John 6:41-51 August 12, 2018
The Jews murmured about Jesus because he said, “I am the bread that came down from heaven.” They said, “Is this not Jesus, the son of Joseph? Do we not know his father and mother? Then how can he say, ‘I have come down from heaven?’”
Something unusual and very hard to understand happened in Jesus. The way He taught, the way He performed miracles, the way He lived and the way He related to others was very different from the rest. How can we understand Him? Blessed Fulton J. Sheen, in one of his homilies about Trinity tells, “It is a mystery and, even after I preach about it, it will remain a mystery.” Even this teaching about the Eucharist is hard to believe and understand and it will remain hard to understand forever. Yet our faith in Christ makes us stand on those very strong pillars of our faith. That is why Jesus, Himself knowing how difficult it would be to believe, pays so much attention to it and repeats it again and again many times. All these miracles and events that lead to it help us to understand better.
I was born and raised on the coast of the Arabian Sea, very close to the equator and very tropical. So there was hardly any difference between summer and winter. We had the fans running throughout the year. The sun rose every day at the same time and in the same direction and went down, too, in the same direction and time. So we used to say, the day doesn’t matter, after all, every day the sun rises from the east and sets in the west. But one day made a lot of difference. It was the day I experienced the total solar eclipse in Allahabad on October24, 1995. I waited for that day and was so excited about it. What a spectacular event! It was so beautiful and so confusing. Birds were running around and animals made funny noises because they were all in confusion as to why, in the middle of the afternoon, without any clouds, it was dark. In Jesus’ time people felt the same. He was very different and the things he did were very different.
Today, we have such a teaching that is so central, so important and so miraculous for us to take it. I asked Alexa, “How many times does Jesus repeat, ‘This is my body’ in the Bible?” A very strong, bold and quick answer came in, and it said, “No, I don’t have the answer”. Reference to Jesus’ body is found in all the gospels and two times in Pauline letters very directly. Vatican II calls it, the Eucharist as source and summit of life and mission of the church. We are called to celebrate it in memory of our Lord. Every religion practices some form of penance for sins and offers sacrifice. Whereas we offer the Eucharist and confess our sins in the form of the sacrament of reconciliation.
Jesus has supplied us with something physical and spiritual in these sacraments. All forms of cruelty and impersonal comes to an end in the eternal sacrifice of Jesus on the cross. Some time ago I was celebrating mass with the children. During that mass while I received the communion a second grade child seated right in front screamed, “Hey! He ate Jesus”. It was such a glorious moment for me. It was better than all my preaching. That little child expressed her belief in that way. I think we need to become like that child in our faith in finding Christ, in tasting Christ and eating Christ in the Eucharist.
We are not yet pure spirit, but the day we die we will become pure spirit. Till then we need something tangible, soothingly visible, and something that is physically present. In the Eucharist, Jesus gives us that physical and spiritual presence in the gift of His own life.
We all have heard of the story of the monkey who wanted to save the drowning fish. It saw a fish jumping up into the air and down into the water. Monkey thought it was drowning and dying so it
jumped into the water, got the fish out, and threw it up onto the shore to save it from drowning. Jesus wanted to save us and it was possible only by becoming one of us. So he came to us and became like us, and through the Eucharist He remains with us. So that we can taste Him and see Him in the Eucharist every day.