Please press the hightlighted to listen to the homily or download
The Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ – Year A – OT
Readings: Deut 8:2-3, 14b-16a; 1 Cor 10:16-17; Jn 6:51-59.
1/ Reading I: RSV Deuteronomy 8:2 And you shall remember all the way which the LORD your God has led you these forty years in the wilderness, that he might humble you, testing you to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep his commandments, or not. 3 And he humbled you and let you hunger and fed you with manna, which you did not know, nor did your fathers know; that he might make you know that man does not live by bread alone, but that man lives by everything that proceeds out of the mouth of the LORD. 14 Then your heart be lifted up, and you forget the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage, 15 who led you through the great and terrible wilderness, with its fiery serpents and scorpions and thirsty ground where there was no water, who brought you water out of the flinty rock, 16 who fed you in the wilderness with manna which your fathers did not know.
2/ Reading II: RSV 1 Corinthians 10:16 The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not a participation in the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not a participation in the body of Christ? 17 Because there is one bread, we who are many are one body, for we all partake of the one bread.
3/ Gospel: RSV John 6:51 “I am the living bread which came down from heaven; if any one eats of this bread, he will live forever; and the bread which I shall give for the life of the world is my flesh.” 52 The Jews then disputed among themselves, saying, “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?” 53 So Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of man and drink his blood, you have no life in you; 54 he who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day. 55 For my flesh is food indeed, and my blood is drink indeed. 56 He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him. 57 As the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so he who eats me will live because of me. 58 This is the bread which came down from heaven, not such as the fathers ate and died; he who eats this bread will live forever.” 59 This he said in the synagogue, as he taught at Capernaum.
I. THEME: Benefits of the receiving of Christ’s Body and Blood
Last week, we learned together the most difficult mystery in the Catholic Church, the mystery of the Trinity; this week, we shall learn the second difficult mystery, the mystery of Christ’s body and blood. Christ’s contemporaries asked him, “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?”
Understand it or not, the sacrament of the Eucharist is still the reality, has its origin from the Book of Exodus, where God fed the Israelites with manna from heaven during their forty years of wandering in deserts. Christ also explained clearly this sacrament in chapter six of the Fourth Gospel. Like last week, we shall concentrate on the benefits which the sacrament of Eucharist provides for people.
In the first reading, the author of Deuteronomy let us know the benefit of manna is for the Israelites to have the strength to overcome all trials and sufferings during their forty years in the deserts before they can enter the Promise Land. In the second reading, St. Paul emphasized the unity between the faithful with Christ and with others is the result of the sacrament of the Eucharist, because when the faithful receives Christ’s body and blood, they become one body with him. In the Gospel, Jesus emphasized the divine life which is given to those who eat his flesh and drink his blood. Moreover, the Eucharist is also the bread that gives the eternal life which people of all times and everywhere always desire it.
1/ Reading I: Manna in the Book of Exodus is the figure of the Eucharist.
1.1/ The importance of manna for the Israelites: The Exodus is the most important event of the Old Testament which can’t never be forgotten by the Israelites and the Christians. After escaping from the Egyptians, the Israelites ran out of food and were hungry. They cried out to God and He gave them the manna “which they did not know, nor did their fathers know.” Manna is the bread from heavens which God let them rain down to the Israelites each morning. In Hebrew, manna comes from “manhu,” means “What is it?” This is the question which the Israelites asked each other when they gathered them for the first time.
The Israelites’ leaders and prophets continually remind them about the Passover and the forty years wandering in deserts. The author of Deuteronomy told them about this event as followed, “You shall remember all the way which the LORD your God has led you these forty years in the wilderness, that he might humble you, testing you to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep his commandments, or not.”
The Israelites’ forty years wandering in deserts can be compared with the faithful’s life in this world. As the Israelites needed manna to have strength to overcome hungry, severe weather, tiredness and temptation, the faithful also need the Eucharist to have strength to fight against the power of the devil, the world and their own flesh. As the Israelites needed to be purified before they can reach the Promise Land, the faithful also need to be purified before they can enter into the eternal life with God.
1.2/ Manna in Scripture: In Psalm 78:25, the MT called “manna” the bread for strong people, while the LXX called it the bread of angels. The MT is more concise because “manna” is the bread that gives strength for the Israelites so they could endure countless of trials and sufferings happened to them during forty years in deserts. Manna was only ended when the Israelites set their feet in the plain of Jericho, right on the eve of the Passover; only then they started to use the local (cf. Jos 5:12).
When still wandering in deserts, Moses commanded people to gather a container full of manna and put it in the Ark, together with Aaron’s rod and the two tablets of the Ten Commandments (cf. Heb 9:4), to memorize the event which God rained down manna on people in deserts. Manna was kept in the Holy of the Holies as the Church keeps the Eucharist in the Tabernacle today. The purpose is for people to always recognize the presence of God in their midst.
When the Jews told Jesus that it is Moses who gave their ancestors manna in deserts, he corrected them and said, “Truly, truly, I say to you, it was not Moses who gave you the bread from heaven; my Father gives you the true bread from heaven for the bread of God is that which comes down from heaven, and gives life to the world” (Jn 6:32-33).
Lastly, manna was also mentioned in the revelation for the church in Pergamum, one of the seven churches of Asia Minor in the Book of Revelation. It is written, “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who conquers I will give some of the hidden manna, and I will give him a white stone, with a new name written on the stone which no one knows except him who receives it” (Rev 2:17). The author connected the eating of manna with the victor.
2/ Reading II: The Eucharist is the source of unity.
2.1/ The Eucharist unites all faithful with Christ: St. Paul asked the Corinthians, “The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not a participation in the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not a participation in the body of Christ?” The tradition of most nations of the Ancient Near East believes that when people offer their sacrifice for any god, that god shall enter into their sacrifice; and when they eat the portion which is returned to them by a priest, the god shall enter into their body and make them healthy, wise and virtuous as him. Similarly, when the faithful receive the Eucharist, they become members of Christ’s body. Likewise, when a family or a community receives the Eucharist, all of them become members of Christ’s body. All are participate in Christ’s divine life.
2.2/ The Eucharist unites all faithful with each other: According to St. Paul, the faithful not only unite with Christ, but also with each other, “because there is one bread; we who are many are one body, for we all partake of the one bread.” According to St. Paul’s theology of Christ’s body, each of us is a member of the one body which is the Church, with Christ as the head. Therefore, we must not follow our own will; but all must have the same will and that is Christ’s will; and therefore, they unite with each other. If the faithful unite in Christ’s body, they can’t do anything that divides his body.
3/ Gospel: Christ gives the divine life and the eternal life for the faithful.
3.1/ Literal analysis of Greek’s words: The following sentence of Jesus’ declaration needs to be analyzed by words and formations, “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.”
– The expression “egô eimi” followed by a phrase happened seven times in the Fourth Gospel, and were used to express a special mission of Christ such as: The Bread of Life; the Good Shepherd; the Sheep’s Gate; the Vine; the Resurrection and the Life; the Light of the World; the Way, the Truth and the Life.
– The expression “o ártos o zôn” may have different meanings depending on the interpretations:
(1) Can be translated as “the bread of eternal life,” means the bread that never be destroyed. When applying to Jesus, it means Christ is the Bread of eternal life.
(2) Can be translated as “the bread that gives divine life.” When applying to Jesus, it means he is the bread that brings divine life for human beings, as in John 6:33.
(3) Can be translated as “the living bread.” When applying to Jesus, it means he is the living bread.
According to the context and the content, the second meaning is better than other two meanings even though they are also true to Christ.
– The expression “came down from heaven” reminded people of the event which God rained down manna from heaven to be the food for the Israelites during their forty years in desert. Manna is the figure of the sacrament of the Eucharist. The bread that brings eternal life is true and has its origin from heaven.
– “The bread that I will give”: This expression emphasizes on free-of-charge or in gratis as in the first reading, eating and drinking without paying.
– “My flesh”: The bread that gives divine life is Jesus flesh (sárk). From the beginning of the Fourth Gospel, the author used this noun to talk about the Incarnation, “And the Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us” (Jn 1:14).
– The reaction of the Jews: What they argued about isn’t about Jesus’ origin, but his flesh. How can a person who is living feed others with his flesh? Unless that person must die first! The more difficulty is that the Jews don’t eat human flesh.
3.2/ The necessary of the sacrament of the Eucharist: 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.”
– The formula “Amèn, amèn” forewarns a truth which shall be revealed in the Fourth Gospel. The truth which Jesus wanted to reveal in this sentence is that “if you don’t eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you do not have life within you.” If Jesus didn’t reveal this truth, nobody knows it.
– The two verbs: to eat (esthío) and to drink (píno) which John used here are the two basic verbs used in the human eating and drinking, such as to eat bread and to drink water.
– Jesus differentiated between the two lives: physical (psyché) and divine (zôé). If one doesn’t eat Jesus’ flesh and drink his blood, one still has the physical life, but not the divine life.
– The eternal life (zôé aiốnion): The divine life shall lead one to eternal life: “Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him on the last day.” As Jesus, when he is in a human body; though he must still die physically, but once he gloriously resurrected, he shall no longer die. Similarly, it shall happen to a man.
– Jesus’ flesh and blood are food to nourish human being: “For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink.” The two nouns which the author used to express, food (brôsis) and drink (pósis), are the two human basic food and drink.
– The divine life is God’s life: “Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me and I in him.” Jesus and the one who consumed him become one, as St. Paul cried out, “Yet I live, no longer I, but Christ lives in me” (Gal 2:20).
– The divine life helps people to understand God’s wisdom and mysteries which human wisdom can’t fathom them. People have God’s widom by Christ’s Spirit who guides people. The divine life also helps people to have strength to meet Christ’s invitation to be perfect; without this strength, people can’t do it. For example, people have the divine life to love their enemies, to do good and to pray for them.
3.3/ The results of the sacrament of the Eucharist: Jesus lives by his Father’s life: “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.” In the mystery of the Incarnation, we proclaim that Jesus has two natures: God and human. His divine nature is never died, his human nature is died when he exhaled his last breath on the cross; but he is immediatedly resurrected because of his divine nature. The one who receives Christ’s flesh and blood also has the two lives, physical and divine. These two lives don’t destroy, but enhance each other.
III. APPLICATION IN LIFE:
– As manna rained down from heaven to nourish and to give strength for the Israelites during their forty years of wandering in deserts, Christ in the Eucharist is also the Bread that came down from heaven to nourish and to strengthen us all the days of our life.
– The Eucharist is the principle of unity. If each member of a family, a community, a parish or the Church often receives the Eucharist, all members shall unite with God and with each other.
– The Eucharist helps us to participate in God’s divine life from this world, at the same time, it prepares us for the eternal life with God in the next life.