Take eat and Drink Corpus Domini

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					  Our Lady of the Southern Cross Parish
                The Body and Blood of the Lord
                  – Year A – 25/26 June 2011

                       Energized by God

               n his journey, Jesus has just given his disciples one of the
               most spectacular signs of the loving and caring presence of
               God in their midst, but true to form, the disciples remain blind
and almost unimpressed by the fact that Jesus has just fed thousands of
people on five loaves and two fish. Concerned about their personal needs
and blinded by their own agenda, they cannot look beyond the bare elements
of food and all that this means for them. They fail to see the message or
read the significance and the challenge of what Jesus is about.
Consequently, as it is his want, Jesus promptly takes the cue from the
situation at hand, and tapping into their chronic misunderstanding, he pushes
them and us to perceive the active and life-giving presence of God in each
insignificant skerrick of our story, in every fibre of our bodily frame, and in
the deepest recesses of heart and psyche.
              he consequence of this “looking beyond and within” finds full

      T       expression in Jesus’ great Eucharistic discourse in chapter 6 of
              John’s Gospel, of which today’s gospel reading represents the
living and dynamic core both in its message and in its transforming potency.
Clearly, Jesus’ concern for his followers then and now goes well beyond
satisfying a fundamental need for food. Those elements laid out for the
restoration of the body are but a sign of a much deeper and intensely
personal reality. Paradoxically, while waxing eloquence for five chapters
about the events of the Last Supper, the Fourth Gospel never once makes
any direct reference to the Eucharist as such. The evangelist does not need
to do so, because he has already made the point very clearly in chapter six,
where Jesus moves away from a material perspective centred on the
elements of food to a relational one between each of us and God. Through
the discourse about bread, Jesus confronts us with the reality of the
relationship between himself and his disciples as the living paradigm of the
relationship between us and God.

       Recently, I heard the story of an old man who, having survived the
ravages of World War II, like thousands of others had migrated from Europe
to this country to start a new life and forget the horrors of the past.
However, hard work and total commitment to a better future never
obliterated those horrid memories of the past, and as dementia began to set
in, those painful experiences became crystallized in his psyche, expressing
the old wounds through a very peculiar mannerism linked with memory and
food. As the story is told, occasionally he would get up in the middle of the
night and startle the whole household by knocking at every bedroom doors
and calling out at the top of his voice: “Eat! Eat!” The surprising thing was
that, as people got up to settle him down, every member of the family would
find some bread rolls laid out outside each bedroom door, ready for eating.
The painful memories of starvation and misery of his youth had become an
obsession, but so had also his concern for those who lived with him. He did
not want to re-live those bad memories ever again, nor did he want any of
his family to suffer depravation any more, and so his way of showing
concern was to provide for them real food and encourage them to eat.
           n a strange parallelism, today’s Gospel passage is grafted exactly

      I    on a similar situation: Jesus is concerned for a group of starving
           people and very practically he sets out to meet their need, “so that
they may have life in them”. Today’s liturgy speaks precisely of memory
and food, and as we have just heard, the words “Eat, Eat!” resonate loud
and clear because if you do not eat you will die! Food is not only the single
absolute necessity and a source of physical energy and wellbeing for all
forms of life and for every living creature, but food also plays a fundamental
role in every other aspect of our lives, both individually and as a community.
It nourishes and sustains us providing energy for growth and for work; it
shapes our life style, our social interactions, our mutual relationships, our
pattern of work and growth. All these are shaped and conditioned by our
eating habits. We are what we eat and drink, and culturally, socially, and
spiritually we are people conditioned by our eating habits. Have you ever
stopped to think of what happens to food? The very moment we ingest it, a
whole biological/physical process is set in motion which will transform that
food or drink into something totally different, into bare and basic elements
that hold life-giving power, into flesh and blood and bone, into energy for
growth, for work, for enjoyment and for healing. The food we eat becomes
what we are, not only physically, but emotionally and spiritually as well.

        And so, in today’s Gospel passage we read: “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 . . . “
Stunning and shocking words, really! Yes, the words of Jesus in today’s
Gospel sound quite shocking and almost crude to the point that confronted
with such “in your face realism” many of his hearers could not accept the
“intolerable language” and turned their backs to him. Yet, Jesus pulls no
punches, nor does he mince words. With that absolute authority and total
integrity that marked all his life and ministry, he tells us to eat his flesh and
drink his blood. Unconcerned by the horrified reaction of his followers he
repeats the injunction, as if to stress the absolute necessity of taking his
words seriously: 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. That is the
key to it all: “He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood lives in me and I
live in him”. Only a God madly in love with human beings could have set
up such a dramatic scenario as to make himself food, so as to create that
total, even physical and personal intimacy with each and every human being
who is prepared to enter into it.
              hose early followers turned their backs on him and “no longer

      T       walked with him” because they could not accept a God so
              intimately immersed in our human reality as to become our
flesh blood, the very energy of our daily life. The God Jesus came to reveal
is “God-Abba” who longs for intimacy with his children, to the extreme of
complete identification with my life and your life. And this longing for
intimacy has no more powerful expression that through the sign of food and
drink. For the Semitic mind, the expression flesh and blood, rather than two
separate elements of a living body, implies the whole person, a totality of
body and soul, as much as of mind and heart. In this perspective, Jesus is
inviting us to total imbibing for total identification with him as the living
principle of human life and of the Father’s love for every individual person
who accepts such an invitation.

        Eucharist is not a “ritual doing”, a performance or a re-enactment
recalling something far away in time and space, or a private devotion
tugging at our emotional chords. Eucharist is an event now in my life
experience, a mutual immersion of God into our life and of each of us into
the energy of God giving and sustaining our whole being in life and in
death. Through the Eucharist meal, God becomes part of our very self, our
flesh and blood and bone and tissues, part of our struggles, joys sorrows and
hopes. God in His total self-giving becomes the energy by which we live
and grow and die. God is my energy, and God becomes my strength and my
hope because, by sharing at the Eucharistic meal, I assume God’s very
essence into my own body, into my emotions, my achievements and even into
my mistakes. Ours is a God who shares my experience fully and deeply to
the point of becoming “flesh of my flesh and bone of my bone”, as well as
energy for our becoming.

      Take, eat and drink! Total self-giving for total identification! Truly
my body is God’s body, God’s life, and God’s total self – or as St Augustine
would put it: “Let us rejoice and give thanks that we have become not only
Christians, but Christ”.

                                                         Fr Peter Varengo sdb
                                                                (Parish Priest)

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