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.’
Then the Jews started arguing with one another: ‘How can this man give us his flesh to eat?’ they said. Jesus replied:
‘I tell you most solemnly,
if you do not eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood,
you will not have life in you.
Anyone who does eat my flesh and drink my blood
has eternal life,
and I shall raise him up on the last day.
For my flesh is real food
and my blood is real drink.
He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood
lives in me
and I live in him.
As I, who am sent by the living Father,
myself draw life from the Father,
so whoever eats me will draw life from me.
This is the bread come down from heaven;
not like the bread our ancestors ate:
they are dead,
but anyone who eats this bread will live for ever.’
For Christians, and perhaps for Catholics in particular, the Gospel passage heard at Mass on Sunday, the feast of Corpus Christi, speaks especially of the Eucharist. The controversy there presented – ‘How can this man give us his flesh to eat?’ – evokes other, later controversies about whether or how this flesh is given in the Eucharist. A variety of Christian attempts at answers maybe recalled – transubstantiation, transignification, a memorial, a ‘mere’ remembrance….
The debates about what/who the Eucharist is continue to be important. From the Catholic perspective the reality of real presence in the Sacraments, and the principle of sacramentality underpins so much of our understanding of God and the world, and our reading of the salvation God continues to offer to us.
However what is prior to our talking about the sacraments is the belief that in Jesus, and expressed in his humanity, the incarnate Son, God is really present. And really present, through the incarnation, God makes free gift of himself for all who would receive him and ‘eat’ of him. Through our communion with him, expressed in many ways, and including now the sacraments, we can in truth enter into life in him and for ever.
The Pelican – sign of the Eucharistic sacrifice. Detail of Eucharistic Screen, Our Lady’s church, St John’s Wood. (c) 2007, Allen Morris