We celebrate the body of Christ.
Patricia Datchuck Sanchez
Dt 8:2-3,14-16; Ps 147; 1 Cor 10:16-17; Jn 6:51-58
At any given moment, somewhere in this great world of ours, a believer is offering the Eucharist to another believer while saying, "The body of Christ." The one who receives the Eucharist responds, "Amen." Within that short exchange lies a profound mystery. It is good that the church in its wisdom regularly calls us to pause, to reflect and to be renewed in faith and in fervor for the gift of the body of Christ.
In today's first reading, the Deuteronomist invites us to remember manna, the bread from heaven that fed the desert wanderers so long ago. Without this gift, the desert could have become a grave for the Israelites rather than a passage to a land of their own. But even that gift, as great as it was and as necessary as it was for their sustenance and survival, was eventually scorned by the Israelites. They became bored with its ordinariness and longed for other food from other sources in other places. They bristled against the dependence on God that such a gift demanded of them and were loud in their ingratitude. Contemporary believers might see a reflection of themselves in the attitudes and actions of the ancient Israelites. At times we may go through the motions of the eucharistic rite without allowing this transformative mystery to grace us with growth and deeper faith. Do we truly believe that somehow, somewhere, in the midst of candles, singing, incense, ushers, prayers and people, Christ becomes truly present and desires to be consumed? If we do not believe--deliberately and consciously, knowingly and willingly--then, as Paul has said so clearly, our eating and our drinking brings judgment on ourselves (1 Corinthians 11:29). So that we might avoid this judgment, the authors of the sacred texts call us to renew our sensitivity and gratitude for the gift of the body of Christ and the union with Jesus that it gives us.
This gift is first and foremost a sharing in the very life of Jesus. "I am the living bread," declares the Johannine Jesus in today's Gospel. As bread, Jesus provides the food of eternal life, but not before being torn and broken on the cross. In the sacrifice of himself, Jesus also offers his very self to be consumed so that whoever eats and whoever drinks will have life.
But the gift of the body of Christ that we celebrate today has another dimension. Paul, founder of the church in Corinth, reminded his converts that those who eat of the eucharistic body of Christ become the ecclesial body of Christ. Participation in the sacramental body and blood of the Lord incorporates us into the body of Christ that is the community of believers and makes us responsible for that community. Therefore, our "Amen" says yes to the sacramental Jesus as well as to one another.
Centuries ago, St. John Chrysostom asked, "What is the bread actually? The body of Christ. What do communicants become? The body of Christ. Just as bread is the result of many grains and although remaining themselves are not distinguished from one another because they are united, so we too are mutually united with Christ." Whatever words we use--"a single monad," "the church," "the people of God" or "the community of believers" --as we celebrate the gift of the body of Christ, we also celebrate the gift of one another in Christ.
[Patricia Sanchez holds a master's degree in literature and religion of the Bible from a joint degree program at Columbia University and Union Theological Seminary in New York.]
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|Title Annotation:||THE WORD Scripted for Life|
|Publication:||National Catholic Reporter|
|Date:||Jun 10, 2011|
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