Eucharist: The Lifeblood of Christ

John 6: 52-59
Acts 9:1-20 / Ps 117:1bc,2

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.
(John 6:53)

Partake of Him, our Daily Bread,
And we shall no longer hunger;
Of His Word if we’re always fed,
We’re assured of Life Forever.

The Jews disputed among themselves, saying, “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?” So 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 have no life in you; he who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day. For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him. As the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so also the one who feeds on me will live 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.” These things He said while teaching in the synagogue in Capernaum. (John 6:52-59)

Reflection

We can understand how shocking these words of Jesus must have been to the Jews of His time. Eating food with blood was (and is) totally forbidden to the Jews. From the earliest times, God commanded Noah: “You must not eat meat that has its lifeblood still in it” (Gen.8:4). In Leviticus, (God) said to Moses: “Any Israelite or any alien living among them who eats any blood – I will set my face against him, and will cut him off from his people” (Lev.17:10). Even the apostles, in accepting Gentile converts into the early church, forbade them to eat “food polluted by idols… meat of strangled animals, and from blood” (Acts 15:20). Until today, the meat eaten by the Jews must be “kosher”, meaning, drained of blood.

Our Lord must have two important reasons for this seemingly “ghastly” declaration. The first was to weed out those disciples who had the wrong motives in following Him. The second was to prophesy His gift of the Holy Eucharist to future generations of Christians. Indeed, many of His disciples, in spite of the signs that He had performed in their midst, left Him because they found His words totally offensive. Perhaps the same can be said of the Protestants who had chosen to leave the Church because they could not accept the doctrine of transubstantiation, which we believe was truly initiated in the Last Supper when Jesus commanded, “Do this in memorial of me” (Luke 22:19). The word “memorial” as Jesus said it may be seen in a different light as we understand it today. It did not mean something that occurred only in the memory of a past event. Rather, memorial signifies making present once again a past event. The Eucharist is a meal celebrated in memorial of the passion, death and Resurrection of Jesus. In our participation at that meal, those events become present to us as we relive them over and over again. Six times in this Gospel passage of John our Lord exhorts His followers to “feed on Him”, as if He could not emphasize enough the importance of assimilating Him into our life, just as often as we feed our bodies with nourishing food.

In the Mass, the mystery of the Eucharist is relived every hour and everyday all over the world without losing its essence and meaning. The Word of God, which is also part of the liturgy of the Mass, is likewise read and heard every day, throughout our lives, delivering God’s message to us in many different ways. A day will never be the same without receiving the Bread of Life and the Word of God. His Bread and His Word give us life, nourishing our spirits. Jesus is inviting us to take His Flesh and Blood (His Life) and His Word into the very essence of our being. The life that He offers is the very life of God Himself.

We praise you, Lord God eternal. Your Flesh and Blood and Your Word will nourish us all the days of our lives, until the end of time. Amen.

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