1) Opening prayer
Our living and loving God,
how could we know the depth of Your love
if Your Son had not become flesh of our flesh
and blood of our blood?
How could we ever have the courage
to live for one another and if necessary to die
if He had not given up His body
and shed His blood for us?
Thank you for letting Him stay in the eucharist with us
and making Himself our daily bread.
Let this bread be the food that empowers us
to live and die as He did,
for one another and for You,
our living God, for ever and ever.
2) Gospel Reading - John 6:52-59
The Jews quarreled among themselves, saying, "How can this man give us his Flesh to eat?" Jesus said to them, "Amen, amen, I say to you, unless you eat the Flesh of the Son of Man and drink his Blood, you do not have life within you. Whoever eats my Flesh and drinks my Blood has eternal life, and I will raise him on the last day. For my Flesh is true food, and my Blood is true drink. Whoever eats my Flesh and drinks my Blood remains in me and I in him. Just as the living Father sent me and I have life because of the Father, so also the one who feeds on me will have life because of me. This is the bread that came down from heaven. Unlike your ancestors who ate and still died, whoever eats this bread will live forever." These things he said while teaching in the synagogue in Capernaum.
• We are almost at the end of the discourse of the Bread of Life. Here begins the part of the greatest polemic. The Jews close themselves to, and begin to discuss, the affirmations of Jesus.
• John 6:52-55: Flesh and Blood: the expression of life and of the total gift. The Jews react: “How can this man give us His flesh to eat?” The feast of the Passover was close at hand. After a few days everybody would have eaten the meat of the paschal lamb in the celebration of the night of the Passover. They did not understand the words of Jesus, because they took them literally. But Jesus does not diminish the exigencies, He does not withdraw or take away anything of what He has said and He insists: “In all truth I tell you, if you do not eat the flesh of the Son of man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. Anyone who does eat My flesh and drink My blood has eternal life, and I shall raise that person up on the last day. For My flesh is real food and My blood is real drink. Whoever eats My flesh and drinks My blood lives in Me and I live in that person”. What gives life is not to celebrate the manna of the past, but rather to eat this new bread which is Jesus, His flesh and His blood. Participating in the Eucharistic Supper, we assimilate His life, His surrender, His gift of self. “If you do not eat the flesh of the Son of Man and you do not drink His Blood you will not have life in you”. They should accept Jesus as the Crucified Messiah, whose blood will be poured out.
• John 6:56-58: Whoever eats My flesh, will live in Me. The last phrases of the discourse of the Bread of Life are of the greatest depth and try to summarize everything which has been said. They recall the mystical dimension which surrounds the participation in the Eucharist. They express what Paul says in the letter to the Galatians: “It is no longer I, but Christ living in me (Ga 2:20). And what the Apocalypse of John says: “If one of you hears me calling and opens the door, I will come in to share a meal at that person’s side” (Rev 3:20). And John himself in the Gospel: “Anyone who loves Me will keep my word, and My Father will love him and We shall come to him and make a home in him” (Jn 14:23). And it ends with the promise of life which marks the difference with the ancient Exodus: “This is the bread which has come down from heaven. It is not like the bread our ancestors ate, they are dead, but anyone who eats this bread will live for ever.”
• John 6:59: The discourse in the Synagogue ends. The conversation between Jesus and the people and the Jews in the Synagogue of Capernaum ends here. As it has been said before, the discourse of the Bread of Life offers us an image of how the catechesis of that time was, at the end of the first century, in the Christian communities of Asia Minor. The questions of the people and of the Jews show the difficulties of the members of the communities. The answer of Jesus represents the clarification to help them to overcome the difficulties, to deepen their faith, and to live more intensely the Eucharist which was celebrated above all in the night between Saturday and Sunday, the day of the Lord.
4) Personal questions
• Beginning with the discourse on the Bread of Life, the celebration of the Eucharist receives a very strong light and an enormous deepening. Does this clarify the role of the Eucharist in my life?
• To eat the flesh and blood of Jesus is the commandment that he leaves. How do I live the Eucharist in my life? Even if I cannot go to Mass every day or every Sunday, my life should be Eucharistic. How do I try to attain this objective?
• Eucharistic Adoration is available in many parishes and highly recommended by Popes St John Paul II, Benedict, and Francis, among others. “In many places, adoration of the Blessed Sacrament is also an important daily practice and becomes an inexhaustible source of holiness” (Encyclical Letter: Ecclesia De Eucharistia). Do I take the time to sit and just “be” with Him when I can?
5) Concluding Prayer
Praise Yahweh, all nations,
extol Him, all peoples,
for His faithful love is strong
and His constancy never-ending. (Ps 117:1-2)