June 18, 2017
Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ (Corpus Christi)
[Jesus said to the crowds:] 51 I am the living bread that came down from heaven; whoever eats this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give is my flesh for the life of the world."
52 The Jews quarreled among themselves, saying, "How can this man give us (his) flesh to eat?"
53 Jesus said to them, "Amen, amen, 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. 54 Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him on the last day. 55 For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink. 56 Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me and I in him. 57 Just as the living Father sent me and I have life because of the Father, so also the one who feeds on me will have life because of me. 58 This is the bread that came down from heaven. Unlike your ancestors who ate and still died, whoever eats this bread will live forever."
In the opening verse, Jesus identifies himself as the bread from heaven. In the next verse, he states that whoever eats his flesh and drinks his blood has life eternal. The fact that the Jews quarreled among themselves at this statement should not be a surprise. The word that Jesus used, translated as “eats” here, would carry a sense of gnawing, as a dog with a bone. Drinking blood was prohibited within the Jewish community. It should not be surprising that some of the Jews who were hearing this questioned his teaching. Questions in John’s gospel usually present an opportunity for Jesus to further explain his teaching.
Jesus explains, “…unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you do not have life within you.” (John 6:51) In case they missed the point, Jesus restates this point three more times (verses 53, 54, and 55). The expression “flesh and blood” was to describe a human person. For those Jesus is addressing, the term “flesh and blood” would also call to mind the animals that were ritually slaughtered as offerings to God--including offerings made throughout the year, but especially those made as part of the Passover observance. Jesus is describing himself as the lamb that was killed and had its blood drained so that it could be used as a sacrificial offering. This same connection will be made later in John’s gospel when he places the hour of Jesus’ death at about the time when the lambs were being killed for the Passover observance.
For John’s community, Jesus is their food and drink. Because John’s gospel is the last of the four gospels to be written, those in the community have had more time to reflect on the significance of the Jewish tradition in Jesus’ life and teaching. The experience of God feeding the Jews in the desert is a springboard to help them understand God’s new revelation in Jesus. It is not enough to believe in Jesus, or even to ritually participate in the new customs of the Christian community. They are seeking to understand how God is continuing to nourish with God’s real presence on this new journey.
Departing from Matthew, Mark and Luke, John’s gospel does not have a Last Supper account before his passion and death. Therefore, Jesus’ instruction here about being the Body and Blood that gives eternal life is not tied as directly to Eucharist. It is a much broader and pervasive reality than just Eucharist.
- What is your thinking of bread, what memories come to mind when you think of bread?
- What memories do you have of wine?
- What images come to mind when you think of flesh? What images come to mind when you think of blood?
- Have you ever had periods when you did not get enough to eat? How far back would you have to go in your family to note a generation that truly worried about not having enough to eat? How do you think that experience affected them?
- Have there been times in your life when you felt a hunger or a thirst that was not about food or drink?
- Why would John take the time to note that the Jews quarreled among themselves over Jesus’s teaching?
- Are their aspects of God’s relationship with us that you have quarreled about?
- What are the things that nourish your soul, and your spirit?
- What does this say to you about God’s desire for you?
- Can you take some time now or later today to speak to God about what this text is saying to you at this time of your life?
On Wednesday of each week, the Gospel and reflection questions for the upcoming Sunday are posted at the following link: http://il-ritiro.org/gospel-reflections.aspx. You are invited to share your own reflection and comments with others at this website.
The reflection and questions are written by Fr. Paul Gallagher, OFM. They are edited by Sister Anne Marie Lom, OSF and Joe Thiel. The excerpts from the Sunday readings are prepared by Joe Thiel.
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Excerpts from the Readings for June 18, 2017, Solemnity of the Body and Blood of Christ
Moses said to the people: "Remember how for forty years now the Lord, your God,
has directed all your journeying in the desert, so as to test you
and find out whether it was your intention to keep his commandments.
He let you be afflicted with hunger, and then fed you with manna,
a food unknown to you and your fathers, to show you that not by bread alone does one live,
but by every word that comes forth from the mouth of the Lord.
"Do not forget the Lord, your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt;
who guided you through the desert with its serpents and scorpions, its parched ground;
who brought forth water for you from the rock and fed you with manna."
Praise the Lord, Jerusalem. Glorify the Lord; praise your God, O Zion.
For he has strengthened the bars of your gates; he has blessed your children within you.
He has granted peace in your borders; with the best of wheat he fills you.
He sends forth his command to the earth; swiftly runs his word!
He has proclaimed his word to Jacob, his statutes and his ordinances to Israel.
He has not done thus for any other nation; his ordinances he has not made known to them. Alleluia.
Brothers and sisters:
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?
Because the loaf of bread is one, we, though many, are one body, for we all partake of the one loaf.
Jesus said to the Jewish crowds:
"I am the living bread that came down from heaven; whoever eats this bread will live forever;
and the bread that I will give is my flesh for the life of the world."
The Jews quarreled among themselves, saying, "How can this man give us his flesh to eat?"
Jesus said to them, "Amen, amen, 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.
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.
Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me and I in him.
Just as the living Father sent me and I have life because of the Father,
so also the one who feeds on me will have life because of me.
This is the bread that came down from heaven.
Unlike your ancestors who ate and still died, whoever eats this bread will live forever."
Excerpts from Deuteronomy 8:2-3, 14-16; Psalm 147:12-20; 1 Corinthians 10:16-17; and John 6:51-58