Today we give thanks for the gift of the Eucharist, Christ's Body and Blood, given to us truly and substantially under the signs of bread and wine. Belief that the Blessed Sacrament is transformed, in a unique way, by God's creative power, into the Body and Blood of Christ has sometimes been lacking in the Church of England. But it is central to the mainstream of Christian tradition, and we affirm it today.
The Eucharist, and our belief about it, can sometimes cause difficulty for people, echoing the passage from John 6 we heard as our gospel reading. Whilst it is important to understand the doctrine, and for the Church to find ways of explaining and defending it in terms understandable in the modern world, today is not really the feast of a doctrine. It is the feast of a person, Jesus Christ, who gives himself to us out of love.
And the appropriate response to Christ's love in the Eucharist is to offer love in return. Love for Jesus at the altar, in our reception of Holy Communion and our devotions, and love for Jesus present in our brothers and sisters, present in every human being, present especially in the poor and oppressed. I'm reminded of the powerful words of Bishop Frank Weston:
And my last point is this. I recall you in the last place to the Christ of the Blessed Sacrament. I beg you, brethren, not to yield one inch to those who would for any reason or specious excuse deprive you of your Tabernacles. I beg you, do not yield, but remember when you struggle, or, as Father Frere told us to-day, when you fight for the Church—do remember that the Church is the body of Christ, and you fight in the presence of Christ. Do not forget that. I want you to make your stand for the Tabernacle, not for your own sakes but for the sake of truth first, and in the second place for the sake of reunion hereafter. But for the truth, because the one great thing that England needs to learn is that Christ is found in and amid matter—Spirit through matter—God in flesh, God in the Sacrament. But I say to you, and I say it to you with all the earnestness that I have, that if you are prepared to fight for the right of adoring Jesus in his Blessed Sacrament, then you have got to come out from before your Tabernacle and walk, with Christ mystically present in you, out into the streets of this country, and find the same Jesus in the people of your cities and your villages. You cannot claim to worship Jesus in the Tabernacle, if you do not pity Jesus in the slum.