Jesus Christ, Our “Unli-Bread” from Heaven

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The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Recipe, Body and Blood-A, 18 June 2017.

Deuteronomy 8:2-3,14-16//1Corinthians 10:16-17//John 6:51-58

For us Filipinos, a meal is never complete without rice, our staple food.  This explains the recent trending reactions on social media against Sen. Villar’s remarks to ban “unli” rice for health reasons as well as to avoid rice imports.  Rice is the only other thing followed by “tabo” that we Pinoys could not live without even in foreign lands where bread is the staple food.  It is so universal even in our country with the lowly “pan de sal” that Jesus chose bread to be His sign of presence to all people for all time. For our reflection on this Solemnity of the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ, it does not really matter whether we eat rice or bread; what is essential is to have that strong conviction too that no one, not even a high-ranking official of the land, would ever dabble with rice because more than being our staple food, it is our life as Filipinos. That is the meaning of our celebration today which is the second Solemnity we have since the resumption of Ordinary Time:  Jesus is our food from heaven, our life here and hereafter.

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 do not have
life within you.  Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him on the last day.  For my flesh is
true food, and my blood is true drink.  This is the bread that came down from heaven.  Unlike your ancestors who ate and still died,
whoever eats this bread will live forever.”(Jn.6:53-55,58)

Before the reforms of Vatican II, this feast was called “Corpus Christi” or Body of Christ because emphasis was devotion to
the Blessed Sacrament reserved in the tabernacle for adoration by the faithful.  Old monasteries used to have holes called “hagioscopes” in each room of every monk where they would peep to look at the Blessed Sacrament during exposition especially when they could not celebrate Mass.  Due to the very strict rules on receiving Holy Communion before Vatican II, most people would attend the Holy Hour to “receive” Jesus by staring at His real presence in the Blessed Sacrament. That emphasis on the real presence of Jesus Christ in the Blessed Sacrament remains today but with the change of name from “Corpus Christi” into “Body and Blood”, stress shifted on the celebration of the Eucharist which Vatican II described as the summit of our Christian life. St.John Paul perfectly said in “Ecclesia de Eucharistia” in 2003 that “the most holy Eucharist contains the Church’s entire spiritual wealth:  Christ himself, our passover and living bread.”(#1)

The gospel we have just heard is the last part of the long discourse of Jesus as “Bread of Life.”  Remember that earlier in the
wilderness during the Jewish Feast of Passover, Jesus had fed more than 5000 people from just five loaves of bread and two pieces of
fish.  It was the “sign” as St. John would call it that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God but people failed to read it that they wanted to make Him a king to provide their material needs.  Realizing that, Jesus and His disciples left that evening to the other side of the lake in Capernaum; the people eventually found Him the following morning at the synagogue area and thus began His “bread of life” discourse.  Right away Jesus told the people not to search for food that perishes but to “work” for the food that gives eternal life Himself- as He kept repeating to them the words “I am” to echo the God Who had spoken to Moses in Sinai.  Moreover, Jesus explained to the crowd in no uncertain terms that unlike the bread given by God in the wilderness through Moses, He is the food Himself from heaven that gives eternal life because He is life Himself.  But His listeners could not understand and take His words, just like today among some of us who ask the same question “How could this man give us his flesh to
eat?”(Jn.6:52)

Faith in the Eucharist is also faith in the Incarnation because indeed, this man known as Jesus of Nazareth gave His body and blood for us on the Cross more than 2000 years ago.  And before that happened, He instituted the Sacrament of the Eucharist on Holy Thursday as the everlasting memorial of His love and sacrifice for us. In the Eucharist, we receive under the signs –sacrament- of bread and wine the Body and Blood of Christ now seated at the right hand of the Father Almighty.  It is in the power of the Holy Spirit that these bread and wine are transformed into Christ’s Body and Blood so that we too are transformed into new persons and community in communion with the Father in Christ Jesus.  Now we see the whole picture getting clearer of the last three Solemnities we have celebrated recently: Ascension, Pentecost, and Trinity Sunday.  Ascension is the new closeness of Christ among us realized in the coming of the Holy Spirit during the Pentecost, the “coming out party of the Church”.  When we gather as a church or community, the inner life of the Trinity called “perichoresis” circulates in us and among us, making us sharers in the life of God as we all look forward into Christ’s Second Coming. Again, St. John Paul II beautifully described in Ecclesia de Eucharistia the Eucharist having a “cosmic character” that “unites heaven and earth”(#8), “truly a glimpse of heaven appearing on earth”(#19) because “those who feed on Christ in the Eucharist need not wait until the hereafter to receive eternal life: they already possess it on earth, as the first-fruits of a future fullness which will embrace man in his totality.”(#18)  The Eucharist is a mystery of faith inviting us to believe in so we could see and experience God’s reality in perceptible signs we see, hear, taste and meet among those gathered in every celebration of the Mass.  If God can transform bread and wine into body and Blood of Christ, all the more He could transform us!

Every first week of Lent, we hear the temptation of Jesus in the wilderness where the devil’s first test was to turn stones into
bread.  Jesus told him that “man does not live on bread alone but on every word of God.”  That remains the first temptation for us too, when we are so focused on material things, on the different forms of “bread” that satisfy our needs but fail to fulfill us as a person and a community.  In the first reading, Moses reminded the people how in all their sufferings God had remained faithful with them, that turning away from Him is the path to destruction for only Him can satisfy all our needs and longings even beyond this life. When we gather in the Eucharist, we stand before God poor and afflicted with so many pains and trials in life, so many difficulties and needs no matter what our age and status in life is.  But when we share in the Body and Blood of Christ, we become one not only with others but most especially with Jesus Who assures us always of better things ahead and beyond us. Jesus is our “unli” food and drink Who brings us to eternal life. Right here.  Right now.  God bless you!Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II, Parokya ni San Juan Apostol at Ebanghelista, Gov. F. Halili Ave.,Bagbaguin, Sta. Maria, Bulacan

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