20th Sunday in Ordinary Time
Aug 16, 2018
Encourage Deeper Understanding of Scripture
In this Sunday's Gospel, the conflict escalates in the Bread of Life Discourse. Confusion is mounting in the crowd. "How can this man give us his flesh to eat?" Their minds were thinking literally, not mystically. Jesus doesn't seem to help, however, and only drives his point home with more emphasis. "Unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you do not have life within you." Jesus would later institute the Eucharist at the Last Supper. There he would definitively establish the sacramental reality in which bread and wine become substantially his own Body and Blood. We celebrate this sacrament in the Mass.
Perhaps we do not always understand what we receive. "My flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink." What is the essence of food and drink? Food nourishes our bodies, providing essential calories for our survival. Water is used throughout the body to cushion joints, regulate body temperature, and protect sensitive tissues like the brain. When we receive the Eucharist, we receive the spiritual equivalent of these essential elements. Like water, the Eucharist strengthens the sanctifying grace moving through us. "Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me and I in him." The Eucharist connects us intimately to Jesus and confirms our union with him. That is why we abstain from the Eucharist while in a state of mortal sin. It would be a contradiction and deep disrespect to these words of Jesus. To receive the Body and Blood of Jesus is not a right but a gift we receive with deep humility.
As we receive the Bread of Life, grace strengthens our love, separates us from sin -- even wiping away venial sins -- unifies us with the universal Church, and helps commit us to humble service. Together we are nourished for our mission in the world!