Saint Thomas of Canterbury, Bolton

Stay with us, Lord, on our journey

Cycle A

The Body and Blood of Christ

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John 6.51-58

“I am the living bread which has come down from heaven”

As many as five thousand people had been fed by Jesus from five barley loaves and two fish. The response of the people was immediate – ‘this man must become our king; he can give us all the bread we need’ – but, knowing their intention, Jesus withdrew to be alone. He had not come simply to be the source of a free meal or the provider of material welfare. There is another kind of hunger that we all know, a hunger of the spirit, and it to this deeper need that Jesus addresses himself.

“I am the living bread which has come down from heaven” says Jesus. “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”. This was more than the people could accept, for they took his words literally “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?” So what does Jesus mean when he speaks of us eating his flesh and drinking his blood? Clearly nothing cannibalistic! To partake of the body and blood of Christ is to become one with him: “He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood lives in me and I live in him”.

When we eat ordinary bread we assimilate it without giving it another thought, but that cannot be with the bread from heaven. To receive this bread is to actively welcome Jesus into our own life, with all that he brings to us – a share in his own divine life; his teaching, vision and values; his way of relating to the Father, to the world, to life in general. It is to become, with all who receive him, more consciously the living Body of Christ on earth, witnessing by our love for each other to his presence in our lives. Really to receive him is to commit ourselves to letting Jesus live, love and serve in us.