One of the defining qualities of human beings is that we are rational. It is not always evident – but reason is a constitutive feature of human life.
And one of the principal ways we exercise our reason is by questioning.
Asking what, who , when , why – all these actions help us to think and to know, and to live. That, finally, is their point and purpose, their final end: to help us to live.
Many questions can be asked of the Eucharist.
What is it? (A question maybe best answered when we appreciate that the answer is more about who it is and not merely what it is). It is sacrament of the sacrifice of Jesus Christ: but most importantly, being sacrament, it is Jesus Christ present for us.
Contemplation of the answer what/who can fill hours of prayer time – as we acknowledge the wonder of Eucharist and the humility and love of the Lord.
But a lot of time in the Church has been put into considering the ‘how’ question. How is this Bread and Wine Jesus present for us? How does the bread change to become the living Bread, and so on. In the gospel we heard yesterday, those asking ‘how’ questions did not get too far!
‘How’ questions have their place but tend to lead to rather specialised and rarefied conversations and, too often, to disputes in which God’s gift of Eucharist loses place to human pride and faithful living corrupted by disunity.
All questions have their place, but knowing the place and priority of the variety of questions requires a sense of balance and wisdom.
The scriptures have their questions too – and to the fore in the scriptures is not ‘how?’ but ‘why?’ The ‘how’ is addressed, and usually briefly answered: ‘By God’.
Of much greater interest in the scriptures is the question ‘why? Why does God do this?’
Each of the passages in yester day’s Liturgy of the Word seeks to provide a why for the mysteries of God in his heavenly feeding of his people.
Look again at the Gospel.
- Jesus tells us the ‘what’ straight-off.
- The ‘how’ questions seem to be a distraction.
- The answers to ‘why’ questions are full of good news and hope.
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.
‘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.’
- What most strikes you in the passage?
- Does it challenge you? Give you hope?
- How can you respond to that in your life this day?
The image of the Lamb of Sacrifice is taken from a window in a former religious house, now a conference centre in Eindhoven, Netherlands