Thank you to all who sent me cards wishing me well on my birthday and congratulating me on my 37th anniversary as a priest. It was a great and necessary distraction in a very difficult week.
A group of Jews gathered about Jesus after he had fed the five thousand with five loaves and two fish and they begin a dialogue with him: “what must we do if we are to do the works that God wants? Jesus answers: “This is working for God; you must believe in the one he has sent.” They reply: “what sign will you give to show us that we should believe in you? Our fathers had manna to eat.” Jesus tells them that “it is my Father who gives you the bread from heaven” and they respond: “Sir, give us that bread always!” At this point Jesus reveals” “I am the bread of life”. (all quotations are cited at Jn 6:28-35)
You and I have been given a great gift in inheriting this understanding of the Eucharist. For the people of His day to try to grasp what He was talking about was almost impossible. In his dialogue with this group he makes it clear to them that they will have to eat his flesh and drink his blood. Ultimately most of the group will respond by saying that “this is intolerable language! How could anyone accept it.” However, out of the richness of history you and I are taught to embrace this understanding almost from birth.
I love to watch the little ones who are too young to receive communion reach out and try to touch it. Sometimes I will hear the question: “what is it” with the response: “it is Jesus”. Although we have tried many ways of explaining how this comes about throughout our history as followers of Jesus, the basic explanation is St. Paul writing to the Corinthians: ”That on the same night as he was betrayed, the Lord Jesus took some bread and thanked God for it and broke it and said ‘this is my body, which is for you; do this as a memorial of me. In the same way he took the cup after supper and said: This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Whenever you drink it, do this as a memorial of me.” (1Cor 1123-26)