“I am the living bread which came down from heaven: if anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever.” John 6:51
We gather today in response to our Lord’s exhortation, actually to his command, that we share his divine life by consuming his body and blood together i.e. share in his very being – his eternal life.
In the Gospel this morning we hear Jesus repeat with growing intensity the words "eat" and "drink," – eat "my flesh" and drink "my blood."
Heightening the incredible realism of what Jesus asks us to believe, St. John does not write the ordinary Greek word for eating, but uses a more basic term, one reserved to describe the sound of animals feeding – a word conveying the very basic necessity of eating for physical life. So it is that consuming the Body and Blood of Christ is essential for eternal life.
We approach the altar prepared as it is with bread and wine. These elements will become the Body and Blood of Christ, the feast of Wisdom, the banquet of heaven. In this feast God our Saviour, who has entered into human existence as Christ, renews the everlasting covenant (Isaiah 25:6-9), and offers us atonement for our sin by giving his life for the life of the world. But . . . but we must choose to participate and participate actively.
Jesus Christ has entered the world in human form in order to save those who choose to share his life, to be nourished by his flesh – the true food of the spirit, and by his blood -- the true drink of eternal life.
This is the feast of true wisdom alluded to in Proverbs 9 today, referring to Wisdom inviting all off us, even when foolish or simple, as the proverb says, to “live and walk in the way of insight.”
We are called, we are commanded, to renew our faith constantly through continual participation in the Holy Eucharist and by living as those who belong to Christ. We live by being fed continuously in the celebration of the Mass. We share in the Body of Christ – the true and living bread and with this grace we are empowered to forsake the foolishness of believing only what we can see with our eyes, by walking in the way of insight and by reaching out to others in faith.
This is why one of the precepts of the Catholic Church is that we must attend Mass on Sundays and Days of Obligation. It is not optional because it is about our salvation, our salvation won by the sacrifice of Christ for all humanity.
The atonement – the making whole of our relationship with God – which Jesus has accomplished, this reality of the atonement is shared by all who eat and drink his eternal life in Holy Communion.
In this way, and by the grace conveyed in Holy Communion, we are transformed, sanctified, little by little into his likeness as we are helped to walk in his ways and, like Jesus, we seek, by grace, the good of others.
Let us make the most of our days, as St. Paul says, always giving thanks to God for everything in the name of Jesus, the living bread who is come down from heaven.
St. Irenaeus (A.D. 120 - 200) taught that the ultimate goal of Christ's solidarity with humankind is to make humanity one with the divine. This is what the Eastern Church calls theosis – becoming one with the life of God.
Irenaeus says that Jesus: became what we are, that He might bring us to be even what He is Himself.
So the Lord now manifestly came to his own, and born by his own created order, which he himself bears; he, by his obedience on the tree, renewed [and reversed] what was done by disobedience in [connection with] a tree.
He therefore completely renewed all things, both taking up the battle against our enemy, and crushing him who at the beginning had led us captive in Adam . . .
St. Anselm affirms that the universal logic of sin, was followed by the logic of redemption.
And as the devil had conquered man (Adam) by the tasting of a tree, to which he persuaded him, so by the suffering endured on a tree, which he inflicted, should he (Satan), by a man (Christ) be conquered." Anselm, Cur Deus Homo III, III.
The centrality of our Atonement in Christ is kept before the Church in the Mass, the essential and central sacrament of the Catholic faith, which conveys grace to all those seeking to be united with God.
The life, death and resurrection of Christ on the Cross is the cure for human weakness, for sin and for the evil that humanity participates in.
As humanity has eaten the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil so we must eat the fruit of that other tree – the Cross – we must eat the fruit of our redemption even Jesus Christ – as the Christmas hymn says: Jesus Christ, the Apple Tree. His fruit saves us, restores us, renews us and strengthens us for the journey into God.
Fr. John Hodgins