August 16, 2009
ORDINARY 20 (B)
My Flesh is true food, & my blood is true drink. – John 6: 55
If one takes these words literally, it is not hard to see why our Lord’s Jewish listeners turned away from Him, or why later some Roman pagans accused Christians of being cannibals. Perhaps it is why some Protestants skip over these verses of John’s Gospel or they interpret them as being purely ‘symbolic’ in nature. Either extreme misses the point, namely, that Jesus gives Himself to us in the most intimate way possible so that we might have life & have it abundantly.
I’m often reminded of this as I watch hosts disappearing down people’s throats. It gives new meaning to the old saying, “The quickest way to a man’s heart is through his stomach.” But there is an important difference here. In the words of one spiritual writer, “When we eat material food, it becomes us. When we eat spiritual food, we become it.” This is not to suggest that the material & spiritual are separate entities. Just as our bodies are vehicles for our souls, so also is the bread & wine a vehicle for the risen Lord. Still, the purpose of communion is not so much to satisfy our bodily appetite, as it is to transform who & what we are into an extension of our Lord Himself. That’s an intimidating thought!
This is what post-communion silence is for: to allow us to spiritually digest the awesome mystery that confronts us on such a routine basis. Now the everyday world is as insistent & demanding as it was before, but now it has been modified by our time with Christ. Also, the juxtaposition of the two world views should make us keenly aware of the tenuousness of Christ’s life in us. Once is not enough. We must return to this experience or it will be lost to us like a language that goes unused.
Christians eat the body & drink the blood of Christ (the fully Human One) on a regular basis, some every Sunday, some everyday. Yet there is a hazard here: anything done on a regular basis can become routine. “Familiarity breeds contempt,” as Shakespeare put it. This is why it is important to dwell on the mystical dimension of the Eucharist. Receiving communion initiates entry into the consciousness of Christ, & His consciousness, no matter how it is presented, is always quite a trip. If it leaves our soul unmoved & untransformed, then the problem is ours not His. AMEN!