The Solemnity of the Body and Blood of Christ, Year A 2020
Tiempo de lectura aprox: 2 minutos, 18 segundos
Anyone Who Eats This Bread Will Live Forever
‘Anyone who eats this bread will live forever’ sounds bogus. The author of this text is dead. And so are all who ate the Last Supper 2000 years ago. Jesus, the man quoted for saying this also died. What does the author mean by ‘will live forever’? This is the question contemporary readers of the text are asking. For Christians, the answer lies in a metaphysics of death. At death, life is changed, and not ended. And Christ is alive, and so are all who have died in Him.
But there is another question. ‘Our ancestors’ who ate the manna are dead. What death is Jesus referencing to here? This death does not seem to suggest the death that ushers in eternal life. Is it the death that is a consequence of their disobedience, when they were cut off from God and from life? We may speculate on this text, but the noun used here signifies two meanings of death. The first meaning is the death that leads to eternal life and other leads to eternal death.
The manna they ate in the desert did not promise them eternal life. It was food that was given to them to keep them alive so that they may live as God’s people. But they ate the manna, and many grumbled against God, and lived on their own terms. And these are the ones Jesus said, they are dead. For the manna was not to give them new life, but to sustain the life they already had. So for those who were right with God, the manna sustained them in their righteousness.
However, the bread that has come down from heaven is life-giving. For the giver of this bread is the life (John 14:6). Therefore, whoever eats of this bread, eats newness, he or she eats that life that transforms his or her life into eternal life, since He, the life is eternal. This is the logic of the text, and its effect depends on the verb eat. For the Greek word used here for eat means munching, chewing which demands some effort on the part of the recipient of the life given.
So when this life is not eaten with faith, the recipient does not experience the changes Christ promised. This, in a way, is the reason many of us who partake of the Body and Blood Christ exhibits behaviour contrary to Christ and eternal life. Saint Paul in 1 Corinthians 11:29-30 captures it well. ‘For all who eat and drink without discerning the body, eat and drink judgement against themselves. For this… many of you are weak, ill and some have died.’
Again, this death is not the death that ushers in eternal life. It is the death that cuts us off from life since we might have been unable to discern that the bread that we eat is the body of Christ. Put it another way, we do not respond to God’s gift of Himself with the eyes of faith, that makes us present to Him in the Eucharist. Sadly, 70% of Catholics, according to Pew Research Centre, do not believe in the real presence of Jesus. This distorts their vision of God and of themselves.
On the flipside, there are Catholics whose belief in the real presence of Jesus is extreme. They look at their sins and judge themselves unworthy to receive the Eucharist, as a result they break communion with God. This, to say the least, is pride. It is a belief that the Eucharist is reward for their virtue. Saint Thomas Aquinas seems to disagree with these Catholics when he said, right from the time of the Last Supper until to date, Christ has never disdained any heart.
Christ comes into every heart, for He came not to condemn us, but to save us. In another text, it is said, He does not cast away anyone who comes to Him. Can we see how our refusal to receive the Eucharist might be itself a sin? Saint Thomas Aquinas went on, ‘No other sacrament has greater healing power; through it sins are purged away, virtues are increased, and the soul is enrich with an abundance of every spiritual gift.’ How can we receive these gifts when stay away from communion?
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