength, the insight, the generosity they need to do my work on earth. They will see other people as I see them, love others as I love them, and be open to others as I was. They will have the courage to confront the injustice and hypocrisy of their time as I did in my time
Unless you eat my flesh and drink my blood you cannot have life in you. In other words you cannot share in the concerns that were mine when I lived among you. You cannot have that life force that inspires you, compels you to reach out to those who are in need, to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, quench the thirst of the thirsty, welcome the stranger, visit the lonely. Without this bread we cannot be Christ like.
In the ordinary way of things our bodies take the food we eat and changes it into us. Our food is the source of new blood, new skin, and new organs. Our food becomes us. In the Eucharist it is just the opposite, we become what we eat. He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood lives in me and I live in him.
When Jesus was saying all these things to the people they said, “Sir give us this bread always.”
As we continue to celebrate this Mass let this be our request as well, sir give us this bread always. May we always be conscious of what a wonderful gift we are offered, Jesus, the Christ our bread of life.
- Father Paul Cusack, C.P. is the pastor of St. Gabriel Passionist Parish in Toronto, Canada.