Whose fault is it of not knowing the truth?

Solemnity of the Body and Blood of Christ

DT 8:2-3, 14B-16A

Moses said to the people: "Remember how for forty years now the LORD, your God, has directed all your journeying in the desert, so as to test you by affliction and find out whether or not it was your intention to keep his commandments. He therefore let you be afflicted with hunger, and then fed you with manna, a food unknown to you and your fathers, in order to show you that not by bread alone does one live, but by every word that comes forth from the mouth of the LORD. "Do not forget the LORD, your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, that place of slavery; who guided you through the vast and terrible desert with its saraph serpents and scorpions, its parched and waterless ground; who brought forth water for you from the flinty rock and fed you in the desert with manna, a food unknown to your fathers."

1 Corinthians 10:16-17

Brothers and sisters: The cup of blessing that we bless, is it not a participation in the blood of Christ? The bread that we break, is it not a participation in the body of Christ? Because the loaf of bread is one, we, though many, are one body, for we all partake of the one loaf.

John 6:51 - 58

Jesus said to the Jewish crowds: "I am the living bread that came down from heaven; whoever eats this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give is my flesh for the life of the world." The Jews quarreled among themselves, saying, "How can this man give us his flesh to eat?" Jesus said to them, "Amen, amen, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you do not have life within you. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him on the last day. For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me and I in him. Just as the living Father sent me and I have life because of the Father, so also the one who feeds on me will have life because of me. This is the bread that came down from heaven. Unlike your ancestors who ate and still died, whoever eats this bread will live forever."

In hindsight, we are able to see in today’s gospel reading the sublime sacramental theology of the Eucharist in Jesus’ Bread of Life discourse. “Flesh” points to His incarnate life (a human being in his weakness and mortality) and “blood” points to His real death (rf Jn 1:14, Ez 39:18-19). To be eaten and drunk refers to His violent death when His flesh is broken and His blood is spilled (rf Ps 79:2-3, Ez 32:5-6, Zep 1:17, Pope Benedict XVI: Jesus of Nazareth Holy Week P. 130-134). To take in Jesus’ flesh and blood is to “receive in faith……the Lord Himself” whose “body and blood,” through the sacrifice of His life on the cross, have become for us the nourishing food for eternal life (CCC1336).

But all these divine subtleties would not have been captured by the Galilean audience when they were spoken to at that time. Their rejection of Jesus is due to their misunderstanding of His incendiary language but who can blame them? The provocative words of “eating flesh” and “drinking blood” are repugnant even to some believers today, so what about to a culture which so strictly observes the dietary law and forbids eating unclean meat and drinking blood? (Lev 11, 17:10-14; Deut 14). However, beyond the surface, one may realize that it is pride that prevents the Jews from accepting the truth. “What sign, then, dost thou, that we may see and believe thee? What work dost thou perform?” (Jn 6:30). Ironically, these are the people who have just witnessed or even benefited from the multiplication of the loaves miracle (Jn 6:11-14). Interesting enough, paralleled to the “living bread” is the “living water” offered by Jesus to the Samaritan woman (Jn 6:51, 4:10). Though they both pertain to the divine teaching of eternal life, to the woman of Samaria, the “spring of water welling up to eternal life” is eagerly sought and well received, whereas to the Jews, the “living bread that come down from heaven” is rebuffed and repudiated (Jn 6:11-14, 51). Their persistent inability to understand is partly due to their materialistic aspirations and outlooks but largely as a result of their arrogance, not ignorance (rf Jn 6:26). Thus, they challenge Jesus, a carpenter’s son, by putting Him on par with Moses who gives them the visible bread.

God’s promise of Humanity’s salvation is foretold in the Old Testament (Sir 24:20-21, Prv 9:2-5, Wis 16: 20, 26, Is 54:13, Jer 31:33-34). In their arrogance, the Jews fail to receive God’s offer in the manner He wants them to receive, namely, through Jesus. They fail to see that the very thing they reject (Jesus being the Son of God) is the very thing God the Father has prepared for their salvation. What the Jews did two thousand years ago is, in a similar way, what we are very often doing now. Preaching a philosophy of life that focuses on physical and material needs, our present culture fails to recognize the ultimate reality of spiritual life and the necessity of God’s salvation.

Despising God’s precepts and rejecting His words, we may excuse ourselves like the ancient Jews that it is God’s fault that we do not understand His plan, except this time we have been told, shown and fully know that “God gave His only Son so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life” (Jn 3:16). Would the same old vice of pride deprive us once again in accepting the truth and our own salvation?

Posted: June 18, 2017

May Tam

May Tam, Bachelor of Social Science (University of Hong Kong), Master of Theological Studies (University of Toronto)

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