Msgr Marucci's Weekly Message

FROM THE PASTOR’S DESK -   Corpus Christi

A young boy woke in the middle the night only to discover the smell of smoke in his house.  Remembering everything that his parents taught him, he headed for the escape route, which was unfortunately blocked by the fire.  He ran up the steps to an empty room and began to call for his father. The smoke was heavy, black, and billowing in the sky.  At one point he heard his father shout, “Jump Son, Jump.”  The boy exclaimed, “I can’t Daddy, I can not see you.”  Immediately the father responded, “But I can see you, and that makes all the difference, for I will catch you.”  The boy closed his eyes and jumped safely into the arms of his loving Father.

AS I reflected on this week’s Gospel, I could not help but think of this story.  A number of years ago, Archbishop Oscar Romero stated, “Faith is what a child has when its father puts out his hands and says ‘Jump!’ and the child leaps into space with the assurance that its father’s hands won’t let it fall. (from The Violence of Love, Plough Publishing, Farmington, PA.: 1968).  Today’s Gospel indicates that a similar faith is essential for all who dare to believe, especially for those in the ancient world.  We can only imagine what a leap of faith it must have been for the followers of His day to believe in the gift of Jesus as living bread.  It moves beyond their concept of rational and requires them to take that great leap of faith.  If you read beyond the verses of today’s Gospel, you will recognize how difficult this teaching must have been, for the evangelist tells us, “As a result of this, many of his disciples returned to their former way of life and no longer accompanied him” (John 6:66).  Putting it simply, they understood that Jesus was offering himself as Real food, but they could not accept what their minds did not comprehend. 

I believe that their difficulty to understand this teaching emerged partly from their Jewish beliefs.  To eat another’s flesh was a Semitic figure of speech for a hostile action (See Ps 27:2).  To drink blood was simply repugnant, and forbidden by law (Gen 9:4; Lev. 3:17).  Of course, 2000 years later we have the benefit of doctrine and advanced theological interpretation, most especially surrounding our beliefs and teaching related to Eucharistic theology. However, note that the Eucharistic event itself is not mentioned because at the time of John’s writing, it was so well known that it was taken for granted.  In this story, St. John intends to recall the manner in which Christ began to prepare people for this stupendous event: “I myself am the living bread come down from heaven.  If anyone eats this bread he shall live forever.”  Jesus attempted to prepare them for the momentous significance the Eucharist would later assume in the light of His death and resurrection.

In addition, the ritual surrounding ancient animal sacrifice heavily influenced those who heard Jesus’ teaching of being this living bread.  We recall that offering an animal as sacrifice to the gods was significant in their ritual worship of Jesus’ day.   The animal was very seldom burned entirely.  Usually only a token part was burned on the altar, although the whole animal was offered to the god.  Part of the flesh was given to the priests as their perquisite; and part to the worshipper to make a feast for himself and his friends within the temple precincts.  At that feast the god himself was held to be a guest.  Once the flesh had been offered to the god, it was held that he had entered into it; and therefore when the worshipper ate it he was literally eating the god.  When people rose from such a feast they went out, as they believed, literally god-filled. 

As we read St. John’s Gospel today, we can clearly understand its message, for we all accept the meaning of the Eucharist.  We can now look back and see how Christ prepared the way for this stupendous, overwhelming event of the Eucharistic celebration.  We can understand that we too become God-filled when we consume the Eucharist.  We can now see clearly the truth and richness of Christ’s blunt words here.  We have no need to misunderstand. But the fact remains; sometimes we are not drastically different than some of those early disciples who returned home to their former way of life, because they could not comprehend His teaching.  Today, if we dare to receive Christ in the Eucharist…we become what we eat. 

To receive the Eucharist, without surrendering your life, and choosing to live harmoniously with him, is one of the greatest violations of religious practice.  We often hear children make a tongue in cheek remark when they say, “You are what you eat.”  To be honest, the children are quite right.  For us today, the instruction by Jesus to “Eat his body, and Drink His blood,” means to stop thinking of Jesus as a subject for theological debate.  We are required to take him into ourselves, and to let him abide in us.  We are subsequently transformed to be his hands, eyes, feet, and heart into this world. As St. Teresa of Avila said: “Christ has no body now but yours, no hands but yours, no feet but yours.  You are the eyes through which Christ’s compassion looks out on the world.”  

Finally, please excuse us for not holding the Corpus Christi Procession this year.  Since the Feast also fell on Father’s Day, we did not want to separate loved ones from their Dads on Father’s Day.  So Dad….enjoy your special day….may you be Christ to your wives and children, and may they always reflect Christ’s love back to you.  Happy Father’s Day.  

With a loving and grateful heart,
 Msgr. Marucci