June 15, 2017
Recently, we celebrated the Feast of the Most Holy Trinity, and we said that to understand this mystery we could only use the language of love: “God so loved the world that He gave His Son…” (Jn 3:16).
The Solemnity of Corpus Christi makes us take one step further, and it tells us something about how God loves, about the way that God chose to so love the world. And it tells us that this “how” passes through His Body.
Chapter 6 of the Gospel of John, from which is taken the reading that we hear today, recounts the great discourse of Jesus in the synagogue in Kfar Nahum: after multiplying the bread (Jn 6:1-15), after crossing the lake during the tempest (Jn 6:16-21), Jesus stops and explains the miracle of the loaves. And He says that the only bread capable of nourishing and giving life can only be His Body, and that the only way to access the love of God is to pass through His Body.
In this Body, Jesus poured out – St. Paul would say He “emptied” Himself within (cf. Phil 2) – the entire life of God, all the love with which God loves, all His feelings, His thoughts. The Body of a man is filled with the life of God. On this Body descended and remained the Holy Spirit Who filled it from within.
It is with this Body that Jesus loved those whom He met, those He approached, those He looked at and saw, He felt compassion for them, those He touched and allowed to touch; He allowed to perfume. He laid hands on, He caressed, He listened, He spoke. He felt hunger and thirst, tiredness and fear, He shared the way, He sat at table, He tried tenderness and anger. He prayed to the Father. This Body healed and saved, wherever it went.
At the Last Supper with His friends, Jesus made this Body the sign of His definitive presence among us, He gave it and made this eternal gift through a memorial: this Body remains in the Eucharist always. This Body, on the cross, has been taken and broken.
Now Jesus says that whoever feeds on this Body – the evangelist used the term “flesh” to say the same thing – will live forever: “I am the bread, come down from heaven. If anyone eats this bread, he will live forever and the bread that I will give is my flesh for the life of the world” (Jn 6:51).
That is, whoever feeds on this life, given completely, takes on itself a new life that silently transforms it from within. And, in turn, enables one to live the Body as a gift, offered in order to enter into communion with other bodies, with other lives. It enables one to live the body as Eucharist, because our body is the great sacrament by which each one is priest, on which he is called to repeat the words: “Take and eat, this is my body”.
We heard that, faced with this Word, someone is scandalized: “Then the Jews began to discuss among themselves: “How can He give us his flesh to eat?” (Jn 6:51). Faced with this way of life, we, too, may be offended; a way in which the body is given as food so that the other may live. Yet there is no communion and there is no love – and so there is no life – if not through a body given.
The alternative is a body held tightly, closed in on itself, a prisoner of one’s need to survive, to be made a prisoner of fear by oneself. A body, lived as such, is only dedicated to death and loneliness.
God, on the other hand, “invents” the possibility of having a Body to create a communion with us: He become man, and makes Himself bread.
He gives man the opportunity to live in his own body the same Eucharistic dynamic of self-giving, gratitude, communion, so that all may be involved in love, and then return all to the Father.