Solemnity of the Body and Blood of Christ
June 11, 2023 — Year A
Readings: Dt 8:2-3, 14b-16a / Ps 147 / 1 Cor 10:16-17 / Jn 6:51-58
by Rev. Mr. Barry Welch, Guest Homilist
I believe. Help my unbelief.
You heard all the talk and all the witnesses about this amazing man from Nazareth. Their healings, teachings with wisdom and authority. I’ve even heard He’s performed miracles. He’s going to be in the area for a big talk. Lots of folks plan to go there and hear Him, to see Him. I’ve got to see this. Could He be the one?
I get there and wow, there are a ton of people, hundreds, maybe thousands. What a great day. His words, so inspiring, so deep and meaningful. It gets late. Everybody is hungry. He’s praying over a small basket of bread, and now they’re beginning to share it down front. That’s not going to last long. It’ll all be gone soon. My belly growls. They’re still passing around and there are baskets now. And the folks, they seem to all be getting plenty. Finally, the basket gets to me and it’s full, completely full of fresh bread and it smells amazing. I can’t believe it.
Where did Jesus go? He disappeared somewhere. Nobody’s sure where He went. I really would like to see Him again. I think we’re going to head into town, into Capernaum. I hear He’s been hanging out a lot there. Maybe He’ll be there, maybe I’ll see Him again.
There He is. I found Him, and He’s talking again. I can’t wait to hear what He’s saying now, and it’d be great if I got some more of that bread.
You’re here for more food, more bread. Not because of My signs. You need food that endures for eternal life. Not manna like Moses, but true bread from Heaven. I am the bread of life. Come to Me, and you will never die.
All I’ve got to do is come to Jesus. All I’ve got to do is follow Him and He’ll feed me bread all that I want. That bread was the best, oh boy. Whoever believes has eternal life. I am the bread of life. Your ancestors had manna but died. This bread you eat and do not die. I am the living bread, the bread I give is My flesh for the life of the world.
Wait a minute. What did He just say? That’s weird. Did He say flesh? That’s right, that’s what I just said. Amen, amen I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you do not have life within you. Whoever eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life and I will raise him on the last day. For My flesh is true food and My blood is true drink.
OK, I’m not sure about this. I don’t think I like where this is going. It’s really getting disturbing. I can tell you’re not understanding; you’re not getting it. I’m talking about eating My flesh. Gnawing. Chewing. Really, truly eating My flesh. Then I will remain in you. If you feed on My flesh, you will have life. This is the bread of life. Whoever eats this bread will not die.
All right, guys, it doesn’t look like we’re getting any real food here. Let’s pack it up. Grab your stuff, we’re getting out of here. I think we ought to get into town before the crowd comes. Everyone is leaving.
What would you have done? If you were there, what would you have done? Better question is what will you do now? Will you walk away and put some distance between you and Jesus and this hard teaching, spiritually and physically? Or will you believe and follow?
My friends, my dear friends, when the priest in the person of Christ calls upon the Holy Spirit during the liturgy of the Eucharist, the Epiclesis, when you see him put both his hands over the gifts and the Deacon drop to his knees behind the altar, it’s a spiritual sonic boom. The fabric of space and time is shattered, and Jesus Christ Himself entirely body and blood, soul and divinity, becomes substantially present in the bread. He said it Himself, folks. What God says, becomes.
In this bread of life discourse which is only a part of Chapter 6 of John, Jesus refers to Himself as bread eleven times. He says to eat and then later escalates that to the word for gnaw on his flesh seven times. He says to drink His blood four times. It’s frank, it’s repetitive, it’s urgent, and it is insistent. Jesus is not messing around; He’s not mincing words. He really, truly, really, really means it.
And get this, He doesn’t go chasing after the crowd who’s leaving and say, wait, everybody. I didn’t really mean it. I meant to say eating is like eating my flesh, that eating the bread and drinking the blood is like. He didn’t say it’s a metaphor or it’s another one of My parables.
They went, and there He was, remaining with just the few. And did He say to them, it’s a shame they’re all leaving, guys? Because I was just kidding. No, He did not say that. He says, so are you leaving too? Are you going to leave too, because I’m not changing anything I said.
Where are we to go? For You have the words of everlasting life, was their answer. What is our answer? What is our prayer? Our prayer is, I believe that You, Jesus Christ, our God, omnipotent and all powerful. And for you, nothing is impossible. Jesus, if You can take the waters of that baptismal font on this young baby, or on me as a 41-year old adult and wash away my sins completely, then by God, You can become fully, substantially present in the Eucharist.
For our salvation. For eternal life. I wasn’t there when the thousands were fed. But I’m here now and You’re here now. I believe. Help my unbelief.