Deuteronomy 8:2-3, 14b-16a
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 by affliction and find out whether or not it was your intention to keep his commandments. He therefore let you be afflicted with hunger, and then fed you with manna, a food unknown to you and your fathers, in order 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, that place of slavery; who guided you through the vast and terrible desert with its saraph serpents and scorpions, its parched and waterless ground; who brought forth water for you from the flinty rock and fed you in the desert with manna, a food unknown to your fathers.”
1 Corinthians 10:16-17
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.
Gospel Cycle Cycle A
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.”
God takes care of us. God feeds us. God watches over us. That is always the message. Today, when we hear of all of the natural catastrophes on top of the wars and murders and killings, our faith is really put to the test. Yet whenever our faith is put to the test, we need also to think of those many people who have gone through genocide and kept their faith, those who have seen their families murdered and destroyed and have kept their faith and those who have seen natural disasters destroy families and businesses and take away all hope and have kept their faith.
Today in our liturgy, we are asked to believe that Jesus Christ is truly present, body, blood, soul and divinity, in the Holy Eucharist that we celebrate. So many people today no longer believe this. Yet our Church and our liturgy invite us to believe. Such a belief really stretches us!
We are formed in our beliefs about the Holy Eucharist by today’s readings. The first reading, from the Book of Deuteronomy, is absolutely clear: we cannot live by bread alone; we cannot live by anything except the Word of God! Many of us are perhaps a little uneasy in launching out into faith so strongly and putting all of our daily hope only in the Lord and His Word! Yet this is just what God invites us to do. And from the experiences of those who have survived terrible situations and who have still believed, it is just what they do.
It is almost as if we must stop thinking and simply believe with all of our being.
The second reading, from the First Letter to the Corinthians, speaks directly to this mystery once again. We participate in the body and the blood of the Lord. And we are one because of that. Certain one of great challenges of our age is to know that unity that already exists with others. Even when we receive communion regularly, we don’t always act as if we are truly one with the others who also receive.
The Gospel is from chapter 6 of the Gospel of John. There is no narrative of the institution of the Eucharist in this Gospel, but chapter 6 goes over and over and over this sacred fact: Jesus is our life, Jesus is the living bread from heaven. Those who eat the flesh of Jesus and drink His blood will live forever. The words of Jesus are so graphic that many of His followers left him at this point.
Will we remain with Jesus? Will we keep Him as our Lord? Will we eat His flesh and drink His blood? May we all reply: “Yes, Lord! I am with you and accept your word. I am with you and pray that you holy blood will wash away my sins. I am with you, Lord, and I ask to know your presence always more completely in my life.