Many of us associate the best times in our lives with food, a special meal marks a significant birthday, a moment of joy or loss. Some of us have a favourite meal in the day, is it breakfast or lunch or does the day lead us with anticipation to the joy of an evening meal? All of us use food to define ourselves and our place in this world. Our cultural identity is inextricably bound up with the food we place into our mouths and take into our bodies.
It is not surprising the Jesus chose to use food and special meals to talk about the Kingdom of God, the new community he was creating by his words and works in Galilee. Indeed it often with Jesus at a meal that we learn of the forgiveness offered to sinners and we see the intimacy of those first friendships in the life of his followers that should mark the communion we have as his body the church today.
Nothing becomes more closely united with us than the food we eat. Jesus loves being united as closely as possible with us, and so it should be of no surprise that he uses the language of bread and wine to define the relationship he offers to us.
In every Eucharist we celebrate the wonder of our redemption and the joy of our salvation. In this sacrament we discover the glory of being a member of Christ’s Church. The Sacrament points to the cross of Christ as our enduring and unsurpassed source of salvation and as our storehouse of grace. Here our Saviour brings his cross to our altar so that we can receive its benefits in a tangible, visible way.
It is of course a wonderful thing that the mystery of our faith is revealed, or is it hidden in the most common and everyday realities, bread and wine.
The Eucharist is so central in the life of the Church because Christ is its centre: Christ is the unseen host: Christ who longs to be an essential part of the life of every Church member calls us to gather round and receive his life in the form of bread and wine.
Jesus talks as he does in this morning’s Gospel because he not only wants to talk to us, but also to touch us. He not only wants to make an impression on our minds, but he also wants to touch our bodies and confirm his real presence with us in the bread and wine we receive, by impacting on our senses of hearing, seeing, touching and tasting.
As sure as we eat the consecrated bread and drink the sacred wine when we come to his table, so sure we can be that we receive our Saviour, the Friend of sinners. Jesus wants to make our receiving of him in our celebration of the Eucharist as earthly and as physical as his coming to us at Christmas.
Here we’re given the love revealed on the cross, to fire up our love for Christ that sweeps through his church and in to the world. Jesus does more than say “I love you forever”. In the Eucharist, he gives himself to each of us in this marvellous feast of love.
The life that Jesus promised to us - life abundant, life in all its fullness and richness - he gives to us in the Eucharist, so that he might be our true source of satisfaction and contentment. The Eucharist means Jesus is no distant leader or director, but our ever-present help in times of trouble.
This life is ours if we are prepared to come and take bread and drink wine. It is ours through the greatest miracle of Jesus who changes the bread we eat into his body and the wine we taste into his blood.
John 6:53, “Very truly, I tell you, unless you eat of 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.”