Catholic Parish of Ivanhoe

Reflection Of The Week
The Church has always linked
what we do away from the Eucharist
with what we celebrate at it.
This doesn’t mean all of us can rush out and
feed the world’s poor. 
It does mean that most of us can assist
other groups or people  who do precisely that.
©Richard Leonard SJ,
‘Take, eat … take, drink’
(Fr. Michael Tate)

When I was a boy (is it so long ago?) it was still the rule at Mass that only the priest drank from the chalice. One of the great actions of the Church over the last fifty years has been the recovery of the ancient practice of offering Holy Communion under the appearance of both bread and wine.
The reception of both the consecrated bread and the consecrated wine is in perfect harmony with today’s Gospel: ‘Anyone who does eat my flesh and drink my blood has eternal life.’ Note the present tense: ‘has’ – right now! This is because, as St John Paul II put it: ‘We digest, as it were, the secret of the Resurrection.’

Of course, Our Risen Lord is really present under the appearance of either the bread or the wine. For a Jew, (unlike the Greeks) the body was absolutely core to being the person one is. For a Jew, blood was identified as the life-force of any animal. So, for the Jewish Jesus, to say ‘This is my body… this is my blood’ was to gift us his core identity, his deepest vitality. Either the consecrated bread or consecrated wine gives us His whole life.

But to receive both the Heavenly Bread and the Spiritual Drink does enable us to more fully respond to Our Lord at the Last Supper: ‘Take, eat … take, drink’. Then the words of today’s Gospel can more physically resonate in our own bodies: ‘He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood lives in me and I in him.’

We could take a moment to pray in thanksgiving that we are able to join in the tradition starting with the Apostles at the Last Supper and, in doing so, to enter into Holy Communion with the only One who can embody in us the secret of His resurrection.

© Fr. Michael Tate

Homily by Richard Leonard SJ

In the early 1970s there was an edition of Readers Digest that told how a jet crashed in the Andes. It was a good case study in moral reasoning. The issue was that some of the survivors of that crash resorted to cannibalism to survive. The question the author posed was, ‘Is it ever ethical to eat another human being?’

Whatever the extreme and specific ethical arguments for cannibalism might be, the thought of eating another person is repulsive to most of us. Yet many people outside Catholicism often think that we are Christian cannibals, feasting on Jesus’ flesh and blood.

The best traditions in the Church have always been very careful in the language they use about how Jesus is present in the Eucharist. We are not cannibals. We are not eating Jesus’ liver, brain and bones.

In the Catechism when it speaks of the Eucharistic real presence, it never refers to ‘Jesus’ but always to ‘Christ’. The distinction matters. The Eucharist is a Sacrament of Easter. It is the glorified, risen Christ who is wholly and truly present under the form of bread and wine at the Eucharist.

Popular piety and legends that speak too explicitly about the physicality of the Eucharist have not helped us have sensible thinking. As a Catholic I believe that Christ, raised by God from the dead, is truly and personally present to me in the Eucharist. How – is a question that misses the point of the gift.

Chapter six of John’s Gospel is a discourse on the Eucharist. It is also, and at the same time, a discourse about Jesus’ passion and death and our mission to follow in his way. For Jesus, the new Moses, not only gives bread to the people, but also in his passion, death and resurrection he gives us himself. This is why the Church has always linked the events at Easter with the celebration of Eucharist.

Why have we been given this unique gift? The Eucharist is not meant to be a feast for a privileged few. It’s not a private devotion. It’s not meant to be something that only assures us of our own particular salvation. It is meant to be something that empowers all Christians to go out and transform the world with love and goodness for Christ's sake.

The Church has always linked what we do away from the Eucharist with what we celebrate at it. This doesn’t mean that all of us can rush out and feed the world’s poor. It does mean that most of us can assist other groups or people who do precisely that. And it does means that when we think about who we will vote for as political leaders, we ask about their platform in relation to those in our country and world who are suffering the most. The former General of the Jesuits, Fr Pedro Arrupe once said, ‘If there is hunger anywhere in the world, then our celebration of the Eucharist is somehow incomplete everywhere in the world’.

Sometimes we can think of the Eucharist as a magical act. Jesus counters such a notion in today’s gospel when he tells us that he gives us himself ‘for the life of the world’. The Eucharist does not turn us into cannibals; it’s meant to make us radicals, radically committed to all God’s people everywhere.