“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.” (John 6:55-56)
Jesus said to the crowd, “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.” The Jewish crowd was shocked by this statement. “Flesh” is a provocative word and raises the idea of cannibalism. It was especially provocative in a culture that distinguishes between clean and unclean meat. No Jew would have ever considered eating human flesh nor do people of our time. His words were so provocative that people stopped following Him.
The belief in the true presence of Christ in the bread and wine of the Eucharist is a central teaching of the Catholic Church. The Gospel reading emphasizes the necessity of consuming the body and blood of Christ for eternal life. Jesus teaches that His flesh and blood are true food and true drink, and those who eat and drink them will abide in Him and have eternal life. This is a reminder of the centrality of the Eucharist to the Catholic faith, and the importance of receiving the sacrament for our spiritual nourishment. To reduce the Eucharist to a metaphor would be to dismiss His explicit words telling us that “whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me and I in him.”
In the Eucharist we are made one flesh with Christ. We have His life in us and have our life because of Him. This is what Jesus asks of us to do and believe. He gives us His promise: that sharing in His flesh and blood that was raised from the dead, we too will be raised up on the last day.
On the Solemnity of the Body and Blood of Christ, I pray that we renew our faith in the Holy Eucharist as true food and true drink as we approach the altar. From this Sunday onward, may we nourish ourselves with God’s presence in us so that we may always be satisfied.