My dear brothers and sisters in Christ,1
As we know, for the past few weeks in our Sunday Gospel readings, Jesus has been teaching the crowd — and us — about the mystery of the holy Eucharist. And in the Gospel passage we have just heard this morning, Jesus is near the end of his teaching.
We have to put ourselves in the position of those people in the crowd listening to Jesus. As we heard, they are troubled and confused. We heard them arguing about his teaching.
We can understand their reaction. What he has been saying must be shocking to them. They’ve never heard anything like this before.
It is interesting that Jesus remains so calm. He is speaking to this big crowd and the people are getting agitated and even angry about what he is telling them. But Jesus doesn’t get upset. He stays peaceful. He just repeats what he has been teaching them — and he uses very clear and simple words.
He is making a beautiful promise to them:
I am the living bread that came down from heaven;
whoever eats this bread will live forever;
and the bread that I will give is my flesh for the life of the world.
But to understand this beautiful promise, it takes faith. And the people in the crowd do not yet have faith. So Jesus is calling them to believe in him today. And he is also calling us today to renew our faith.
We aren’t really like those people listening to Jesus in the crowds — because we already believe in his Gospel. But we always need to grow and to increase our faith. We always need to be going deeper in our understanding of what we believe and why. We have to live our faith with greater passion and energy and greater commitment.
So we need to grow in our faith in the Eucharist. Because the Eucharist is the “source and summit” of our faith. Because the Eucharist is the foundation of our life in Christ.2
My brothers and sisters, our readings today call us to reflect on why Jesus has given us this great gift of his body and blood. Why has he made his own body and blood “true food” and “true drink” for us?
In the first reading, from the book of Proverbs, we hear an invitation from the Wisdom of God: Come, eat of my food, and drink of the wine I have mixed!
This is what the Eucharist is! In the Eucharist, the living God is inviting each one of us to his banquet.
Our God wants to feed us. He wants to nourish us and enlighten us and strengthen us. We can understand this if we remember that God is our Father. That’s what fathers do. They provide for their children, for their families. This is also true with God, who is our “living Father.”
God wants to give us life and health and happiness. But God knows we need more than just food for our bodies. So he wants to nourish our souls with his grace. He wants to give us a share in his own divine life.
The promise of the Eucharist is the promise of communion with God. It is the promise of intimate union with Jesus Christ.
This is what Jesus Christ is telling us today in the Gospel: Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me and I [remain] in him. ... The one who feeds on me will have life because of me.
The Eucharist is the most beautiful sign of God’s love for us. My brothers and sisters, our God loves us so much that he makes himself our spiritual food and drink!
He gives us the Eucharist so that he can fill us with his own divine life. So that he can make us a part of his life — and so that he can become a part of our life. God wants to live in us. He wants to become for us like the air we breathe and the blood in our veins.
What we need to understand, my brothers and sisters, is that the Eucharist is meant to change us. The Eucharist is meant to make us more and more like Jesus Christ.
So the challenge for us is to try to live more and more by the grace we receive in this beautiful Sacrament. We have to try to imitate the life of Jesus Christ in our love of others and in our personal effort to strive for holiness.
My brothers and sisters, our faith in the Eucharist should fill us with joy and confidence and a new way of living.
St. Paul tells us in today’s second reading that we should live by giving thanks always and for everything in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to God the Father.
Eucharist means “thanksgiving.” So we should live with a “Eucharistic soul.”
We should live our whole lives in thanksgiving — for the great gift of Jesus Christ and this sacrament of our salvation. And we should express our thanksgiving in sharing with our brothers and sisters and in serving one another in love.
We should live this way because the Eucharist is a promise — not only for our journey on this earth, but also for all eternity.
Jesus promises us today: Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him on the last day!
These words should fill us with hope, my brothers and sisters! Even death is not the end, but only a new beginning. In the promise of the Eucharist we have the promise that we will live forever in the love of God and in the Communion of Saints.
So let us celebrate this Eucharist — and every Eucharist — with joy.
Let us pray to the Blessed Virgin Mary, whose Assumption into heaven we celebrated this week. May she help us to approach the Bread of Life that her Son gives us with reverence — so that each of us may follow her in experiencing the joy of heaven!
1. Readings (Twentieth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B): Prov. 91:1-6; Ps. 34:2-7; Eph. 5:15-20; John 6:51-58.
2. Catechism, 1391.