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Diocese of Reno

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The Solemnity OF The Body And Blood Of Christ: June 2, 2023

Our Scripture passage for this Sunday comes from the Gospel of John 6:51–58. This is one of the most important Eucharistic passages in the New Testament. There are several important points to reflect on as we celebrate this great Feast with the Church throughout the world.

The first thing to notice is how strongly this passage stresses the realism of Jesus’ presence in the Eucharist. In other passages of the New Testament (cf. Lk 22:19, Mt 26:26, Mk 14:22, or 1 Cor 11:23–26) the term soma is used to refer to the Eucharist which is best translated as “body”. However, in this passage from John’s Gospel, Jesus uses the word sarx, which means “flesh”. Terms like “body” could have symbolic meanings, but the term “flesh” had no other meaning than the corporeal reality of one’s very physical being. Jesus wants us to make no mistake about it — He Himself is really and truly present (flesh and blood) in the food and drink He gives us in the Eucharist. The second term emphasizing realism occurs when Jesus speaks of our need to “eat” His flesh and “drink” His blood. There were different words in Greek to describe the action of eating. The term Jesus uses in this passage is that of trogein, and He uses it four times (vv. 54, 56, 57, and 58), rather than the more respectable verb phrageinTrogein is important because it has no other meaning than the physical experience of “munching” on a piece of food whereas phragein could have a more figurative meaning of digesting something intellectually or assimilating something culturally. Thus, in this passage, Jesus is going out of His way to make His point very clear: He is giving us a real gift of His physical body and blood, and to receive that gift we must actually eat it. With the use of sarx and phragein, there can be no other interpretation. You see, in the prologue of John’s Gospel, we were told that in the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God. We were also told that the Word became flesh (sarx) and was given to us for the life of the world. Now in this passage we are told that the “Word made Flesh” gives His flesh as food to us. Thus, when we receive the Eucharist, we are receiving the very presence of the eternal Son of God. This teaching in John’s Gospel was probably meant to correct misunderstandings and doubts that were already developing in the first century regarding the physical Incarnation of the Eternal Word and true presence (reality) of Jesus in the Eucharist.
What is your understanding and belief in the reality of the Eucharist as the  flesh and blood of Jesus?
How does this teaching from John 6 challenge you in your faith?
What can a faith community do to help people deepen their belief in the Eucharist?
The next point for our reflection concerns why Jesus would give such a tremendous gift of Himself. Throughout the chapter of John 6, Jesus has been drawing a parallel between the people of Israel receiving manna in the desert and His gift of the bread of life. Just as manna gave the people nourishment to continue their journey on the way to the promised land, so, too, the gift of the Eucharist is meant to nourish us in our Christian life. The journey of the people in the desert was a journey from sin to salvation, from slavery to freedom, and from death to life. They had to be sustained and encouraged in that process. The Hebrew people were guided by the gift of the Law on Mount Sinai; so, too, the Christian people are taught in John 6 that we are guided by the revelation of God in the Word of Jesus and sustained by His Body and Blood. We are all on that journey of moving towards God and away from sin, slavery to self, and other false values. It is oftentimes difficult to break the destructive patterns of sin in our lives, and so we need regular encouragement to persevere in discipleship and conversion. That process of growth is often our own experience of the “desert.” It can be tempting to stop on that journey of conversion and transformation so as to settle in a place of complacency with sin and mediocrity of discipleship. In those moments, we have to turn to the Lord and ask for His guidance and leadership. We can’t do it on our own; we have to rely on help from on high. Thus, Jesus says, “…whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me and I in him” (Jn 6:56) and also, “…the bread that I will give is my flesh for the life of the world” (Jn 6:51). Our Lord is telling us that He alone can give us the necessary nourishment to get us through the desert. The Eucharist is manna in the desert, it is food for eternal life, and it is a sharing in the very body, blood, soul and divinity of Jesus. A disciple is not only someone who follows Jesus and obeys His teaching, but a disciple is someone who is actually transformed by the very presence of Jesus they receive and who grows into the likeness of God in whose image they are created. The Eucharist is our food for that journey of transformation and conversion.
What are the reasons we can come up with to justify our complacency so as to stop short on our journey of faith?
How does the Eucharist challenge you to continue your Christian journey of discipleship each week?
What transformation has taken place in your life as a result of your participation in the Eucharist?
Over the past 2,000 years, our appreciation of, and devotion to, the Body and Blood of the Lord have expressed themselves in various ways. Mother Teresa, for example, began her day with one hour of prayer before the Blessed Sacrament, and it was that daily devotion that motivated her to carry out her great works of charity and mercy. Other great people of faith have similarly expressed how important the Eucharist is for them as the place of encounter with the revelation of God in the flesh and blood of the Son of Man (Jesus). There is a distinctive and real presence of Jesus in the Eucharist that is not available anywhere else. To help foster this awareness of the encounter with Jesus in the Eucharist, the Church encourages certain devotional practices such as genuflecting when approaching the Tabernacle, maintaining a prayerful silence in the sacred space of the church, and making the sign of the cross when passing by a church. Chapels of reservation are often made available so that people can stop by and pray throughout the day. Those parishioners who are homebound are brought the Eucharist when they can no longer physically come to Mass. All these expressions of devotion and piety are meant to remind us of the sacred encounter with God that awaits us in the Eucharist. Yet, like so many great opportunities, it can oftentimes be easy to let those opportunities pass without taking advantage of them.
How have you experienced the Eucharist as a privileged place of encounter with the Lord?
What expressions of piety or religious devotion mean most to you in your encounter with the Eucharist?
How can a faith community foster greater respect and devotion to the Eucharist?
Finally, this passage of Scripture invites us to consider not only what Jesus is offering us in the gift of the Eucharist but to also consider our response to that gift. The text of John 6 tells us that the Jews “grumbled” at His teaching (6:52) — the same word used to describe the Hebrews and their response to Moses’ leadership in the desert. Even many of Jesus’ own disciples found this to be a hard teaching and left Him because of it (6:60–66). In response to this rejection and refusal to believe, Jesus does not alter His teaching in any way; instead, He challenges those who hear Him to believe and accept what God reveals rather than requiring that God’s gift fit their desires and abilities to understand. Some disciples do accept Jesus’ teaching, and their faith is voiced by Peter, who says, “Master… you have the words of eternal life” (6:68). Since the first years of Christianity, the Church has taken seriously the gift of Jesus in the Eucharist and of our need to respond with faith and readiness to be transformed by the gift we receive. By receiving the Body and Blood of the Lord, we are to become His living presence in the world. The gift of God, Jesus, is now given to us in the Eucharist, so that God can give the gift of His Son to others through us. When we receive Communion and say “Amen” to the Body of Christ, we are not only professing our belief in the reality of the Eucharist but are also stating our commitment to live that reality in what we say and do — to be the Body of Christ. Our response to the Eucharist, then, is not just in our prayer, beliefs, or statements but most of all in our willingness to “become that which we receive”.[1] Our mission is to become a living tabernacle of God’s presence every time we receive Communion.
How do you experience the various responses to the Eucharist found in John 6?
How do we be tempted to accept only what we can understand, and why is that tendency destructive to faith?
What helps us to accept beyond what we can understand?
What are other teachings of Jesus that can be difficult to understand and accept?
[1] St. Leo the Great, Sermo 12, De Passione, 2, 7, PL54.
Christ the Eucharistic Redeemer. Juan de Juanes. Oil on panel, late 1500’s. The Yorck Project.
John 6:51-58

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.”


Eucharistic Revival
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Eucharistic Revival Resources