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My flesh is real food...

In the gospel reading of today we listen to St. John’s account of the institution of the Eucharist.

St. John, unlike the other three evangelists, Matthew, Luke and Mark, does not situate it at the Last Supper, but in what is called the Eucharistic Discourse, which follows the story of the multiplication of the loaves and fish.

He begins with a discussion on the nature of food, recalling God feeding the Israelites in the desert during their long trek out of captivity in Egypt. From this, he moves onto speaking about food that will not leave us hungry.

He features Jesus speaking about this to his disciples and, as in all of Jesus’ discourses recorded by John, the people are left confused, not understanding what Jesus is talking about.

He speaks of the manna in the desert as a bounteous and generous gift from God to his chosen people, and it was life-giving. He draws on an image from the Book of Proverbs, which says, “To the fool she says, ‘Come and eat my bread, drink the wine I have prepared! Leave your folly and walk in the ways of perception’.”

This is food and drink for those who follow God’s commands and walk in his path. But Jesus takes this well-known image further, by placing a greater emphasis on the gift aspect, as the gift is now Jesus himself in his body and blood, a gift that is life-giving and that gives eternal life.

Jesus says, “For my flesh is real food and my blood is real drink.” Those who eat of it will be on the path to eternal life.

This is the basis of the theme of the Year of Grace, Starting afresh with Christ, and the upcoming Year of Faith, in that whenever we take part in the Eucharist we are nourished and refreshed in Christ.

The Dogmatic Constitution on Divine Revelation from Vatican II reminds us, “God chose to reveal himself and to make known to us the hidden purpose of his will regarding the salvation of man” (No. 2), so that though Christ and the Holy Spirit, we may come to share in God’s nature.

This highlights the Trinitarian nature of revelation. As St. Paul tells us today, “Be filed with the Holy Spirit… so that always and everywhere you are giving thanks to God who is our Father in the name of Our Lord Jesus Christ.”

The constitution points out that this is a self-revelation from God, freely given and gratuitous. “God chose to share those divine treasures which totally transcend the understanding of the human mind.”

As a result, we can understand that we really come to know God through the word made flesh, Jesus Christ, so when we partake in the Eucharist, eating his body and blood, we are being nourished by the bread and wine that St. John speaks about, that allows us to truly share in the nature of God.

As Thomas Crane says in The Message of St. John (1980), “The Church’s sacramental pattern has translated this into the Eucharistic meal, which unifies all these biblical themes in the concrete reality of ritual, and in which it celebrates the prospect of its own promised consummation.”

Homily notes for Year of  Grace

               Adelaide Archdiocese