21st sunday in ordinary time
22nd August 2021
Year B – Psalter week 1
Prior to the celebration of the Assumption last weekend, we had been journeying through the bread of life discourse in the sixth chapter of John’s gospel. Today’s gospel passage only really makes sense following on from what would have been the gospel last weekend, where Jesus’ words concerning himself in the Eucharist become too much for many: “I tell you most solemnly, if you do not eat the flesh of the Son of man and drink his blood, you will not have life in you. Anyone who does eat my flesh and drink my blood has eternal life, and I shall raise him up on the last day. For my flesh is real food and my blood is real drink. He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood lives in me and I live in him.” In today’s gospel, which follows on from these words, we hear how, ‘After hearing his doctrine many of the followers of Jesus said, “This is intolerable language. How could anyone accept it?” … After this, many of his disciples left him and stopped going with him.’
When we receive Holy Communion, the Church teaches that we receive the Risen Jesus fully; body, blood, soul and divinity. When the Lord spoke of his flesh being real food and his blood being real drink, many of his followers thought that he was talking of cannibalism. On this point, the Ignatius Catholic Study Bible has a helpful explanation: ‘The crowd is thinking of cannibalism, i.e., the sin of eating a human corpse, an idea thoroughly repugnant to them (Deut 28:53). This is a misunderstanding. Jesus gives us, not his mortal flesh as it was during his earthly ministry, but his glorified humanity as it was after rising from the dead. This is why he calls himself the “living bread”’.
Jesus not only fulfils the Old Covenant but also establishes a New Covenant. The Book of Exodus describes how, after receiving all the commandments of the Law, the Old Covenant was established officially, or ratified, by offering animals to the Lord as communion sacrifices. Why is it necessary for a covenant to be ratified in blood? Well, the idea is that the death of the victim has a finality about it that makes it, and therefore the covenant that it establishes, irrevocable. The sacrifice of animals was an expression of the seriousness of the family relationship that God was establishing with His people. From now on, the Lord alone would be their God, and Israel would be His special possession. It was called a “communion” sacrifice, because by following the Law and eating of the sacrifice, the people of Israel were brought into communion with God.
Jesus establishes the New Covenant at the feast of Passover. At the Last Supper, ‘he took some bread, and when he had given thanks, broke it and gave it to them saying, “This is my body which will be given for you; do this as a memorial of me.” He did the same with the cup after supper, and said, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood which will be poured out for you.”’ As with the Old Covenant, the New Covenant is officially established by the blood of a sacrifice, but this time not with the blood of animals but by the blood of Jesus, who offered himself on the cross to the Father on our behalf as the perfect sacrifice.
Through commanding his disciples to do this as a memorial, Jesus gave the Church the gift of the Mass. In this way, peoples of every generation have the opportunity of accepting Jesus’ offer of himself, and therefore renewing the sacrifice of the New Covenant. Every time, and in every place that the Mass has been celebrated throughout the ages up to the present day, the New Covenant relationship is renewed and accepted when the People of God offer and receive the Body and Blood of Christ in the Eucharist. This is why the Mass is so important. Only during Mass is the New Covenant renewed, and are we brought into perfect communion with God and with one another.
As with communion sacrifices in the Old Covenant even more so with the New. For the Old Covenant relationship to be renewed, the people had themselves to participate in the sacrifice by being obedient to all that the Lord had commanded and eating of the animal that was offered as a communion sacrifice. The new covenant relationship is lived authentically when we are obedient to the teachings of the Church and to the inner promptings of the Holy Spirit, and is renewed each time we receive the Body and Blood of Christ into our bodies. The reception of Holy Communion is not, therefore, something to be taken lightly. If we are to receive Communion worthily, then we must be truly seeking to live every aspect of our life under the Lordship of Jesus. St. Paul warned the Corinthians that unworthy reception of Holy Communion only brings God’s judgement down upon oneself.
In every Mass, Jesus gives himself completely to us, so that, by receiving him in Holy Communion, we ourselves become one with God and one with each other. By receiving his Body and Blood in the Eucharist, we ourselves, like the bread and wine, are to be transformed. Our inner communion with God and with one another must find expression outwardly, in our actions and in the way that we live our lives. When we come to Mass we receive the Body of Christ so that we in turn can go and be his body to others.
 See Catechism of the Catholic Church, no. 1374.
 See Exodus 24.
 Luke 22:19-20.
 See 1 Corinthians 11:27-33.
joshua 24:1-2. 15-18
We will serve the Lord, for he is our God.
Psalm 33:2-3. 16-23
Taste and see that the Lord is good.
This mystery has many implications for Christ and his Church.
Whom shall we go to? You have the message of eternal life.
Sunday Message and Look
DOWNLOADS FOR SUNDAYS IN AUGUST
Download this weeks Sunday Message and Look (for our younger parishioners) by clicking on the images, for all the readings for this week, as well as the prayers during mass and the usual weekly thoughts and reflections.
Your words are spirit, Lord, and they are life: you have the message of eternal life.