We pray “where our feeble senses fail” concerning the Body and Blood of Jesus. This is certainly a mystery and our feeble intellects bend the knee before the very thought of it as well. We are praying with the “Central Mystery of our faith.” We enjoy magic, because we enjoy being fooled for a while and we enjoy trying to figure it all out.
We are also invited to pray for the grace to receive Christ’s reception of us into His Body. We rejoice in praying that in the Eucharistic celebration He makes us “an everlasting gift” to His Father. We pray with the identification Jesus offers us to be and live as the Body we share with Him. Those of us who believe in the real presence of Christ’s Eucharistic place our feeble senses and intellects at the foot of the altar and surrender our judgments, but not our attempts to figure it all out. If Jesus wants to remain with us and nourish us and encourage us in this way, well, who are we to argue.
“If you are Christ’s Body and member, then it is your mystery that you placed on the Lord’s table; you receive your mystery. You hear the words, “The Body of Christ,” and you respond, “Amen.” Then be Christ’s member that your “amen” might be true.” St. Augustine
Moses, in our First Reading, is taking his Israelite community on a trip down Memory Lane. This “Lane” was their journey for forty years in the desert. He is asking them to remember God’s faithfulness to them during that time of affliction, hunger and thirst. He is asking them to look backwards so that they might journey into their futures as faithful people, obedient to the laws and customs God has given them.
Twice in this reading Moses reminds them that God had fed them with a bread “Unknown to their fathers.” Though they did not understand the nature of this bread, because they were hungry, they ate it and were strengthened for their journey. They have a further walk of faith not of geography. They are to remember God’s faithfulness to them in the past so that they might be moved to be faithful in their futures. The land they are to possess will be bountiful of water and food, but this plentifulness might be a temptation to forget the bountifulness of the Giver. They might not have known the bread of manna and so had to trust. They will know the bread and wine of the fields they will cultivate and so will be less moved to enjoy them as a faith encounter.
In today’s Gospel, Jesus, as Moses did, is inviting His Jewish listeners to move beyond the limitations of their senses and their capacities to understand. This passage is set within the context of Jesus’ having fed the five thousand with five loaves and two fish. John’s Gospel does not have an Institutional Narrative of the Eucharist, but this entire chapter presents a more developed understanding of what Jesus is offering through the Eucharistic Bread, His Body.
John presents Jesus as having made many dramatic “I Am” statements. He is “Light”, “Living Water”, “The Way, The Truth and The Life.” He is here offering Himself as the “Bread of Life” come down from heaven as did the manna. Moses had offered new life in the new land, but only if the Jews would obey God’s commands. Jesus is offering “Eternal Life” to those who would obey His command to eat and live what they receive.
I have just returned to my room after being called to the kitchen, because of a little flood around the sink. We could not figure out how it happened and Bob kept coming up with ideas that were proven not possible. While mopping up the final puddle he pronounced that in life there are many mysteries with which we all have to live. Not the first nor last prophetic statement announced in our kitchen.
The difference between a mystery and a problem or puzzle is important. If we would call the plumber we would, for a price, find out what caused the flood. The Eucharist is a problem or puzzle for some, as it was for the Jews with whom Jesus is speaking. We who have heard and believe can stumble and bumble around trying to make some sense, but not even the plumber, no matter how much we would pay him, could satisfy our demanding minds concerning the Eucharist. We in our days eat a Bread our fathers and mothers received and ate without their knowing, but they did believe. We, in these more scientific days of instant information, are invited to the same Table of Faith and Feeding, but we are burdened by the weights of skepticism and fearing the unknown and unknowable.
We are nearing the end of the Year of the Eucharist. We are invited to enter the land of mystery, the mystery of God’s love and God’s ways. We are given our passport and Identification Wafer. When we celebrate the Eucharist, when we participate in the Eucharistic Meal, we are challenged to believe more deeply in Jesus and receive what Jesus is saying about us as individuals and His family. The person in front of you and in back is sent into that new land of faith and into the usual land of living, as you are. When we say “amen” it is a “yes!” to His presence, but to our name, our holiness and our mission. We go in peace to love and serve the Lord Who loves and continues to serve us. The Christ who came to serve and not to be served, continues His mission in our walking out into the mysteries of our flooding kitchens and the flooding world who needs Him, and yes, and my being His Body and Blood.
“The Lord fed his people with finest wheat
and honey; their hunger was satisfied.” Ps.
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