Praised be Jesus, Mary, and Joseph!
The Lord could not have given the teaching in clearer terms than he does in today’s reading. He is not talking in some vague, symbolic language. He tells us in plain and simple language: “Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life. For my flesh is real food and my blood is real drink. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me and I in him.” His words are so clear that even his enemies murmured among themselves because they understood correctly what he was trying to say: “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?”
The Jews were accustomed to sacred meals which they ate in the presence of the Lord as a sign of Divine favor. But what Jesus is saying is new for them. He goes beyond eating in the presence of God. Jesus gives his flesh to eat and his blood to drink. He himself is the meal. “In the Eucharistic meal, man feeds on God.” (John Paul II, General Audience on June 8, 1983.) The change of bread into his flesh and wine into his blood is not merely a change of perception, that is, a change in the way we look at what is on the altar. The change is ontological, that is, whether we perceive it or not, the bread, by the power of the word of Christ and by the Holy Spirit, becomes the flesh of Christ. In like manner, the wine, by the same power of Christ’s word and by the Holy Spirit, becomes the blood of Christ. It is a real, objective change – regardless of the perception of the onlookers. It is Christ truly present, body and blood, soul and divinity.
Christ is truly present so that the redemptive sacrifice can be made present. Bread and wine becomes his body and blood so that his sacrifice may be sacramentally renewed through the offering made by the ordained priest. And once his sacrifice is made present, the Lord makes accessible to us the fruit of his offering: eternal life. Eternal life is made accessible to us through this sacrificial meal. Eating his body and drinking his blood must not be understood in a metaphorical way for what we eat is truly his body and what we drink is truly his blood. As material food is necessary for the preservation and development of bodily life, so the Eucharist is necessary for the development of the Divine life in us. “Just as the Father who has life sent me and I have life because of the Father, so the man who feeds on me will have life because of me.” “The Father is the first source of life; this life he has given to the Son, who in turn communicates it to mankind. He who feeds on Christ in the Eucharist does not have to wait until the hereafter to receive eternal life; he already possesses it on earth, and in it he possesses the guarantee of the resurrection of the body at the end of the world: ‘He who feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.” (Ibid.) Truly, this is the food that does not perish. This is the food that “endures unto everlasting life.” “Wisdom has…dressed her meat and mixed her wine, yes, she has spread her table…and calls out from the heights out over the city: ‘Come, eat of my food, and drink of the wine I have mixed! Forsake foolishness that you may live, advance in the way of understanding.’”
Jesus, I trust in you. O Mary conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to thee.