‘I am the living bread which has come down from heaven’
The Body and Blood of Christ Year A
In this week’s reading, Jesus focuses on the Eucharist, in which we receive repeatedly the once-and-for-all gift of the Bread of Life. Fr Adrian Graffy reflects.
51 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.’
52 Then the Jews started arguing with one another: ‘How can this man give us his flesh to eat? they said. 53 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. 54 Anyone who does eat my flesh and drink my blood has eternal life, and I shall raise him up on the last day. 55 For my flesh is real food and my blood is real drink. 56 He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood lives in me and I live in him. 57 As I, who am sent by the living Father, myself draw life from the Father, so whoever eats me will draw life from me. 58 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.’
Other readings: Deuteronomy 8:2-3, 14-16 Psalm 147 1 Corinthians 10:16-17
The Solemnity of the Body and Blood of the Lord, which we know also as Corpus Christi, provides a special occasion to consider the gift of the Holy Eucharist, the gift given by Christ to the Church on the night before he died.
The gospel is taken from chapter 6 of the Fourth Gospel, a lengthy chapter which presents the multiplication of the loaves and the walking on the water, followed by the words of Jesus and interventions of the Jews concerning the meaning of the first of these two signs. The verses in today’s reading come towards the end of the chapter, when the words of Jesus clearly focus on the Eucharist.
In the Eucharist we receive repeatedly the once-and-for-all gift of the Bread of Life. As Jesus implies, it is unlike anything which preceded it, unlike ‘the bread our ancestors ate’. This bread is the pledge of God’s gift of life, and is best understood in the context of the paschal mystery, the death of Christ and his self-giving to lead us to life.
Perhaps this feast may also be an occasion for us to question ourselves about the reverence we show to the Eucharist. The Church encourages us to prepare by prayer to receive both Word and Sacrament, to observe a one-hour fast before Communion (except for those who are infirm), to approach the table of the Lord reverently, to spend time in giving thanks for this extraordinary sacrament, and to show a particular respect and devotion to the Blessed Sacrament reserved in our churches.
How can you avoid receiving the Lord in a routine manner?
What can you do to increase your reverence for the Blessed Sacrament?
Pray that we will allow the reception of the Eucharist to transform our lives.
Pray for fidelity to our Sunday Mass obligation, that all may be strengthened in communion.
Rev Dr Adrian Graffy is a member of the Vatican Commission that takes a lead in Bible scholarship, interpretation and promotion in the Catholic Church.
Rev Dr Graffy said of his five-year appointment by Pope Francis in 2014: “It is an honour to be nominated by Pope Francis as a member of the Pontifical Biblical Commission. I feel humbled and very much look forward to being of service to His Holiness and the Church.”
He added: “A great deal has been achieved in England and Wales in recent years by many co-workers to advance Biblical scholarship and the provision of easy-to-use resources. I would like to take this opportunity to thank them and the Bishops’ Conference Department for Evangelisation and Catechesis for their efforts to promote understanding and love of the Bible, particularly through the publication of the teaching documents, The Gift of Scripture and the study guide to Verbum Domini, The Word of the Lord.”
Rev Dr Graffy received his doctorate in Sacred Scripture from the Pontifical Biblical Institute in Rome in 1983. He taught for over 20 years in St John’s Seminary in Wonersh, and is Chair of the National Scripture Working Group, which is an instrument of the Department for Evangelisation and Catechesis of the Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales. Fr Graffy is a past director of Brentwood’s Commission for Evangelisation and Formation and parish priest of Christ the Eternal High Priest in Gidea Park, Essex. Among his publications are the Gospel of Mark and the Letter to the Romans (Alive Publishing).
Listen to BBC Essex interview with Fr Adrian Graffy