Dt 8, 2-3, 14-16 Ps 147, 12-13; 14-15; 19-20 1 Cor 10, 16-17 Jn 6, 51-58
MOSES URGES the Israelites: “Remember, the Lord, your God.” Their memorial is meant to keep them mindful of God's specific saving acts. Moses responds to the all-too-human inclination to forget the Lord, to overlook His redemptive works in our life, to neglect His offer of mercy and disregard God altogether.
That we, too, might remain mindful, Jesus gives us the great memorial of the Eucharist. And just as God guided the Israelites in the desert, so He guides our memory as we make our way to Him in the Eucharist. He does this in three ways:
The Eucharist responds to the human experience of hunger. God allowed the Israelites to “be a afflicted with hunger” in their desert wandering. But He does so in order to feed them Himself, with the miraculous food of manna, and to persuade them that “man does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord.” That is to say, thanks to divine Providence, the experience of hunger leads us back to God.
Hunger makes us cherish what really matters most in life— the Word of God. It rekindles our commitment to rely on God to provide what we need to make it through our own vast and terrible deserts, our own struggles with slavery. Hunger reminds us that the craving of our bodies is satisfied only by the human body of Jesus—the Word that proceeds from His mouth, offering us His flesh as food: “He who feeds on my flesh &hellips; has life eternal.”
Hunger, then, tests our intention to keep God's commandments, which is the surest sign of our love for Jesus (Jn 14, 21). Hunger makes us “true to his Word” (Jn 14, 22) as we accept the Eucharist—not as mere bread—but as “the best of wheat” filled with God's promise: “Anyone who eats this bread shall live forever.” The Eucharist satisfies hunger with the sustenance of hope.
At the same time, the Eucharist recalls how God glories in doing the impossible. The crowd quarrels: “How can He give us His flesh to eat?” But as we live by faith, we experience how the efficacy of the Eucharist transforms contradiction into grace-filled affirmation. Our sharing in the Body of Christ radically changes the way we look at things. Just as every occasion at table reminds us of our sharing in the Body and Blood of Christ, so, too, does every encounter in life prompt us to see the real presence of Jesus, who is at work in our midst as “the life of the world.”
And the Eucharist reminds us how we are to regard ourselves. Jesus gives us His flesh and blood as real food and drink, so that we might become His Body. In Communion, Jesus promises to remain in us and we in Him. We are to look beyond the flaws and defects of our human bodies to discover within us the love of Jesus who transforms us into Himself.
Father Peter John Cameron, who teaches homiletics at St. Joseph's Seminary in Yonkers, N.Y., is a Register contributing editor.