To Whom Do We Go?
Gospel readings this week introduce the Eucharistic discourse in John 6. Jesus said “I AM the living bread which came down out of heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. Yes, the bread which I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.”
The crowd focused on the literal (cannibal) suggestion of John 6:51. Of course, they missed the point of the phrase “living bread” (how can consuming someone that continues to live be considered cannibalism?). Jesus was explaining that they consume His Body and Blood to gain eternal life. He shifted towards the sacramental meaning in 6:57 when he said, “As the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father; so he who feeds on me, he will also live because of me.”
Notice the causal relation as well as the temporal one. The Father lived forever, so the Son who depended upon Him lived forever, so the disciple who ate of His flesh and drank His blood would live forever. And, the living Father sent the Son (entering time) to give life, so the disciple would be implicitly sent (when the time was right) to proclaim the living Christ in the Good News. Receiving the Eucharist means more than eating “the bread of life.” It means depending more upon the Risen Christ and sharing in His mission.
After the Eucharistic pronouncement in John 6, although people were attracted by His signs and His teaching, some could not abide the command to “eat His flesh and drink His blood” (6:53-56). Cannibalism and consuming blood were abhorrent to Judaism and these followers could not go on, even as the Lord reminded them of His origin (6:62). Their earthly thinking (“flesh”) could not comprehend revelation (“words of spirit and life”). No wonder, for faith is a gift from the Father (6:65).
The doctrine of transubstantiation, the teaching that bread and wine are converted into the glorified body of Christ, is difficult conceptually. When Christ first told His followers of it, many disciples turned away – and interestingly Jesus let them go. He did not clarify or correct their misunderstanding. He simply repeated His command to the disciples at the Last Supper. What would happen to those who remained? Would they leave? Peter had it completely right: “Lord, to whom would we go? You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe and know that you are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” (John 6:68-69)
Some Christians today still have trouble accepting this teaching. However, many people have reported Eucharistic Miracles that brought them back to the truth. The Church has recognised over one hundred such miracles, the more famous ones occurred in Lanciano, Italy, also Buenos Aires (1996) and Poland even more recently. The blood and flesh that developed on these hosts (integral to it and not merely placed on top as some form of hoax) has been independently scientifically analysed in pathology labs in several academic institutions around the world. All reveal similar evidence that the flesh is human heart tissue containing products suggestive of near death extreme stress (eg: adrenaline). The flesh and blood also retain substances suggestive that it is actually still living (13 centuries later in Lanciano’s case!). Incredibly the rare blood type is the same as that which appears on the Turin Shroud, the cloth which we believe was used to cover Christ when He was laid in the tomb.
How has the Eucharist drawn us closer to Christ? How have we shared the Eucharist with others, even outside of Mass? How do you view Eucharistic Miracles? Sceptical? View the evidence here!
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