Chapter Talk – Corpus Christi – June 11, 2023, cycle-A
When we feel barren, empty, hungering for something more, where or to whom do we turn? What do we do? Do we ignore, or run from these experiences in our life’s journey? The point of the first reading of Deuteronomy centers around this poignant text: ‘The human person does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God’. God tested his people in the desert, made them feel that deep hunger so that they would not forget that they and we are dependent on the Divine life and the eternal Word that God speaks in the silence of our hearts. All our lives have these desert moments. Yes, we are being tested so that over and over again we may deepen our relation to the Source of Life and Love.
The gospel from St. John (6:51-58) adds to the perspective of the Deuteronomy reading. Jesus proclaims: ‘I am the living bread’. ‘The bread that I give is my flesh for the life of the world’. Jesus offers his ‘flesh’; the Greek word for ‘flesh’ is sarx, bodily flesh. Is it just his bodily flesh and blood that he is offering, which are intimating his death on the cross? According to Raymond Brown, in his commentary on John’s gospel: “The Hebrew idiom ‘flesh and blood’ means the whole person” (The Gospel According to John, p.282). Thus, when Jesus says, ‘I give my flesh for the life of the world’, the symbolism contained within these sacred words, elicits an expansive, eternal reality where we, the believer, are being offered God’s very self. Jesus is giving his whole self, his Divine-Human person to us for life. We say we are receiving him…but what does this concretely mean? We are receiving his love, his mercy, precious life that is eternal…we are receiving how he sees, his demeanor of relying on his Abba…always the will of God is his foundation.
“The body of Christ is the bread…capable of giving life, eternal life, because this bread is made of love”, writes Pope Francis in his homily for this solemnity (June 19, 2014). Imagine: at each Eucharist this self-gift is offered to us, offered to open our heart just a bit more, offered so that our love will grow for God and our neighbor, offered so that we will continue to build the body of Christ in and through our lives. The body of Christ is a body of forgiving love, healing love, love offered unconditionally.
What moved me in reflecting on this celebration of the Eucharist, is to see it as an encounter, an encounter of love, an encounter of Christ’s self-gift. We receive in this eucharistic encounter Love, the full embodiment of God’s love in Christ, we receive the gift of Christ’s very self, in the image of his flesh and blood. If we take into our being the full reality of what Jesus is giving us, it will turn into an exchange of love and self-gift. What do I mean? When we truly receive and take into our lives God’s gift in Christ, we are transformed. The longing to give of ourselves, of our whole person for spreading God’s love in all we are and all we do, becomes a motivating force living within our depths. Jesus says to us at each Eucharist “This is my body; this is my blood given to you”. As we receive this gift of God’s very self, our own response cannot help but being, ‘Today I offer to you dear God, my body and my blood in, through and with Christ’. We are to become eucharist for one another and for our world. The Spirit will blow God’s love beyond what we can see or imagine. Living eucharist will spread God’s salvation beyond our imaginings.
Sr. Kathy DeVico, Abbess