The Body and Blood of Christ, Our Communion with God

TabghaAltar
The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Recipe, Week XX-B, 19 August 2018
Proverbs 9:1-6///Ephesians 5:15-20///John 6:51-58

            Our gospel is now getting more interesting as the drama among the Jews and Jesus Christ unfold into new dimensions on this penultimate Sunday of the “bread of life” discourse.  Last week, the Jews murmured among themselves when Jesus declared “I am the bread that came down from heaven” (Jn.6:41); today, the Jews quarreled among themselves, saying, “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?”(Jn.6:52)

            Notice the beautiful interplay of “antes” noted by John in this part of the bread of life discourse:  from murmuring, the Jews have turned into quarrelling among themselves in their renewed refusal to believe in Jesus.  They have deteriorated from being skeptical into being insidious, reaching its lowest point next week when in their refusal to take the words of Jesus, they would eventually leave Him behind along with other disciples who have followed Him after that episode of feeding of more than 5000 people.  Only the 12 would remain with Jesus.  On the other hand, we find Jesus speaking more boldly to the unfriendly audience by increasing the force of His declaration as “the bread of life” by repeating it eight times in eight verses!  And this time, He would even add that not only His flesh is food but also His blood is drink for eternal life.  Jesus did not budge in the arguments of the crowd and instead slowly spiraled up His discourse as food and drink for eternal life.  Jesus is trying to establish here a new direction in knowing Him, in following Him.  In presenting Himself as our food and drink for eternal life, Jesus is also showing us the direction we have to follow in Him.  Remember our reflection last July 15 that discipleship is not destination but directional?  And the direction Jesus is taking us in His bread of life discourse is about our Holy Communion in God.

            If you have observed in these past four weeks, sometimes the discourse by Jesus seems to be going nowhere, could be vague or ambiguous that it does not seem to progress at all.  See how since last Sunday Jesus was repeating over and over His being the bread of life who came down from heaven and that whoever eats His flesh and drinks His blood will have eternal life.  Jesus is not trying to get our attention with some fancy thoughts or brilliant expositions; Jesus is inviting us to a more personal experience of Himself in His bread of life discourse.  He is asking us to take our time in listening and digesting His words because in the end, His goal is not to fill our minds but to rest in our hearts.  Jesus is seeking communion with us, a oneness that can be achieved in the mystery of faith with a certitude deep in our hearts.  It is something like our daily prayers and weekly celebration of the Sunday Mass when we sometimes feel nothing is happening; even in our minds, we know we have known everything.  Yet, as we try to be open, holding on to our faith in God, we continue to pray and celebrate the Sunday  Mass that deep within us we are convinced something had changed, that we have experienced Someone so real and profound.  That is communion.  When we receive Jesus Body and Blood, we realize and know for a fact we are not one.  We have a communion not only with others with similar pains and hurts like ours but most of all with God who became human like us because He loves us so much.  Now in Holy Communion, He is one with us, truly inside our body, flesh and blood under the signs of bread and wine.  There is now an existing relationship on common experiences inexhaustible in its richness.  That is how personal God is with us.

             Since the fall of Adam and Eve, God had always longed to restore our union with Him.  In the first reading, we have heard how the author of the Book of Proverbs had personified God as Wisdom (a feminine) inviting us to come to her.  “Let whoever is simple turn in here; to the one who lacks understanding, I say, Come, eat of my food, and drink of the wine I have mixed!  Forsake foolishness that you may live; advance in the way of understanding.”(Prov.9:4-6)  Wisdom is God Himself who is at once transcendent and close at hand, very lofty but also in the daily realities of life because He is always seeking a communion with us humans.  Note in this passage, God is food and wine – the essentials of life!  In the Eucharist, we have the most ordinary food, bread and wine, becoming the most divine presence of God with us in Christ Jesus.  It is our common union with God in Christ who became human like us in everything except sin so that we can become like Him who is divine.  Observe when the priest prepares the wine during the Mass, he would pause before pouring water to recite the silent prayer, “By the mystery of this water and wine may we come to share in the divinity of Christ who humbled himself to share in our humanity.”  I love praying that, especially when I could see that amid the great amount of wine, our human contribution is just a droplet of water because Jesus did everything for us, we just have to believe!  Then again while the “Agnus Dei” is sung in preparation of the Holy Communion, the priest pauses in silence as he breaks the bread, takes a little piece of it and puts it into the wine, silently praying “May this mingling of the body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ bring eternal life to us who receive Him.”
 
          Here again is Jesus Christ before us, like the scene at Capernaum after the feeding of more than 5000 people, inviting us to enter into a communion with Him and in Him without murmuring and quarrelling to calmly reflect on this mystery of the Lord as our food and drink to eternal life.  Let us heed St. Paul’s reminder to the Ephesians today “to watch carefully how we live, not as foolish persons but as wise” (Eph.5:15) more concerned with God and not of the worldly things.  Most of all, let us not rush God like the crowd at Capernaum by demanding spectacular and verifiable things to remind us of His presence.  Jesus is with us in the most ordinary things like bread and wine, in the most common experience like the Mass.  He speaks to us in the most consistent manner, always repeating the same words of assurances of His love and mercy, kindness and presence.  Never doubt for we are making progress every Sunday, from Eucharist to Eucharist.  Sooner or later, we shall come to that promised day of eternal life in the Father through Jesus Christ. Amen.  A blessed week to you!Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II, Parokya ng San Juan Apostol at Ebanghelista, Gov. F. Halili Ave., Bagbaguin, Sta. Maria, Bulacan 3022
*Photo by Fr. Nick F. Lalog II, Church at Tabgha where Jesus is believed to have fed more than 5000 people; at the altar floor is a mosaic of the loaves of bread and two pieces of fish.  Taken during our Holy Land pilgrimage April 2017. 

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