– Fernando Armellini SCJ
Claretian Publications, Macau
Today’s Gospel begins with an outrageous statement: the bread to eat is “his own flesh.” The reaction of those present is understandable and justified: “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?” They understand that he no longer refers only to the spiritual assimilation of God’s revelation, but also to a “concrete eating,” not metaphorical. He then adds, they have to drink his blood too.
The Jews believed that the vital force resides in the blood and would not permit it to be consumed even of the slaughtered animals. But, Jesus refers to the sealing of a new covenant with his blood which in the old covenant was done with the blood of the animals (Ex 24:6-8). With this gesture, the communion of life between God and Israel was established and their mutual belongingness sealed. It was as if between God and the people relations of consanguinity were established. He further explains, “The one who eats my flesh and drinks my blood will have eternal life” (v. 54).
The Eucharist has no effect if it is not received with faith, that is, if it is not an expression of the inner decision to accept Christ and to allow him to animate the entire life. Before receiving the Eucharistic bread it is always necessary to read and meditate on a passage of the Word of God. Those who agree to become one person with Christ in the sacrament must first know his proposal for life. A contract is not stipulated without having attentively read and evaluated all the terms.
Immediately after Easter, the disciples and early Christians felt the need to celebrate the founding event of their faith, the death, and resurrection of Christ. They did not have to invent a ritual to reproduce the event because Jesus himself had set it up. Prior to his passion, while he sat at table with his disciples, he took bread, gave thanks, broke it and gave it to them saying, “This is my body which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me” (Lk 22:19).
It is a feature of the rite to be repetitive, to follow a fixed pattern, much like we wish good morning or good evening. The rituals are repetitive, but not useless because they create what they mean.
Translated by Fr John Ledesma SDB
Abridged by Fr Jijo Kandamkulathy CMF