Sunday, June 3, 2018

You Are What You Eat: A Sunday Rumination

     Today Catholics celebrate the Feast of Corpus Christi: The Body and Blood of Christ. These are gifts He gave us at the Last Supper, in fulfillment of the promise He made to His followers:

     Amen, amen I say unto you: He that believeth in me, hath everlasting life. I am the bread of life. Your fathers did eat manna in the desert, and are dead. This is the bread which cometh down from heaven; that if any man eat of it, he may not die. I am the living bread which came down from heaven. If any man eat of this bread, he shall live for ever; and the bread that I will give, is my flesh, for the life of the world.
     The Jews therefore strove among themselves, saying: How can this man give us his flesh to eat? Then Jesus said to them: Amen, amen I say unto you: Except you eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink his blood, you shall not have life in you. He that eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, hath everlasting life: and I will raise him up in the last day. For my flesh is meat indeed: and my blood is drink indeed. He that eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, abideth in me, and I in him. As the living Father hath sent me, and I live by the Father; so he that eateth me, the same also shall live by me. This is the bread that came down from heaven. Not as your fathers did eat manna, and are dead. He that eateth this bread, shall live for ever. These things he said, teaching in the synagogue, in Capharnaum.

     [The Gospel According to John, 6:47-60]

     There are several ways to interpret this passage. The literal one fails on two counts. First, the body and blood of Jesus of Nazareth, living or dead, were not consumed by anyone, but rather were transported out of this realm and into heaven at His Ascension. Second, stipulated that the consecration of the Eucharist does transubstantiate the host into Christ’s flesh, the bodies of those who partake of it nevertheless die ordinary fleshly deaths. So the literal interpretation can’t be correct.

     But the interpretation founded on the story of the Last Supper:

     And whilst they were eating, Jesus took bread; and blessing, broke, and gave to them, and said: Take ye. This is my body. And having taken the chalice, giving thanks, he gave it to them. And they all drank of it. And he said to them: This is my blood of the new testament, which shall be shed for many. Amen I say to you, that I will drink no more of the fruit of the vine, until that day when I shall drink it new in the kingdom of God.

     [The Gospel According to Mark, 14:22-26]

     ...makes metaphorical sense. The host, once transubstantiated by an ordained priest, provides the sustenance – the fuel, if you will – that makes it possible for a soul to rise to eternal life in heaven.

     For Catholics, “you are what you eat” reaches its fullest meaning in the Eucharist.

     For some years now I’ve reposted this essay, which first appeared at Eternity Road in May 2005, on Corpus Christi Sunday. I won’t be doing that today. It’s a good piece, but my Gentle Readers can always surf to it if they so desire.

     For today I have a different angle, foreshadowed by the previous segment. We who believe want to become ever closer to God, particularly in His Second Person. We pursue that goal through prayer and the sacraments, most particularly the Eucharist. We who remain under the veil of time have no way to approach Divinity more closely than we do through the Eucharist.

     Yet while we live we remain frail, fallible, and temptable. In other words, we remain sinners, at least potentially so. We are surrounded by temptations to abuse one another, or to disparage God and faith in His goodness. The Eucharist strengthens us against those temptations. Its protection isn’t impenetrable – how could it be, given the freedom of our wills? — and it doesn’t last terribly long. Like a vaccination for tetanus, regular renewal is recommended.

     But it costs nothing. It asks only acceptance – the acceptance that it truly is the body of Christ, not in form but in substance, and that through it one is put briefly into communion with Him – and sincere gratitude for the gift. If those conditions are met, it provides and sustains spiritual strength, just as a proper diet provides and sustains physical strength.

     The body demands that one regularly eat temporal meals for sustenance. It uses that sustenance to build new flesh and blood. Similarly, the soul demands renewed sustenance from the Eucharist. It takes that sustenance and builds new spiritual muscle with which to face the cares and trials every Christian must know.

     You are what you eat: body and soul.

     May God bless and keep you all.

1 comment:

Adrienne said...

Very nicely said, Fran.