The antidote for death
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Jesus has performed the multiplication of the loaves and fishes and comes across the Sea of Galilee to Capernaum. Large crowds follow Jesus. Jesus turns to the crowds and warns them not to look for the bread that does not last but rather to seek the food that lasts to eternal life. Jesus than says to his followers; I myself am that living bread come down from heaven; my flesh is food for the life of the world.
Horror, pandemonium and the crowds object. There is a strict prohibition on the eating of animal flesh with blood and now here we have a human being saying ‘I want you to eat my body and drink my blood.’ Jesus has the opportunity to change his language, to make it more spiritual, metaphysical; something symbolic. No, Jesus doesn’t take this route but instead intensifies the language: Unless you eat the Flesh of the Son of Man and drink his Blood, you have no life in you.
For many of those standing in Capernaum on that day, this was too much to bear and they went away. Also today many find this too much to bear, and change the words of Jesus to something symbolic, rejecting the saving power from the tree of Life; rejecting the antidote for death. Jesus now turns to his inner circle, ‘are you going to leave me also?’ Peter responds; ‘Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the Words of Eternal Life.’
Down through the centuries this has been our confession of Faith with Peter; ‘Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the Words of Eternal Life.’
This teaching of the real presence of Jesus in the Eucharist becomes from that day to today the standing or falling point of our belief; a point of division as well as the point of communion. At every Mass we celebrate this Feast of this Communion; Christ speaking to his friends in Scripture and we answering in responses and songs, as we sit down to enjoy this meal that Christ has prepared for us.
In a world that has gone wrong, represented by division and strife, there can be no communion, no intimacy, without sacrifice. It is sacrifice that bends and twists us back into shape, the re-aligns us towards reconciliation and communion with God and each other.
The ordinary becomes extraordinary carrying us through the mundane to touch the stars. In every time and in every place we gather to offer bread and wine. As an offered sacrifice we give back to God what we have received, bread and wine, from wheat and vine; growing out of earth, soil, water, wind and sunshine together with the work of our hands. An offering of all creation, the solar system and the Cosmos.
God is in no need of this or any other sacrifice; God is in no need of anything at all; it is we who need this sacrifice for our re-alignment to lead us back to the communion that God desires.
These gifts that we offer in sacrifice rebounds against God’s total self-sufficiency, coming back to us as gift infinitely enhanced as the Body and Blood of Christ that produces communion. This is the union that God desires between himself and us; between each other; between us and creation.
One of the greatest difficulties we have in this most incredible and wonderful exchange is the difference between reality and appearance. We are so used to reality and appearance coinciding that we have a problem in those areas where they do not coincide.
We look up into the night sky and see the light of stars; looking into the past; thousand and millions of years back in time. Reality and appearance do not coincide.
We look up at the sun and see its course moving through the sky; yet it is we who are moving at incredible speed on the surface of the earth that appears to have the sun moving. Reality and appearance do not coincide.
Appearances can be deceiving. A faraway stranger is mistaken for a friend; a clever reproduction fools an art collector; a straw seems to bend in water. Reality and appearance do not coincide.
The Eucharist, the Pope Francis noted, makes present "the alliance that sanctifies us, purifies us and unites us in communion with God."
At every Mass, this Eucharist, our God who is outside of space and time becomes truly and substantially present, bringing all of time into the eternal Now; re-aligning past errors and illusions towards new and life giving opportunities; giving to us the very Body and Blood of Christ; that communion through which we can share in God’s eternal being. There is no other way. This is the antidote for the poison in our society and communities. Humbly acknowledging our need all we can offer is our hunger.
Unless you eat the Flesh of the Son of Man and drink his Blood, you have no life in you. If this is not the Way, the Truth and Life, Jesus is neither the Christ nor God. We must choose!