20th Sunday In Ordinary Time

     Since school is back in session, let’s start with a quick quiz. Which of the following expresses our belief in the Eucharist? A. When we receive the Eucharist we receive the spiritual presence of Christ.[1] B. The Eucharist is the essential, tangible way through which God works.[2] Or C. The Eucharist is the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Jesus Christ.[3] Well if you answered A, you are a Lutheran, if you answered B you are a Methodist and if you answered C you are Catholic. If you answered A or B you are not alone. Sadly, a recent survey showed that 45% of Catholics do not know the answer to this basic question.[4] Perhaps then today is a good day for us to head the advice of St. Paul in today’s second reading when He told us not to continue in ignorance.

     Friends, the only logical conclusion after hearing today’s Gospel is to recognize that the Eucharist is truly what Jesus says it is; His Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity. In today’s Gospel we hear Jesus say that He is the bread come down from heaven. We hear Him say that His flesh is the bread that gives life. Jesus was clear that if we want to have eternal life we must eat His flesh. He didn’t say we had to eat something that resembled His flesh and blood, no He said we must eat His flesh and drink his blood. In fact when the Jews quarreled among themselves Jesus doubled down on his statement that we must eat His flesh and drink His blood. If he was only speaking figuratively don’t you think He would have tried to clear up the confusion? The only logical explanation then is that Jesus means what He says.

     This statement that we must eat Jesus’ flesh and drink His blood would have seemed absurd to the Jewish people of Jesus’ time. The Old Testament strictly forbade the consuming of blood[5] because life was contained in the blood. The Old Testament is clear, anyone who consumed blood should be cut off from the Jewish people.[6] Jesus is thus leading us from the Old Covenant to the New Covenant. In the Old Covenant God fed his people with manna as they wandered from slavery in Egypt through the desert to freedom in the Promised Land. But now in the New Covenant Jesus feeds us with His own Body, and Blood through His Real Presence in the Eucharist as we wander through the desert of this world from sin to eternal life.

      The belief that Jesus truly offers us His Body and Blood in the Eucharist may seem crazy, but if we take Jesus at His word and believe the Bible to be true we have no other option than to believe that the Eucharist is more than just a symbol or remembrance. While the idea of changing something from one thing to another may seem odd, it’s not unprecedented in the Bible. For God changed the water of the Nile River into blood and water into wine at the wedding feast of Cana. If He can do that, He certainly can change bread and wine into His own Body and Blood.

     Certainly all of us want to have a closer relationship with Jesus. Well, He’s right here waiting for us to receive Him into our very bodies. We will literally become one with Him. So then come and as the Psalmist reminds us today, Taste and see the Goodness of the Lord and when you return to your pew offer those deepest prayers from the silence of your heart to Him who now dwells inside you. For it is in those few moments after Communion, that if we truly take Jesus at His word believe the Eucharist is His Body and Blood, Jesus literally dwells inside of us.

     Friends, in today’s Gospel we find Jesus standing is ground when He says that we must eat His Flesh and Drink His Blood despite opposition from those around Him. We hear how the people continue to argue that He can’t be serious, but with each escalation in the protest, Jesus escalates His response. So then in just a few moments when you come forward to receive Communion the priest will say “the Body of Christ” and you will reply “Amen” meaning I believe. Are you serious when you say Amen or are you like those in the Gospel who want to push against Christ?


[1] Lutheran Church Missouri Synod, Frequently asked Questions, Pg 2. Accessible at file:///C:/Users/peter/Downloads/The%20Lords%20Supper-Holy%20Communion.pdf

[2] The General Conference of the United Methodist Church, This Holy Mystery: A United Methodist Understanding of Holy Communion. Pg 13. Accessible at http://s3.amazonaws.com/Website_Properties/what-we-believe/documents/this-holy-mystery-communion.PDF

[3] Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2nd ed. (Washington, DC: United States Catholic Conference, 2000), § 1374.

[4] Pew Research Center. Who Knows What About Religion September 28, 2010 accessible at http://www.pewforum.org/2010/09/28/u-s-religious-knowledge-survey-who-knows-what-about-religion/

[5] Lev 3:17

[6] Lev 17:10 – 14

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