Reflecting on the Gospel of John (6:51-58) for this Corpus Christi Sunday, what struck me forcibly was the word ‘life’ and ‘living’. In the Gospel this word appears 11 times. The opening line contains it:

I am the living bread which has come down from Heaven.

And the last line contains it:

anyone who eats this bread will live forever


In his encyclical letter Ecclesia de Eucharistia, Bl Pope John Paul II takes up this theme of life:

The Church draws her life from the Eucharist


and again:

Proclaiming the death of the Lord ‘until he comes’ entails that all who take part in the Eucharist be committed to changing their lives and making them in a certain way completely ‘ Eucharistic’

.

Each day and every day we are privileged to receive this ‘living bread’. I ask myself am I truly and consciously aware of the ‘life’ that should be growing in me, that should be changing me?

If I am receiving this ‘life’ what growth is taking place in me? These questions have challenged me over the last couple weeks.

Jesus himself encourages us to draw life from Him in this Gospel:

As I, who am sent by the living Father, myself draw life from the Father,so whoever eats me will draw life from me

And to quote Bl Pope John Paul II again:

From this living bread the Church draws her nourishment (7)

When referring to ‘life’ I have to keep reminding myself that it is supernatural life we are speaking of – the life of grace and not natural physical life.

St. Thomas distinguishes and compares these two types of ‘life’ – the life of the body and the life of the spirit in his treatise on the effects of the Eucharist when he says:

Our spiritual life is sustained, built up, restored and contented by the Eucharist in the same way that the physical body is nourished by food.

He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood lives in me and I live in him.

People have different views about what ‘life’ and really ‘living’ mean. In the secular world it might include having a good time, having plenty of money, taking regular holidays abroad, having a great variety of entertainment. If only people would give as much attention to their spiritual needs as they do to all their other needs I’m sure they would be happier. Today there is this great lack, imbalance and disorder in people’s lives. We need to reclaim the great truth of the Eucharist as Bl Pope John Paul II expressed so well:

The Eucharist, as Christ’s saving presence in the community of the faithful and its spiritual food, is the most precious possession which the Church can have in her journey through history.(9)

and :

The Eucharist is the gift par excellence, for it is the gift of Himself, of His Person in his sacred humanity, as well as the gift of his saving work.(11)

and:

Truly, in the Eucharist, Jesus shows us a love which goes “to the end” – a Love which knows no measure.(11)

Realizing all this and living out of it and from it is true life. Again St. Thomas reminds us:

How precious and wonderful is this banquet, which brings us salvation and is full of all delight!

No sacrament contributes more to our salvation than this; for it purges away our sins, increases our virtues, and nourishes our minds with an abundance of all the spiritual gifts. (Pg. 31, V.III)

There exists a union between God and people which is thoroughly real and continuous, a union in which Christians share in the life of God, who is the Father’s giving of himself.

We are offered so much of this true life in the Eucharist for Jesus Himself has said elsewhere:

I am the Way the Truth and the Life.

The only way I can gauge that this life is growing in me is if the fruits of the spirit are evident in my life – I ask myself am I growing in love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, trustfulness, gentleness and self-control? (Gal 5:22) Receiving the Eucharist daily I have really no excuse not to.

And so we pray in the second opening prayer of the Mass for this feast of Corpus Christi:


Lord Jesus Christ,
we worship you living among us
in the sacrament of your body and blood.

May we offer to our Father in heaven
a solemn pledge of undivided love.
May we offer to our brothers and sisters
a life poured out in loving service of that Kingdom
where you live with the Father and the Holy Spirit,
one God for ever and ever. Amen.