Responsorial Psalm, Psalms 34:2-3, 10-11, 12-13, 14-15
Reading 2, Ephesians 5:15-20
Gospel, John 6:51-58
51 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 among themselves, 'How can this man give us his flesh to eat?'
53 Jesus replied to them: In all truth I tell you, if you do not eat the flesh of the Son of man and drink his blood, you have no life in you.
54 Anyone who does eat my flesh and drink my blood has eternal life, and I shall raise that person up on the last day.
55 For my flesh is real food and my blood is real drink.
56 Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood lives in me and I live in that person.
57 As the living Father sent me and I draw life from the Father, so whoever eats me will also draw lifefrom me.
58 This is the bread which has come down from heaven; it is not like the bread our ancestors ate: they are dead, but anyone who eats this bread will live for ever.
Reflection for August 19, 2012 - Jn. 6:51-58 20th Sunday in Ordinary Time: Communion to Eternal Life: God’s Promise and the Goal of the Church
Since the inauguration of Vatican II Council, the Church focuses herself to the ecclesiological vision of communion. She understands herself as a Communion. As a communion, the Church wants to renew her life by going back to the very foundation of her existence – and thus, she goes back again and again to Jesus Christ, her husband. In this way, the Church as our Mother teaches us to do the same. She teaches us to the way of communion according to the primordial zeal and enthusiasm of the first Jerusalem community (Acts 4:32-37). By constantly renewing herself to communion with her husband, the Church becomes constantly committed to her vocation of calling every believer back to Christ. This vocation, this called to live out a life of communion is rooted on the inspiration of the Eucharist; Jesus’ gift of his body and blood, his sacramental presence.
Our initial meditation of the mystery of communion of the Church to Christ becomes an inseparable fruit of the message of today’s Gospel reading. While still on the same Discourse on the Bread of Life, we encounter the insistent and bold promise of Jesus in the gospel. Jesus as the Bread of Life that comes from the Father and gives eternal life is the initial unfolding of the discourse. But in this part of the gospel, we encounter Jesus’ promise to those who receive him in faith: “He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him” (Joh 6:56 RSV). Jesus now reveals himself to be present on those who receive him. There is communion between Jesus and the believer. Contained this promise, viewed against the full background of the discourse, is Jesus’ assurance of eternal life to those who eat his flesh and drink his blood. Thus, being in communion with Jesus is actually in communion with life eternal in Jesus. To receive him means to participate in the communion of eternal life of God and even I dare say, it is our participation to the Trinitarian life.
The Church’s vocation to live out a life of communion, inspired by the Eucharist is rooted ultimately on the promise of the ultimate communion in the life of God. The Church herself is not the end or the goal of communion; it is the means to that ultimate communion promised in today’s gospel. The communion of the Church is a means of remedying the wound that has been caused by sin. We know that God’s plan “was to raise men to a participation of the divine life” (Lumen Gentium, 2); but we equally know that sin broke the integrity of creation, and particularly, that of man. That is why, God had offered his Son be broken also in the sacrifice of the cross, indeed, like a bread being broken to be shared by humanity in order that those who consume in faith the saving “brokenness” of the Son of the Cross will be drawn in unity to Him. Indeed, they will look on him whom they pierced (cf. Zec. 12:10; Jn 19:37); and from which pierced side, blood and water, symbols of the Eucharist and Baptism, flow as a saving bath and drink for those who heed and gathered in faith under His cross. There, the Church is born.
This gaze to the saving death, to the brokenness of the Son on the cross serves the inspiration of the Church continually draw men and women to Christ. She herself will be a sacrament to all for Christ, calling to everybody in repentance and join the community of believers. So, the Church has not been static under the cross. Christ’s resurrection and ascension mandated her to go and proclaim his teachings which ratified by his resurrection from the dead. By doing so, the Church, from the time of resurrection until the parousia, walks and lives out her vocation to communion, calling and drawing men and women of all walks of life. She is a pilgrim Church – a Church that journeys into the fulfillment of Christ’s promise while trying to embodying it along the way.
In the journey, she encounters all kinds of difficulties and temptations of evil ways. But, inspired by Jesus, she struggles to oppose the current. Thus, she is also tired, tensed, stressed and exhausted. At times, her very exhaustion tempts her to quit. But, the very same Jesus, the sacrament of the Eucharist, the gift of the pierced one keeps her strengthened spiritually. This is why, as Christians, we are always invited to eat the flesh of the Lord in the bread of the Eucharist. There, we are being strengthened, refreshed and fortified against the malicious ways of the present age. The Eucharist is our viaticum in this earthly journey; a food that assures our continual communion with Christ despite walking the dark valley. This is the prefiguration of the first reading today. The Eucharist is like the banquet of the personified Wisdom. She always invites us to throw out the life of ignorance and to embrace the life of understanding. (Prov. 9:4-6). In Jesus, the Wisdom of God made flesh, he calls us into the altar of the Eucharist and to share the life of God himself.
Paul’s reminder to the community of Ephesus serves also as a universal reminder also to all of us journeying into our goal. The second reading encourages us to be faithful in the vocation we are called by God into. As a communion of believers journeying to the goal of communion of God’s life, Paul says that it is commendable to avoid the lure of drunkenness in debauchery. He rather calls us to be filled – indeed to be drunk – with God’s Spirit. Through the Eucharist, we are able to eat and drink and assimilate Christ and thus to be Christ-like himself. In doing so, through the Eucharist, the community is “Christified”; transformed into Christ himself. I find it amusing that the second reading has the impression that we should be drunk and intoxicated by Christ so that, along the way, we can avoid the evils of present age. And while walking, we address everyone in singing of psalms and spiritual songs. If one is observant, an intoxicated person sings along the way; Paul tells us too! Let us sing along the way! Augustine has its version. He says, let us sing Alleluia while walking with all our worries. Canta y camina! Sing and walk to eternal life! Sing and walk while enjoying the food for Eternal life! Sing while the promise is nigh! Sing the communion of Christ! Canta y camina!