Updated: Jun 14, 2020
The Body and Blood of Christ, Year A
9-12 year olds
(Begin by reading the Gospel. Sometimes it is good to have someone read it to you. The Word is meant to be heard.)
Jesus begins this Sunday with something that every one of the people who gather about him recognize:
I am the living bread that came down from heaven.
Every person gathered knows about the bread that came down from heaven. They all know so well the account of the Exodus--they have heard it since they were very little--about how their ancestors were delivered from slavery in Egypt, sojourned in the desert for 40 years, and finally reached the land that had been promised to them. They know that when their ancestors were hungry and despairing in the wilderness, God sent bread from heaven. They called it manna. Every morning the people would go out to gather the manna, the powdery substance that appeared with the dew, and would make it into their bread for the day. They did this each day until they made their home in the land of Israel and the manna no longer appeared. They lived. They survived. God fed the people with bread until they reached the promised land.
Jesus is reminding the people that what God did then, God does now. God feeds people with bread until they reach the promised land. The manna that gives life, Jesus says, is him.
That is too much for the people. What on earth can Jesus mean?
He gives them a simple equation,
the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.
Bread = flesh = life for the world.
Not so simple. They don't understand. They ask,
“How can this man give us his flesh to eat?”
They have not yet witnessed him feed his people with bread. They have not yet seen him take the Passover bread, bless it, break it, and give it to them. They have not yet heard him say,
“Take; this is my body.” (Mark 14:22)
They have not yet seen his body--the body that he has already given--die on a cross, the very next day. They have not yet witnessed that body live once more, with Life that cannot be conquered by death. Living bread.
So when Jesus says to them,
“Very truly, I tell you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood have eternal life, and I will raise them up on the last day
they don't understand. They don't understand that the gift of his body given at the Last Supper will be repeated over and over each day, every day, all around the world, and once again God will feed the people with Living Bread until they reach the promised land.
They don't understand because they think eating flesh means swallowing meat. But what is Jesus's flesh? What is his body, what is his blood? It is his gift of his life that he freely gives, that he allows to be sacrificed. He says,
Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood have eternal life, and I will raise them up on the last day
Those who eat his flesh--who take the sacrifice of his life into themselves--who make the mission of who he is part of themselves--they will have eternal life. Here is both an invitation and a promise. "You are what you eat," after all. Be one with me, and we will be together forever.
God feeds his people with bread until they reach the promised land.
So what about now, in this time of pandemic, and we have not been able to receive the Living Bread at Mass? Did God stop feeding people with bread until...?
In the first reading, we hear Moses say to the people in the desert,
"He humbled you by letting you hunger, then by feeding you with manna...in order to make you understand that one does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of the LORD."
I wonder if God is letting us hunger again now. I wonder if God could be showing us that manna--Living Bread--is not only found in the Eucharist?
In this time of pandemic, are we not being fed by the Word of God? Have we not found in the Word a source of life, giving us strength, uplifting our spirits, turning our hearts and minds towards God and the promised land?
The manna that gives life, Jesus says, is him.
And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory
Unless we eat the flesh...
unless we consume the Word...
We are invited to make it part of us and become one with him,
until we reach the Promised Land.