I just love this time of year, when we have wonderful solemn feast days week after week!  Today we celebrate the Body and Blood of Christ, present to us in the Holy Eucharist. 

I love this feast day because it gives us an occasion to really think about and remember one of the most important and distinguished doctrines of our faith: that the Body and Blood of Christ are truly present in the Eucharist.  It is no merely “symbolic” presence, as our deacon reminded us in his homily.  It is a mysterious but very real presence.  And it imparts God’s own eternal life to us.

At the beginning of Mass, we sang one of my all-time favorite hymns, “Jesus, My Lord, My God, My All,” which is a prayer by Fr. Frederick William Faber.  I love this hymn not only for its beauty but for the way it closely and clearly identifies the Blessed Sacrament with Christ.  For the way it preaches Truth to us.

Our deacon also talked about the translation of today’s Gospel reading from John chapter 6, specifically about the words the Lord uses when he tells the people they must eat His flesh.  Where most translations just use the verb “to eat,” in the original languages, two different words are used: one that means “to eat,” and another, stronger word that means “to gnaw upon.”  Jesus uses the latter a number of times, very emphatically.  It made many disciples turn away–and Jesus did not stop them.  If they could not accept that teaching, then it was best for them to go.  So much for Jesus’s teaching being merely symbolic.

I don’t think it is coincidental that the texture of Communion Hosts does tend to require a bit of gnawing.  It is not like eating normal bread.  You really have to chew on it.  This may sound silly, but for me the act of chewing up the Host is very meaningful.  It’s the Body of our Lord (and with it, His Blood, Soul, and Divinity)–and He lets us chew it up!  When you think about it, that is really something special… and very strange.  At the same time, it makes simple and perfect sense.  We have to eat in order to stay physically healthy and alive.  Why wouldn’t God also use eating as a way to stay spiritually healthy and alive as well?  Eating is something we know and love and comprehend.  God simply decided to build upon that.  I think it’s sheer genius!

The difficult part is not to mistake the Bread of Life for just another piece of bread, nor to mistake the Precious Blood that washes away the sins of the world for a little nip of wine.  It is a different nourishment altogether that we receive at Holy Mass.  An even more essential nourishment.  The nourishment of our Lord and Savior Himself, who enters into a most sacred and intimate union with us, filling us with divine love and eternal life.

May we remember this every day of the year!