Sunday, 22 June 2014

Impossible to God?

Gospel of John 6:51-58

Jesus said to the Jews:
‘I am the living bread which has come down from heaven.
Anyone who eats this bread will live for ever;
and the bread that I shall give is my flesh,
for the life of the world.’
Then the Jews started arguing with one another:

 ‘How can this man give us his flesh to eat?’ they said. Jesus replied:
‘I tell you most solemnly,
if you do not eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood,
you will not have life in you.
Anyone who does eat my flesh and drink my blood
has eternal life,
and I shall raise him up on the last day.
For my flesh is real food
and my blood is real drink.
He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood
lives in me
and I live in him.
As I, who am sent by the living Father,
myself draw life from the Father,
so whoever eats me will draw life from me.
This is the bread come down from heaven;
not like the bread our ancestors ate:
they are dead,
but anyone who eats this bread will live for ever.’

Juliana of Li├Ęge, an Augustinian nun, had visions of a full moon containing a single black spot. The Lord came to her in these visions and explained that the spot was the absence of a feast to celebrate the Blessed Sacrament. Twenty-something years later and with the approval of Bishops and Pope Urban IV and the feast day was established in 1261.

Despite the fact that we celebrate the Last Supper during Holy Week and the Eucharist itself at each Mass; by the thirteenth century the Lord seemed to think that we needed a dedicated feast day.

Pope Urban approved the solemnity after he had witnessed a consecrated host bleeding. Proof enough for him that the Consecration did bring about the changing of the bread and wine into the Real Presence.

But why had he needed this proof? The belief in the Real Presence was confirmed by the Church hundreds of years earlier.We have a strange sense of the miraculous - that it is easier to see Jesus heal the paralytic man that for us to believe his sins were forgiven. We have not learnt much from that Gospel. Why had the Pope needed a miracle to convince him? Why today, do we?

According to various polls, anything between 30 and 50% of Catholics don't believe in the Real Presence as a Real presence. The celebration is a memorial; an evangelistic tool; a reminder of who we work for.

Perhaps we would do well to remember exactly who it is we do work for?

Jesus Christ, Son of the Living God, Person of the Trinity, Alpha and Omega, the Word made flesh. God, for whom nothing is impossible. Jesus said; 'For my flesh is real food and my blood is real drink.' And, as Karl Rahner pointed out if God says bread and wine is his body and blood - should we not expect it to be true.

Jesus asks us to continue his work; to be his brothers and sisters; believing that we can do what he does with less than a mustardseed of faith and the food of eternal life. St Paul tells us that this is the purpose of Eucharist - to be fed by God, with God, calling to us to be temples of God's living presence.

A presence that cannot be contained; if Jesus can give himself to us then we cannot hope to keep him just to ourselves - the Lord is not like that - remember he overfills water jars with wine and baskets with the crumbs of feeding thousands. His generosity is a challenge to us to do the same. In the early church the response to 'The body of Christ' was 'I am'.

Take me, eat me, be me, share me - what a fearsome challenge - a challenge that Jesus made to his disciples repeatedly through John's Gospel until there were only a few left. And for them his promise 'to be with you always'.

Corpus Christi - a feast day that is not meant to remind the Lord that he is the Body of Christ but to remind us that we are.



Lynda said...

"Corpus Christi - a feast day that is not meant to remind the Lord that he is the Body of Christ but to remind us that we are." What an interesting and inspiring way to think about this celebration. Thank you.

Claire Bangasser said...

Bravo, Word!