Sunday, June 26, 2011

Corpus Christi

Today, in the United States, is the feast of Corpus Christi - the Body of Christ. The feast was established by Papal Bull in 1264 by Pope Urban IV to be celebrated on the Thursday after Trinity Sunday. In the United States, it is celebrated on the Sunday following Trinity Sunday. Without surprise, the Gospel reading is from the sixth chapter of the John – in the Bread of Life discourse.

John 6:51-58
Jesus said to the Jewish crowds:
"I am the living bread that came down from heaven;
whoever eats this bread will live forever;
and the bread that I will give
is my flesh for the life of the world."
The Jews quarreled among themselves, saying,
"How can this man give us his flesh to eat?"
Jesus said to them,
"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.
Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood
remains in me and I in him.
Just as the living Father sent me
and I have life because of the Father,
so also the one who feeds on me
will have life because of me.
This is the bread that came down from heaven.
Unlike your ancestors who ate and still died,
whoever eats this bread will live forever."

What does Jesus mean by these words? Is he speaking symbolically? How can He be more clear? He says, “I am the living bread” and ". . . my flesh is true food and my blood is true drink." Three times in chapter six, Jesus says that He is bread and life. Three is the number of perfection and is intimately related to the Trinity.
  1. John 6:35 - Jesus said to them, "I am the bread of life; he who comes to me shall not hunger, and he who believes in me shall never thirst. 
  2. John 6:48 - "I am the bread of life." 
  3. John 6:51 - "I am the living bread which came down from heaven; if any one eats of this bread, he will live forever; and the bread which I shall give for the life of the world is my flesh."

And where does Jesus say He is from? Jesus says that He comes “down from heaven.” Why? Because He wants us to know Who He is and that we are made for heaven. John 6 tells us seven times that Jesus has come "down from heaven".  

  1. John 6:33 - For the bread of God is that which comes down from heaven, and gives life to the world."
  2. John 6:38 - For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will, but the will of him who sent me;
  3. John 6:41 The Jews then murmured at him, because he said, "I am the bread which came down from heaven."
  4. 4.   John 6:42 - They said, "Is not this Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How does he now say, 'I have come down from heaven'?"
  5.  John 6:50 - This is the bread which comes down from heaven, that a man may eat of it and not die.
  6.  John 6:51 I am the living bread which came down from heaven; if any one eats of this bread, he will live forever; and the bread which I shall give for the life of the world is my flesh."
  7. John 6:58 - This is the bread which came down from heaven, not such as the fathers ate and died; he who eats this bread will live forever."
Why seven times?: Because that His Body and Blood is the sign of God's New Covenant with man in Jesus Christ. Once again, God is swearing a covenant oath to give us life if we only believe and receive Him. Three times, John tells us that we must eat His flesh and drink His blood
  1. John 6:53 - So Jesus said to them, "Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of man and drink his blood, you have no life in you;
  2. John 6:54 - he who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day;
  3. John 6:56 - He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him.

Why must we do this? It is how we receive His threefold promise:
  • -      To have life within us
  • -      To be raised up on the last day
  • -      To abide in Him and He in us.

Jesus' clarity is not the only way we know that He means exactly what He says. Later in John 6, when unbelievers walk away, Jesus does not call them back to explain or retract His words. His sign of multiplying the loaves and fishes was not enough for them. He even asks them if they would believe if He ascended back into heaven, but they were hardened of heart. It made no difference to them who He was or where He was from. To them, he was merely the son of a carpenter from Nazareth. He was a miracle worker, but they could not stomach what He said. They could not look beyond what they could see in front of them. They had neither eyes to see nor ears to hear. 

I find it interesting that the verse which says many drew back and no longer went about with Him is John 6:66. Is unbelief the mark of the beast described in the book of Revelation? 666 is the number of the beast – the Father of Lies and Prince of Darkness. Although man was created on the sixth day, he was made for the seventh day – for covenant relationship – because he was created in God’s image and likeness.

When we receive Jesus in the Eucharist properly disposed, we immediately have His Life within us. This life is a communion in which we dwell in Christ and He dwells in us. When we receive Him we also have the promise of resurrection on the last day.

So let us be believers. Let us abide in Him who repeatedly tells us Who He is in John 6. The Son of God gives us His very flesh to eat and blood to drink. Our bodies don't just assimilate Him. He doesn't become us. Instead, we become what we eat – the Body of Christ so that we may be Christ for others. 

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