August 19, 2012 – Twentieth Sunday in Ordinary Time
We’ve heard pieces of John’s bread of life discourse proclaimed throughout the past few weeks, and today’s gospel reading brings that discourse to a close with some very shocking words from Jesus: “I am the living bread that came down from heaven; and the bread that I will give is my flesh for the life of the world.”
This was a very hard reality for the Jews to accept. To them, it sounded like cannibalism. And so, the scripture tells us, they quarreled among themselves. Surely Jesus could not have been speaking literally. Surely He did not expect them to really consider His body as bread. Yet, we then see Jesus make an even clearer statement to those in the crowd.
He does not calm the gathering or reassure them that He’s only speaking symbolically. Rather, He reiterates His point using even stronger language.
“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. … 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.”
Jesus is quite clear. In the Eucharist, He offers His literal body and blood as a sacrifice to the Father, and He invites each one of us to partake of it. What’s more, He tells us that unless we do so, we don’t have life in Him.
In other words, the sacraments are vital to our lives as Christian disciples. They connect us to the Lord in a deep interpersonal way, giving us life in Him. They unite us to Him here and now.
In a particular way, the Eucharist must hold a central place in our lives as disciples. It is the “source and summit of the Church’s life.” All the other sacraments and ecclesial ministries are bound up in and oriented toward the Eucharist. “For in the Eucharist is contained the whole spiritual good of the Church, namely Christ Himself” (CCC 1324).
Therefore, we must run to the Eucharist full of joy and excitement, eager to partake of the Lord’s precious Body and Blood. We must remain ever mindful of the reality therein — it is Jesus Christ, body, blood, soul, and divinity. Literally. And we must believe and reverence it as such!
How blessed we are to be loved by a Lord who gives His all for us. How blesed we are to participate in the sacraments and to receive the grace of God through them.
He gives us the sacraments so that we will gain the grace and the strength that we need to live out our calling as His disciples. And so, we are to approach them regularly, reverent and eager, “giving thanks always and for everything in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to God the Father” (second reading).