Friday, April 23, 2010

The Eucharist: C.O.O.L.

DC 'Hood vs. St. Jude's, tonight, 7:30 pm, Academy of the Holy Cross gym, Garrett Park. Go 'Hood!!

This is one of my favorite times in the Church year. It is during these Easter days every year that we hear John 6 in its incredible entirety over several daily Masses. It is the best! John 6 is the Bread of Life discourse, where Jesus teaches about the Eucharist. I have written a pamphlet about the Eucharist which is at the Newman Center: "The Eucharist: C.O.O.L." (center of our lives). The following are excerpts from "C.O.O.L.":

"You’ve seen the crowds grow larger by the day, following one man. You’ve seen him heal the blind, the deaf, and the mute. You’ve seen him cure the sick. You’ve heard his great teachings. You’ve seen him walk on water. All of the signs are there: Jesus of Nazareth is the one to follow. You’ve been sure for weeks now. Your heart is pumping. You’re talking about him with everyone. You have been reading the Scriptures more frequently, reviewing what Isaiah and the other prophets wrote about the Messiah.

You haven’t talked with Jesus yet, but you feel a connection there. The words he uses, the way he speaks, the manner in which he conducts himself… he has such a powerful way about him. But, you haven’t been able to put your finger on it just yet. You just know you want to be near him, and learn from him. He is different, a man set apart from the rest. This man has stirred your heart and mind like no other person has ever done.

And, now, he is introducing a brand new teaching. 'The bread that I will give is my flesh for the life of the world' (John 6:51). He is telling everyone that the bread to which he is referring is his flesh. While you begin to process this, those around you quarrel. People are outraged, but are mainly confused. So, Jesus gets more specific and emphatic. 'Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life… My flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink' (53, 55). Whoa! Jesus of Nazareth wants to give his flesh and blood as food and drink.

This realization spreads through the crowd. It is such a large gathering, and it takes a while for everyone to hear what’s been said. Slowly, people start to leave. 'This is a hard teaching…who can accept it?' (60) is what you hear some of them say as they turn away from Jesus. And, you agree, this is a hard teaching. But, you haven’t moved, and aren’t planning on leaving just yet.

You look over at Jesus’ closest disciples. You notice a very perplexed Peter. Jesus asks them if they are leaving, too. Peter says, with probably a very dazed and confused look, 'Lord, where are we going to go? You have the words of eternal life' (68). When you hear these words come from Peter’s lips, your heart skips a beat. You are thinking, ‘Has Jesus just been speaking the words of eternal life? Is this, in fact, a message from heaven? Could this be true? Is he really going to give us his flesh to eat? And, will it get us to heaven? Is this the newest, most radical teaching from God? Do I believe what I am hearing?’ ...

The Eucharist is the flesh and blood of Jesus Christ. Through the eyes of faith, we see Jesus under the signs of bread and wine. It might look like bread and taste like bread, but it isn’t bread. Jesus says at the Last Supper, 'this is my body' (Mt 26:26). He commands the apostles to 'take this, all of you, and eat it' (Mt 26:26). He not only gives his body and blood to his first priests for them to eat and drink, he commands them to 'do this in memory of me' (Mt 26:26). Today, Catholic priests continue to live out this command every time they celebrate the Eucharist (Mass).

The Jews were right about two things with regards to the Eucharist (Bread of life discourse, John 6). They were right to take Jesus literally and that this is a hard teaching.It takes faith to believe in the Real Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist even though it seems like foolishness. For those who believe, it is like finding a great treasure (see Mt 13:44). The sweet taste of this treasure is the taste of heaven on earth: 'whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life' (Jn 6:54)."

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