The Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ [A]
Deut 8:2-3,14-16 + 1 Cor 10:16-17 + John 6:51-58
June 18, 2017
“‘… unless you eat the Flesh of the Son of Man and drink His Blood, you do not have life within you.’”
There is a certain fittingness or aptness to God redeeming mankind through the Incarnation and death of God the Son. St. Paul points out to the Romans that “just as through the disobedience of one man the many were made sinners, so through the obedience of one man the many will be made righteous” [Romans 5:19]. God is, if you will, into fittingness, aptness, and order, so it’s no surprise that the Father redeemed mankind by the death of His Son made Flesh, rather than by, say, metaphorically snapping His fingers. But He wasn’t limited to redeeming mankind by the death of the Son of God. The Father could have used any means He wished to redeem mankind.
But the Most Holy Sacrament of the Eucharist reveals to us another reason why the Father chose the death of Jesus as the means of man’s redemption. This reason is the most loving reason possible, though at first glance it might not appear so. Being human, you may recoil from God loving you this much. God chose the death of Jesus as the means of man’s redemption so that you in turn could enter fully into the saving mysteries of Christ.
By way of contrast, imagine that God had chosen to purchase man’s salvation at a different price. Imagine that God had set the price of mankind’s salvation at ten billion galaxies. Or imagine that God had metaphorically snapped His fingers to release mankind from the bonds of sin and death. Where would that leave you? It would leave you free. It would leave you redeemed. But it would not leave you with the ability to imitate your merciful Father. It would leave you as the adopted child of a God into whose likeness you could not grow.
After all, can you offer ten billion galaxies to God? Can you destroy death with the snap of your fingers? You cannot, because those actions are beyond the capacity of human persons. But every human being can die.
Death—or more specifically, dying to oneself—is our means of entrance into the saving mysteries of Christ. What could be simpler? This is why at Holy Mass we profess the mystery of faith by chanting: “When we eat this Bread and drink this Cup, we proclaim your Death, O Lord, until you come again.” This is why Jesus, at His Last Supper, willed to institute the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass as the way to Calvary. There at Mass, worthily accepting the Body and Blood of the Lord, we gain the strength to die to our selves: that is, our fallen selves, so as to discover our true selves.
This is not easy to do. It may be simple, but it’s not easy. Those who work in health care have perhaps seen a person on his death bed who dies not from his disease, but from exhaustion: who expends all his energy not in living his life, but in struggling against inevitable death. In our moral and spiritual life, sin is part of a similar struggle. We don’t want to die.
This is one reason why Holy Mother Church compels each of her children to participate in Holy Mass every Sunday and Holy Day of Obligation. By faithfully receiving the Body and Blood of Our Lord Jesus Christ, we receive Jesus’ life, which gives us the strength to die. This strength helps us accept death as a means to life, or in the words of the Prayer of St. Francis, to believe truly that it is in “dying that we are born to eternal life.”