Prov 9:1-6; Eph 5:15-20; John 6:51-58
Stories continue to come out of China, from time to time, of the heroic efforts of the few bishops and priests to keep the Faith alive and nourish the underground Church. One such story tells of a priest who lives and works as an unskilled worker. By means of ore-arranged sign language, he gets messages around of where he is to be found – usually in the corner of a local market ostensibly selling soap. Customers who, like the early Christians, give a secret sign, are given a piece of soap, between the wrappings of which is hidden a small wafer of consecrated bread. The Chinese Christian takes his purchase home and usually, after a short family service, receives Communion.
What a beautiful story. Even if Chinese Christians are in danger of being caught and imprisoned by Chinese government authorities that declared the Catholic Church as outlawed, still Catholic Christians continue receiving Jesus as the living bread in spite of the danger of being punished.
At first glance, our gospel today talks about Jesus, our bread because he is the Word of God who became man and nourishes us. But later, this gospel talks more about the Eucharist because the word flesh is mentioned. Jesus said: “Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life…for my flesh is true food and my blood is true drink,” (vv. 54-55)
The Jewish were surprised by these words of Jesus. They said: “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?” (v.52). It is because to partake of the blood of animals is a big, big no to them. This can be found in the book of Leviticus that says: “And if anyone, whether of the house of Israel or of the aliens residing among them, partakes of any blood, I will set myself against that one who partakes of blood and will cut him off from among his people,” (17:10). And here Jesus is offering himself to them as food. As for teenager’s expression today, “Yaks! Kadiri!” Jesus insists on what he has declared. He is not speaking symbolically but literally. That is why in the early church, Christians were being accused of being cannibals because they ate the flesh and drank the blood of Jesus during their community gathering. In our local language, they are aswangs (witch or vampire). They speak of Christians as enemies of human race.
Jesus gives us his body and blood, literally, as our food for eternal life. It is because Jesus did not say: “For the symbol of my flesh is true food and the symbol of my blood is true drink.” He invites us to partake of his body and blood. His body is present in the bread and his blood is present in the cup of wine.
Telemachus was a hermit in the desert but something told him – the call of God – that he must go to Rome. He went.
Rome was nominally Christian but even then the gladiatorial games went on in which men fought with each other and crowds roared with the lust for blood.
Telemachus found his way to the games. There he found 80,000 spectators. He was horrified. Were these men slaughtering each other, not also children of God? He leaped from his seat, right into the arena and stood between the gladiators. He was tossed aside. He came back. The crowd was angry; they began to stone him. Still he struggled back between the gladiators. The prefect’s command rang out; a sword flashed in the sunlight and Telemachus was dead.
Suddenly, there was a hush. Suddenly the crowd realized what had happened: a holy man lay dead.
Something happened that day to Rome for there were never again any gladiatorial games. By his death one man had let loose something that cleanse an empire.
Someone must begin a reformation; he need not begin it in a nation; he may begin it in his home or where he works. Once begun, who knows where it will end?
Hopefully this will happen to us too. During this Eucharist we hear about Jesus. If we receive Him, gradually his life becomes ours too.
But are we worthy to receive him? There are some people who stressed so much their unworthiness to receive Jesus during communion because they are sinners or they did not yet go to confession. But the church has corrected this already. What is more shocking now is that how casually people receive communion. As one priest said in his homily that they might have been talking throughout the Mass without paying attention to Jesus but they line up for communion. There are some couples that live together without the blessing of the sacrament of marriage but have no scruples about receiving communion. Can we seek intimacy with the Lord during the Eucharist and exclude him in our day-to-day conversation? Can we have close relationship with Jesus during the Eucharist and exclude him from our married life?
Canon Law of the church has instructed us that we should have a Eucharistic fast one hour before receiving the Holy Communion. This is not legalistic but rather we are made aware to receive communion with reverence, to prepare us mentally, to make us aware of the greatness of the event, to make us to have the right attitude and to have a loving disposition of a heart.
Now we are allowed to receive communion on the hand. Whether we receive communion on the hand or on the tongue that is not important. In receiving him, it is our faith and the resulting respect which really matter. Our hand is as worthy as our tongue for both are gifts from God.
A priest said that actually there are more people with a dirty tongue than with dirty hands. Others say that receiving Jesus by the hands is a sign of Christian maturity for only children are fed. In can also mean that by receiving Body of Jesus by the hands, it strengthens not our tongue but our hands because our Christian living should be expressed more in what we do than in what we say. Anyway the early Christians received communion by the hands.
To make our Mass complete: we should be punctual for Jesus invites us, we participate actively in the singing and praying, we dress properly, we genuflect or bow before the Blessed Sacrament upon entering or leaving the church; we do not talk to ur seatmates, we control our children and we feel responsible for the orderliness and cleanliness of the church. It is because the one with us is from heaven.
See today’s Readings: Cycle B