Eucharist

The Bread of Life

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Since Christ died for us, Saint Peter reminds Christians to live a life worthy of Him:

You know that you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your fathers, not with perishable things such as silver or gold, but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot (1 Pet. 1:18-19).

In antiquity, those who became slaves because of debt could be ransomed with gold and silver–that is, by the paying off of their debt.  Saint Peter explains that Jesus has ransomed us from the debt of sin, not by money–but rather at a far higher price, the blood of Christ, the spotless Lamb of God.  Thus Saint Paul can exclaim, “You are not your own; you were bought with a price.  So glorify God in your body” (1

Cor. 6:19-20).

The New Passover

At the first Passover, it was not enough simply to sacrifice the lamb, the Israelites had to eat its flesh as well (Ex. 12:8).  It is the same at the new Passover: Jesus commands us to eat the flesh of the new Passover Lamb–the Lamb of God.  Since Jesus is the Lamb, we are to eat of His flesh, from His body that bled and died on the Cross. when Jesus taught this many responded with incredulity, saying, “This is a hard saying; who can listen to it?” (Jn. 6:60).

An Apparent Contradiction

In the Old Testament era, Israel was forbidden to drink the blood of animals, and yet Jesus said, “Truly, truly, I say to you unless you eat the flesh of the Son of man and drink his blood, you have no life in you” (Jn. 6:53).  It would seem that Jesus is contradicting the law of Leviticus which says, “You shall not eat the blood of any creature, for the life of every creature is its blood; whoever eats it shall be cut off”  (Lev. 17:14).  God outlawed Israel from drinking the blood of animals because that was their life force; God did not want Israel to participate in the life of the beasts.  They could, however, eat of the flesh of certain animal sacrifices, for eating the flesh of animals signified a participation in their death; God did want Israel to die to the animal nature.

Participation in His Death and Resurrection

Why, then, does Jesus command us to eat His flesh and to drink His blood? Because God wants us to participate in the death and Resurrection of Jesus

When we drink the blood of Jesus we are not participating in the blood of creatures, but of the Creator; not the blood of beasts, but of the Lamb of God! In the Eucharist we are called to share in the life of God.  Jesus Himself taught:

I am the living bread which came down from heaven; if any one eats of this bread, he will live for ever; and the bread which I shall give for the life of the world is my flesh (Jn. 6:51).

In the Eucharistic celebration, by the words of Christ and the invocation of the Holy Spirit, bread and wine become the very body and blood of Christ (Catechism, no. 1333).  By consuming these gifts of Christ’s flesh and blood, we share in God’s eternal life.  Through the Eucharist we become, as Saint Peter boldly says, “partakers of the divine nature” (2 Pet. 1:4).

Receiving Holy Communion

We should receive Holy Communion with Great reverence and love, for Saint Paul has warned us:

Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of profaning the body and blood of the Lord.  Let a man examine himself, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup (1 Cor. 11:27-28).

This is one reason why the Church has called us to make frequent use of the Sacrament of reconciliation.  Saint Paul Speaks of the purging of sin, so that we can receive the Lamb with purity:

Cleanse out the old leaven that you may be a new lump, as you really are unleavened.  For Christ, our paschal lamb, has been sacrificed.  Let us, therefore, celebrate the festival, not with the old leaven, the leaven of malice and evil, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth (1 Cor. 5:7-8).

The Great Banquet

According to the Book of Revelation, at the end of history there will be a great banquet in heaven, of which the Eucharist is just a foretaste.  those who have washed their robes in the blood of the Lamb will be invited (Rev. 7:14).  When John is given a vision of this great heavenly banquet, an angel announces: “Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb” (Rev. 19:9).  We are invited to join the angels and saints in heaven in worshipping the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.

Source:  Sacraments in Scripture: Salvation History Made Present by Tim Gray

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