Memorial of Saint Joseph the Worker

Today, we hear more from John’s Bread of Life Discourse.  Jesus has been telling the people that he is the bread of life and that eating this bread of life is necessary.  The crowd grumbles yet again during this passage.  We can imagine some of their questions.  Is he speaking of cannibalism?  Or is this mere figurative language?

Jesus admits to neither.  Instead, he insists even more on the necessity of eating the bread of life.  On eating his flesh.  Not only that, but, in today’s passage, he tells them that they must drink his blood too.  Jews did not drink blood.  It had been prohibited of Noah and banned in Mosaic law.  For Jesus to demand this was scandalous and repulsive to them. 

Yet, he did not explain that this was mere figurative language.  John’s account emphasizes Jesus’ insistence even more by changing the original Greek verb in verse 54.  Jesus would not have given this discourse in Greek, but the original New Testament texts were written in Greek because it was a more universal language in that part of the world.  John’s Greek text changes the verb that, prior to verse 54, had been a somewhat generic version of “to eat.”  In verse 54 and following, that verb changes to a more graphic one that can mean to gnaw like an animal.  John is clearly trying to make us understand that Jesus is talking about truly eating his flesh and drinking his blood.

As Catholics, our life is centered on the Eucharist.  Jesus calls us to consume his flesh and to drink his blood.  At the Last Supper, he showed us how that would be done and commanded us to continue to “do this in memory of me.” 

We could hear the word of God proclaimed in the churches of other denominations.  We could feel a real sense of community in those other denominations.  We could have our emotions lifted in the services at other churches.  We could even be greatly entertained. 

But we come to the Catholic Church to participate in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.  We come to be part of the re-presentation of Jesus Christ’s Passion, death, Resurrection, and Ascension.  The re-presentation of his sacrifice that was done once for all.  It will be a tremendous grace to be able to return to the public celebration of this wondrous event every week (or even every day). 

In the meantime, how does one prepare for this return?  For a people whose faith, and whose lives, become centered on the Eucharist, how do we deal with the loss of reception of that great gift?  How does someone cultivate their devotion to the Eucharist at a time that they cannot receive it? 

Do not overlook what we do still have.  We can be in the presence of Christ before the tabernacle.  We can adore Christ in the monstrance, albeit from the isolation of our automobile.  Do not despair over what is lost for now.  Instead be thankful for what we have.