Body and Blood – Br. David Allen
One of the things that I remember from studying the early centuries of the Church is the mistaken accusation in some parts of the world that Christianity taught cannibalism when the liturgy spoke of the body and blood of Jesus Christ.
This was not the case in the controversy that the Jewish leaders were having with Jesus in the synagogue in Capernaum that we heard about in today’s Gospel.
Instead, Jesus was faced with simple incomprehension. “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?” (Jn 6:52)
Jesus replied to those people, “Very truly, I tell you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you.” (v. 53) He elaborated on what he meant by that. “Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood have eternal life, and I will raise them up on the last day.” (v. 54) and “Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood abide in me, and I in them.” (v. 56)
These things can be considered a prelude to the words Jesus would say to his disciples in Jerusalem the night before he was crucified.
At that time Jesus took bread, gave thanks, broke it and gave it to his disciples, saying, “This is my body, given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” Then he took the cup saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood.” (Cf. Mt. 26:26-29; Mk. 14:22-25; Lk. 19-20; 1 Cor. 11:23-25)
Through those words Jesus confirmed what he had said in that synagogue in Capernaum. He has passed his promise on to us. He will be with us whenever we partake of his body and blood.
The controversy at Capernaum that was told in the Gospel reading today concerned both incomprehension and too literal an understanding of Jesus’ words about his body and blood.
Currently I am re-reading the spiritual classic, The Cloud of Unknowing. The author repeatedly warns against taking words and concepts too literally. When I say that I have devoured a book, I mean that I have absorbed its meaning. The intention of Jesus’ words in today’s Gospel was to give their spiritual meaning.
For us the outward and visible signs in Holy Communion, the consecrated bread and wine, become the inward and spiritual grace of the body and blood of Jesus.
This is spelled out for us in the words that Jesus spoke in that synagogue. “Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood abide in me, and I in them.” (Jn 6:56) By those words we have the fulfillment of the promise Jesus made to be with us when we eat his flesh and drink his blood in Holy Communion. By our meditation and prayer we can realize Jesus’ presence in us, and ours in him.
Please support the Brothers work.
The brothers of SSJE rely on the inspired kindness of friends to sustain our life and our work. We are grateful for the prayers and support provided to us.
I have some Native American blood. When I visited there I spoke with a person who had known Vine Deloria, one of our Native Bishops. He said that the Natives had no problem with the Eucharist, since they believed that when you ate an animal.(of course begging its pardon first, and pledging to use it rightly) you would ingest the good qualities of the animal such as swiftness, being a good parent, caring for the young, etc. Of course they felt the same way about the body and blood of Christ, who was the Son of God.
I’m glad that today’s reading is giving comfort and reassurance to many, including me. But I still have a question. Brother David, are you referring to transubstantiation?
I am laying in my hospital bed this morning after bypass surgery and realize after reading your serman for today how Christ has given a new chance to live life again and experience all the wonderful, simple, and beautiful creations he has given us on this earth. I also liked the way communion was interpreted to me by author Rite Rev., John Shelby Spong In his book the Easter Moment many. years ago. Well I get to go home today, and some way feel like I’ve been born again. What a beautiful day it will be, and tomorrow and forever. Thanks Brother David
It’s simple. In partaking in communion bread and wine, Jeaus asks us to remember him no different then remembering others at special events of celebration. It is his promise to be with us. By taking communion we are asked to remember both the price he paid and the gift he offers. At least that’s how I understand it
Nice and simple – thank you Br David