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This feast comes after the important celebrations in the Christian calendar of Easter, Pentecost and Holy Trinity. Approaching the close of the Easter season, the liturgy invited us to reflect on the promise of Jesus to be with his Church until the end of time.
Earlier in John’s gospel and following the miracle of the feeding of the five thousand, Jesus promised that he would give people his flesh to eat. When pressed on this, Jesus went on to say that “unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man you cannot have life within you”. “Anyone who does eat my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life and I shall raise him up on the last day”. Throughout this chapter Jesus placed his teaching at the centre of life in him. Some found his promise hard to accept and some found such an idea repulsive. Jesus did not argue the point with them and so “After this many of his disciples left him and never walked with him again”, John tells us.
The Church teaches that the celebration of the Body and Blood of Jesus – Holy Communion – is at the very centre of life in the Church. Furthermore, the Church teaches that all other worship flows from this gift and returns to it because this is the sacrament, as Jesus taught, that gives us life in him now and is the pledge eternal life in the life to come.
The teaching of Jesus is challenging at many levels. It challenges our reason and it challenges our faith and our beliefs. Most of all, as Jesus also taught, accepting this gift comes only when we are drawn by the Father. Our faith response to the gift of the Eucharist draws us into the mystery of the divine life of the Holy Trinity. Perhaps the greatest challenge in our faith life is to be convinced of God’s infinite and compassionate love for me personally. Jesus became incarnate for me. He nourishes me throughout life with his own life as a preparation for a part in the loving union of the Father, Son and Spirit. Making that my own is my journey of faith. The response of Peter to Jesus ought to be the prayer of faith for each of us. He said “Lord to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life”.