How can this man give us his flesh to eat?
In today’s gospel, Jesus commands us to eat his body and drink his blood. He tells us that his flesh is true food and his blood is true drink. This seems to be such a strange teaching. We often ask, as those in the gospel did, “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?” Perhaps a better question to consider first is, “Why would Jesus give us his flesh to eat?” Jesus tells us in the gospel that he wants to “remain” in us and wants us to “remain” in him. Jesus wants to be as close to us as possible! It is important to remember that we are not purely spiritual beings, but rather we are body and soul. We experience the world through our bodies as part of who we are. If Jesus wants to remain with us, he can’t do this in some purely spiritual and abstract way. Rather he remains with us in a way that is tangible to our body and our soul. If Jesus wants to be as close to us as possible, what could be closer than the very food we eat that becomes part of us?
This is why Jesus gives us his flesh to eat, but the question “how?” remains a difficult one. It is indeed a mystery, yet we need some language to talk about it. The Church has found use in the philosophical term “transubstantiation.” Simply put, it means that the appearances of bread and wine, the “accidents”, remain but the thing itself, the “substance”, is changed into the body and blood of Christ. If that helps…great, but you don’t have to be a philosopher to understand the Eucharist. Before the consecration we have normal bread and wine on the altar. When the priest in the name of Jesus says “This is my body” and “This is my blood” we now have the body and blood of Christ really present. Only the appearances of bread and wine remain. It is a great mystery, but ultimately we believe it because Jesus said it and we trust him. He loves us so much that he wants to be as close to us possible, even becoming our very food. Blessed be Jesus in the Most Holy Sacrament of the altar.