The Bread of Life Discourse
I read this true story told by a priest (April 11, Bible Diary 2008) in his homily that during communion a man came to him twice! In order not to embarrass him, the priest gave the man another piece of Christ’s Body. After the Mass, he called the man and asked him why he queued twice. The man said: “Because at first, you only gave me a half. That is why I queued again to complete the whole.”
All of us know that Catholics and Protestants disagree about the doctrine of the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist. The Protestants do not believe that the Eucharistic bread and wine are literally the Body and Blood of Christ. They usually reduce them to some merely symbolic meaning. But among themselves they could not agree as to what these words of Jesus, “This is my body… this is the cup of my blood,” all meant. We, Catholics, take these words literally, that is, as meaning what they say.
Well today’s gospel passage, we find in the words of Jesus as part of His discourse on the Bread of Life, an obvious reference to His presence in the Eucharist. He says: “For my flesh is true food and my blood is true drink. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me and I in him,” (vv. 55-56). Protestants do not interpret these words of Jesus as a reference to the Eucharist. They interpret them as a metaphor for accepting His revelation. In this interpretation, to “eat” the “body” of Jesus would, for them, is the symbolic equivalent of believing in Him. But Jesus reaffirms the reality of His physical presence by saying: “I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you do not have life within you,” (v. 53). Here Jesus does not say, ‘unless you eat the symbol of my flesh….’ And so therefore, His presence in the Sacrament of the Eucharist is not merely symbolic. Jesus Christ is really, truly and substantially present in the Most Blessed Sacrament of the Eucharist that we worship in churches, chapels and adoration chapels.
In addition to this truth, 365 Days with the Lord 2008 (April 11) have a good reflection about this which I would like to share with you. It says: “Our Lord’s Eucharistic presence is Sacramental. The Church defines a sacrament as something material that brings about a spiritual reality. Thus, the bread and wine are not symbols but they are signs. Every sacrament has an outward sign that gives grace: the pouring of water at Baptism, the exchange of vows in marriage, the words of absolution in the sacrament of reconciliation and so on. In the Eucharist, by God’s power, the reality of the bread has truly become the reality of Jesus’ glorified body and the reality of the wine, the reality of Jesus’ blood.”
At the end let us remind ourselves of what we truly receive in the Holy Eucharist. That when we attend Mass we are not only nourished by God’s Word but also, we receive Jesus Christ Himself, His Body and Blood as we go to Holy Communion. What we receive is not just a piece of white and round un-consecrated host of unleavened wheat bread but the Lord Himself, the Second Person of the Trinity and born of the Virgin Mary. He is the same Jesus who truly lives among us. He is the same Jesus who worked miracles and preached the Kingdom of God to the Jewish people. He is the same Jesus who suffered and died on the cross and rose from the dead for the salvation of all.
At the end let us reflect these words from somebody who said: “The presence of Christ in the Eucharist is not merely a symbolic presence. It is a Real Presence. To deny this is to betray Christ. To accept this is to open our hearts to the greatest of all possible gifts.”