Symbol or Substance

Sunday June 14th, 2020 Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ (Cycle A)

The tie in between today’s readings: When Something is More Than It Seems

Psalm 147:12-20, Deuteronomy 8:2-3;14-16, 1 Corinthians 10:16-17, John 6:51-58

Of the many things that we may ask from God, security and prosperity rank high on the list. That’s what the Lord provides in verses 12-19 of our reading today in Psalm 147. There’s wheat in the fields, kids at home, and peace on the borders along with His guidance to make it all work together. What more can you want? Well, as we see in verse 20, there is one more thing…a relationship with Him. While food, clothing, and shelter are necessary for life, they won’t make it worth living. Merely having your needs met makes for a mundane existence. You need discovery! You need surprises! You need a connection to the infinite almighty God!

Today we celebrate the Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ or Corpus Christi. Transubstantiation, the conversion of the substance of the Eucharistic elements into the actual body and blood of Christ, is a fundamental teaching of the Church and a primary purpose of the Mass. Recent surveys show, however, that a large percentage of Catholics do not believe in it. They look upon the bread and wine as symbols of Jesus’s body and blood. It will serve no purpose here to argue one side or the other. Instead, let’s use today’s readings to explore each position and dig a little deeper into their beautiful mysteries. Perhaps, in the unearthing, we will discover a more fulfilling life with this God of ours.

No doubt about it, the Lord uses symbols throughout the Bible. We find representations of Jesus as manna and the water gushing rock in our reading in Deuteronomy 8:2-3;14-16. The thing about symbols is what you see is not what you get. Symbols say, “Don’t look at me. Look at what I’m point to.”  Symbols always direct you to something bigger and are themselves elevated by their connection to it. An engagement ring declares a couple’s love and so the diamond becomes special. A flag represents a nation and its design becomes honored by its citizens. Partaking in the Lord’s Supper in memory of Jesus’ sacrifice makes the bread and wine sacred. Accepting the symbols beckons us to go deeper into the truths behind them. Sometimes they’ll take us where we don’t want to go. In our reading, God leads His people out of Egypt and through a snake and scorpion filled desert to suffer hunger. God tells Moses that He did this to humble them and challenge their faith. He wanted them to see through the manna to the truth that man does not live by bread alone, but by the word of God. There is the spiritual behind the physical. Our Eucharist, even as a symbol, makes that challenge of faith to us. There is more here than meets the eye.

The Jews balked at Christ’s proclamation that they needed to eat His flesh and drink His blood in today’s gospel reading, John 6:51-58. Many left Him because of this. But examine the words of Our Lord about being the living bread, mix it with the Church’s clear teaching on the Eucharist, take to heart Peter’s faith confession that Jesus knows what He’s talking about in John 6:68-69, and you have the foundation for believing in transubstantiation. Transubstantiation turns this whole symbol idea on its head. Instead of the bread and wine acting as sacred signposts pointing the way to Christ, you have the Host and Chalice calling attention to themselves. Jesus is actually here and, wherever Jesus is present, He always commands the room! The faithful who receive the true body and blood of Christ in the Eucharist are participating in a literal miracle. You cannot experience a miracle and remain unchanged. The believers take on a deeper awareness that they are, in fact, holy temples. Their sense of closeness to the Lord deepens. They grow in grace and as they live in that state, they themselves become the symbols of the Eucharistic God who indwells them.

The worse thing you can do is treat the Eucharist with nonchalance. As today’s passage in 1 Corinthians 10:16-17 reminds us that we are united as one body as we share Christ’s sacrifice in the bread and wine. The Lord’s Supper takes us all together as His Church through time. It is our connection, by faith, in Christ’s death and resurrection in the past along with the reality of God’s eternal life abiding in us today. Symbol or Substance, God will meet you where you are in your faith journey with the Eucharist. If you are struggling to see the hints behind the host or the challenges of the chalice, Jesus says, “Seek and you will find.” If you believe in the Lord’s presence, then have faith that you are the symbol of His love to a needy world. He will be with you always. Get lost in the pursuit of the mysteries, the paradoxes, and the hidden beauty our Savior, who died so that we may live. Take up the adventure of a God centered life. Man does not live by bread alone.

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