– 14-6-2017 –
vs.51 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.”
vs.52 Then the Jews started arguing among themselves, “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?”
vs.53 Jesus replied to them, “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.
vs.54 Anyone who does eat my flesh and drink my blood has eternal life, and I shall raise that person up on the last day.
vs.55 For my flesh is real food and my blood is real drink.
vs.56 Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood lives in me and I live in that person.
vs.57 As the living Father sent me and I draw life from the Father, so
whoever eats me will also draw life from me.
vs.58 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.”
We have four sets of homily notes to choose from.
Please click on the one required or scroll down the page.
We have four sets of homily notes to choose from. Please scroll down the page for the desired one.
Michel DeVerteuil : A Trinidadian Holy Ghost Priest, Specialist in Lectio Divina
Thomas O’Loughlin: Professor of Historical Theology, University of Nottingham
John Littleton: Director of the Priory Institute Distant Learning, Tallaght
Donal Neary SJ: Editor of The Sacred Heart Messenger
Michel de Verteuil
Lectio Divina with the Sunday Gospels – Year A
Earlier in this same chapter of St John’s gospel, Jesus presented himself to the people as”bread come down from heaven.” Here he pushes the metaphor further: he gives them his flesh to eat and his blood to drink.
You may find the metaphor strange, but you should try to enter into it so that it becomes part of your prayer. Remember that in Bible meditation it is not sufficient to get the message of a passage; you must get into the words themselves and grow to love them so that you feel moved to repeat them many times.
The metaphor has its origins in “flesh and blood”, a biblical expression that means the reality of a human being with special stress on his or her weakness or limitations. For example, when in Matthew 16 Peter made his act of faith, it did not come from “flesh and blood,” but as a gift from God. So too St Paul warned the Ephesians that their struggle was not merely against “flesh and blood”, but against heavenly forces.
Therefore, when Jesus says that he gives his flesh to eat and his blood to drink, he is saying three things.
– The first is that he gives himself totally to others; every part of his being is at their service; it is the same as saying, “This is my body, given for you.”
– Secondly, he is inviting people to deep union with himself, to “have his spirit coursing through their souls so that they can know the passion of his love for every one,” as we sing in the hymn “To be the Body of the Lord.”
– Thirdly, he wants them to unite their weakness and their sufferings with his, so that they can experience his strength and his courage. As he would say to them at the Last Supper, “In the world you will have trouble, but be brave, I have conquered the world.” When we eat his flesh and drink his blood, our own flesh and blood are ennobled. St Paul says in 2 Corinthians: “We carry with us in our body the death of Jesus so that the life of Jesus too may always be seen in our body.”
The passage is therefore a meditation on Jesus as teacher, leader and guide. In all three roles he does not stand outside of people, he wants to share their lives and to have them share his.
Now this tells us something about God; whereas we tend to imagine God in heaven looking down on us but not getting involved in the movement of our history, Jesus shows God entering into flesh and blood with us.
But the passage also tells us about human relationships. In your meditation remember with gratitude people who have been Jesus for you – a parent, a spiritual guide, a friend, a national leader. Naturally you will feel the passage calling you to growth in your relationships.
Finally a good meditation on this passage will help you to appreciate the Eucharist. It will show you why Jesus chose to be present in the Church under the form of bread and wine.
To meditate deeply on this passage, take one section at a time and enter into it, letting it speak to your experience. I suggest the following divisions:
– Verses 51 and 52: the people are questioning the very possibility of someone giving
himself totally, as Jesus claims to do. Their response is cynical, but is it not typical of the way many would respond today?
– Verse 53 invites us to think of people who have no life in them, and to go to the root
cause: they have never experienced, or perhaps never let themselves experience, the kind of selfless love that Jesus gives.
– Verse 54 introduces a theme that appears several times in this chapter: deep relationship with God in Jesus lifts us up beyond the limitations of time and history.
– In verse 55 we remember that there is false food and drink and to recognize them we can look at what relationship with Jesus does to us.
– Verse 56 teaches us the effect of love, the love of Jesus, as well as of all those who love selflessly.
– In verse 57 we see another effect of selfless love. Here, as frequently in St John’s
gospel, Jesus’ relationship with his followers is similar to his relationship with his Father – “As the Father has sent me so I am sending you; as the Father loves me so I have loved you.”
– In verse 58 we see again the theme of the newness of Jesus’ teaching.
Lord, we remember with gratitude the day when we realized for the first time
that following Jesus meant eating his flesh and drinking his blood.
Up to then it was a matter of believing abstract truths –
that Jesus was truly God and truly man,
that there were three persons in God and seven sacraments.
That kind of faith was not a source of life for us.
Then one day we knew that we had to lay down our lives
– caring for a wayward child;
– working for reconciliation in the work place and being attacked by both
workers and employees;
– forgiving someone who had hurt us deeply.
At that moment we knew that Jesus on the cross was present within us,
and the strange thing was that we felt an inner strength and freedom.
and we were certain that no matter how low we fell he would raise us up.
Lord, being self-centred has become like a first principle of living today.
People will argue with one another that it is not possible for us
to give our flesh to be eaten,
and yet there can be no life in the world without selfless giving,
not in nature, not in families, not in any society.
Lord, we pray for those who are mourning for a loved one.
Remind them that Jesus gave them his flesh to eat and his blood to drink
and he will raise them up on the last day.
“I should like to set down here my own belief. In so far as I am willing to be made an instrument of God’s peace, in that far have I already entered into eternal life.” ...Alan Paton
Lord, we thank you for those who eat the flesh and drink the blood of Jesus
and therefore already have eternal life.
“We need the eyes of deep faith to see Christ in the broken bodies and dirty clothes under which the most beautiful one among the sons of men hides.” ...Mother Teresa
Lord, help us to receive Jesus when he comes to us in flesh and blood.
Lord, you give us food and drink so that we might live more freely and creatively.
Yet we nourish ourselves with many things that are not life-giving at all,
but rather clutter up our lives and keep us in bondage.
We pray that your Christ may be Jesus today,
giving the world real food and drink.
Lord, we thank you for the people who have touched our lives;
when we read the story of Jesus, we see them living in him,
and when we remember their stories, we see Jesus living in them.
Truly they have eaten his flesh and drunk his blood.
Lord, we think today of those who see their spouses destroying themselves
with bitterness, envy and false pride.
With anguish in their hearts, they say to them,
as Jesus said to his followers,
“Unless you allow yourself to receive my selfless love,
you will not have life within you.”
Lord, we pray for the people of South Africa, Ireland, Afghanistan, and East Timor.
For generations, their ancestors have eaten the bread of suspicion,
fear and hatred, and they are dead.
We thank you that you are raising up new leaders in those countries,
and they, like Jesus, are offering their people a different kind of nourishment,
based on reconciliation and sharing,
bread come down from heaven,
so that they can eat it and live.
Liturgical Resources for the Year of Matthew
Introduction to the Celebration
Since the very first days of the church — before St Paul had set out on his journeys or any of the gospels were written — our brothers and sisters have been gathering every week for this sacred meal. But when we routinely do anything, we often lose sight of just how wonderful it is. So today we are reflecting on just how wonderful it is to be called by the Lord to gather in his presence, to be his guests at his table, and to eat and drink from his wonderful bounty. In this banquet we become one with Christ, and are transformed into being his Body, and his Blood flows in all our community’s veins, giving us the strength to be his withesses in the world and to inherit the life that never ends.
1. Words should help us to draw out;the significant in our lives. Words should be the seeds of meaning within us and between us. Words should be precious in letting us see the wonder and goodness of the Father.
2. Unfortunately, words also can obscure reality for us. They can bury us under so many layers of accumulated confusions that we struggle to see what is really important. In a communications age, words can be the vehicles of disinformation like never before and can confuse the chasm that should exist between the genuine, the true, the important, and the illusions of salesmen, marketers, and spin-doctors. Words also can so fascinate us with their own magic that we fail to move beyond them to the realities they exist to highlight for us. Words should be illuminating, but they are often like a fog, and indeed sometimes a smokescreen separating us from reality.
3. What has this to do with the Eucharist? Well, the Eucharist is a sacrament, a sign, a mystery; and as such it should convey meaning and truth and authenticity and life. And so it always involves words: words, firstly, in the actual celebration, the words of thanksgiving and prayer to the Father that justify the name of ‘The Eucharist’; and, words too that talk about what we are doing, explaining our actions to ourselves and to others. These words of explanation and exploration of meaning are what we call’ theology’. We see the process right from the start of the Christian journey: each week the community gathered and in its eating and drinking offered its prayer of thanksgiving. Then we see theologians explaining why this is significant: firstly, Paul writing to the Corinthians explaining it in terms of becoming one with the Christ, then the Didache in terms of the final banquet of the regathered Israel, then Mark explaining it in terms of a pre-existing understanding of the Passover (and in explaining a weekly meal in terms of an annual meal leaving a theological time bomb that went off in Calvin’s hands 1400 years later!), then John in terms of the manna in the desert, and on and on and on until we reach some of the books on the Eucharist that are on your shelves or the pamphlets in the church’s bookrack.
4. But today we face a problem with all these words. For many the words about the Eucharist make no sense. The gathering makes no sense; its does not enhance their grasp of life or of the goodness of God. Just think of these two facts. First, English and Welsh hierarchy figures for Mass attendance showed a fall of 130,000 between 2002 and 2005. People are expressing their ‘theology’ (i.e. their understanding of what we are doing, whether it is an adequate theology or not) with their feet. Second, the fastest growing Christian groups are the evangelical churches where the Eucharist is not considered central or significant (and which in some groups is even considered superstitious). Yet the statisticians point out that between 25% (Catholics bishops’ figures) and 33% (the evangelical missionaries’ figures) of South Americans now formally call themselves ‘Evangelicals’ as distinct from ‘Catholics’. And, this is a pattern of movement that is not confined to Latin America. When we consider the centrality of this meal, since the very first days of the church, that was the bonding force of the little groups with their Lord whose resurrection they proclaimed, then the poverty of such a jejune (literally) non-Eucharist centred theology cannot but be a cause of sadness.
5. That the Eucharist and its language are seen as meaningless, boring, or irrelevant either to life in general or the life of discipleship is, of its nature, a complex problem with many causes; and it is possible that it is beyond our ability to do anything about most of these causes. However, some parts of the problem are of our making and can be addressed. One of these is that many celebrations obscure the basic and original structure of this gift that Jesus gave us. This obscuring takes place in that we concentrate on all the various levels of meaning that have accumulated over the centuries such that participants cannot experience the answer to that constant human question: ‘What’s this about?’ – nor can teachers give a concise explanation that might answer that question. Such accumulations of secondary issues are a normal part of human life and the constant bane of every group activity, and so common is it that we have the classic image of ‘the tail wagging the dog’ to describe the problem. In the case of the Eucharist this can take many forms: the celebration becomes primarily linked to the availability of a priest rather than the needs of a community; it becomes a teaching session and prayer service plus getting Holy Communion rather than the Lord’s Banquet; the questions of who can or cannot receive become the central issue – and for a great many people this is the sole question that concerns them about the whole affair rather than encountering the risen Christ; the Eucharist (the name for an action) becomes subsumed under the notion of Holy Communion (a commodity) or the Blessed Sacrament (an object); and for many, priests included, it is hard to think of ‘sacrament’ as the name of an activity of a group rather than of a ‘something’ usually had by an individual.
6. So what can one do to address the problem? The starting point is to remember that the Eucharist is the collective meal of the community of the baptised. So why not meet for the Eucharist on this day in the community hall rather than the church building? Then stand around for the whole event rather than be formally lined up in the way one might for a class or a meeting where discussion is dominant. This is a gathering, an assembly, a celebration of who we are in Christ, not a meeting to transact business. Recall the gathering at some ‘reception’, people stand and mingle, they get to know each other, they recognise they have a common reason for being there: they are not seated in rows. Then they can gather around a single table that is the Lord’s. Words like ‘altar’ are secondary: they derive from a second century attempt to explain what we are doing as we gather at the one table. It was basic to the message of Jesus that there was a welcome at his table, there was room there for the poor, the outcasts, the strangers, the sinners, and unloved. This gathering of those who are reconciled and given new life (i.e. the baptised) is the pattern for the whole life of the church, both now and eschatologically. So everyone should be able to gather around that table, and know they have as much right to stand there at the Lord’s invitation as the mob of concelebrating priests one sometimes sees huddling round it. A decent-sized dining table, that is still clearly recognisable as such (i.e. not covered to make it look like’ an altar’), is ideal. It is also worth recalling those lines from Eucharistic Prayer I (which date from the time before we had formal churches) that say: ‘Remember your male servants (famulorum) and your female servants (famularum), indeed, the needs ofall who are standing around.’
Then we come to the basic activity of thanking the Father in Jesus. We often recite this as if its purpose was to ask God to consecrate elements on the table (and as such it becomes the skilled work of the priest alone). Presented in that light there is little adequate answer to the question someone asked me after the Eucharist recently: why does the priest not get all this done before-hand so that it is ready to give to us after the readings? It is strange how the culture of fast-food outlets matches the old practice of ‘Mass and Communion (from the tabernacle, of course)’. So there has to be attention to the tone of the Eucharistic Prayer that it is recited as prayer directed to the Father thanking him for all he has given us in his Son. Use Eucharistic Prayer II as it is crisp and its theology elegant, and note that in the Missal of Vatican II there are no ‘words of consecration’, but an ‘institution narrative’ – there lies the core of the renewed theology of the council and it has major implications for how the Eucharistic Prayer is voiced at every celebration. We are recalling the Last Supper as part of our prayer and so justifying why we are now praying in this way (this recollection format is part of every collect: we praise the Father because of something that has occurred) not pronouncing a sacral formula. After all, in the final analysis, it is the gathered people that must be consecrated to become the body and blood of Christ.
Then we come to the basic form of the meal: Jesus used a single loaf from which each received a share, and passed around a single cup from which each drank. This is the basic symbolism of this particular meal: a common life as one body which is Christ (the one loaf), and a common destiny (see Mk 10:38-9; Jn 18:11) which is in Christ (the one cup). This eating and drinking by the gathering is, of its nature, a confusing and lengthy business, but that is fine. After all we are there to engage in just that activity.
7. This is a radical way to celebrate this feast (and the homily would be to point out that we are doing it this way to remind ourselves on this day of our eucharistic basics. There will be those who object, threaten to go the the next parish where the priest is sound, and indeed some who write to the bishop (or further afield) to ‘just let him know what’s happening’. This is, in every community, a well identified and easily quantified group and so they receive a lot of attention lest they be upset; however, that other group who are just drifting away without a word are not easily identifiable and are only quantifiable through statistics. In addressing those who day by day are being lost to the Eucharist, I suspect there is some guidance in Mt 18:12-3.
On the Feast of the Body and Blood of Christ, it is appropriate to reflect on three essential Catholic teachings about the Eucharist: the link between the Eucharist and the Church, the Eucharist as sacrifice, and the Eucharist as Real Presence.
First, there is an intrinsic link between the Eucharist and the Church. Sharing the Eucharist requires belonging to the Church and vice versa. Understanding such a relationship between the Eucharist and the Church, which is central to Catholic teaching, has serious implications for people who receive Holy Communion.
There is a necessary connection between what Catholics do when they assemble for the celebration of Mass and what they do as members of the Church in other aspects of their daily lives. If they do not perceive such a connection, then it is probable that there will be many areas of inconsistency with gospel values and Catholic doctrine in their lifestyles.
The Church is most truly itself when it celebrates the Eucharist. But this truth presumes a unity between what Catholics say they believe and how they live. So faith and morality are inextricably bound up and we need to live in religious and moral harmony with the Church if we are to celebrate the Eucharist authentically.
The reception of Holy Communion implies that a person is in full communion with the Catholic Church and its beliefs. Receiving Communion is a sign of unity in faith and love with both the local church (and the local bishop) and the universal Church (and the Pope). While there are members of other ecclesial communities — various other Christian denominations seeking to follow Christ — who often wish to receive Holy Communion in Catholic churches and who argue that, because of our common belief in the divinity of Christ, we are, in a sense, in communion, the Catholic Church teaches that this communion is imperfect because it is incomplete. Hence there is genuine difficulty about Eucharistic sharing between Catholics and other Christians. But this does not deny that elements of holiness and truth are evident in other Christian communities.
Secondly, the Eucharist is a sacrifice. When the Eucharist is celebrated, the once-for-all sacrifice of Christ becomes effectively present for his people who are members of his Body, the Church. In describing the Eucharist as a sacrifice, the Catholic Church is not — as many other Christian traditions have often interpreted — denying the unique saving work of Jesus Christ when he died on Calvary.
There is a need for a renewed emphasis on the sacrificial understanding of the Eucharist among Catholics because such an understanding is at the very heart of the Eucharist. Traditionally, the Eucharist has never been understood merely as a service. No service can replace the sacrifice of the Mass. This is because the sacrifice of the Mass is the unbloody re-presentation of Christ’s once-for-all sacrifice on Calvary.
Thirdly, Catholic faith accepts that the ‘real’ and ‘substantial’ presence of Christ is found in the Eucharist in the sense that the Eucharist is the supreme form of Christ’s presence and his inner reality. This belief that Christ is truly present in the Eucharist, that there has been a change in the substances of bread and wine into the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Christ, provides the basis and the imperative for adoration of and reverence for the reserved Blessed Sacrament. This is why Catholics are exhorted to spend time praying before the Blessed Sacrament.
Jesus Christ is the Bread of Life. He is the Living Bread that has come down from heaven to give life to the world (see Jn 6:51). Whoever eats the Bread of Life will have eternal life.
How do we deal with this basic Catholic teaching about the Eucharist? The teaching of the Church is the teaching of Christ. Can we, therefore, accept and believe the Church’s teaching about the Eucharist? The Church teaches that the Eucharist is the summit of the Christian life. It is appropriate, then, when receiving Holy Communion, to repeat the prayer of one of the multitude following Jesus: ‘I do have faith. Help the little faith I have’ (Mk 9:23).
I am the living bread which has come down from heaven.
Anyone who ears this bread will live forever;
and the bread that I shall give is my flesh
for the life of the world. (Jn 6:51)
The feast today highlights the central place of the Eucharist in Christian life, our faith that God becomes present in a real way in ordinary bread and wine – food for the journey of life in the bread, energy and joy for the journey of life in the wine. and the wine of the coming of the Lord. Bread and wine were very much part of the ordinary food of the people of his time, and also of their religious life. People would remember the bread in the desert and the wine of the coming of the Lord.
Each time we come to Mass, we take part in a real way in the death and resurrection of the Lord, The sacrifice of Christ on the cross and his resurrection is ‘made resent’among us. It is a place and time of grace.
So our Eucharist today is not just to commemorate something that happened many years ago.It is our commitment to Christ in his people, and our faith in his real presence among us in the Eucharist and in each other.
Jesus ask us o share the bread and cup, to proclaim this ‘mystery of faith’ for all time, We proclaim today that the Jesus of the tabernacle is the Jesus within all of us. Let’s be amazed that within each of us, God dwells in Jesus Christ.
Recall moments when receiving communion
gave you strength in your life.
Lord, I believe in your presence in the Eucharist.
Strengthen my belief