Saturday, June 17, 2017

2017/06/18 - Corpus Christi - Every Word

“Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes forth from the mouth of God”.

What’s it mean?  Well the obvious answer is “ice cream”… if we don’t have bread AND ice cream, we’re not really living, right? 

Here’s how I would seriously interpret it:  The most important thing we need to live is not bread.  The most important thing we need is every word that comes forth from the mouth of God.  What is this “word of God” that is so important, anyway?  I have a true story to tell to answer that.

Back in 1995, I was working on a retreat team with a bunch of non-Catholic men – all great Christian men whom I am glad to call my brothers.  But – when they heard I was Catholic, one of them decided to set me straight… to save me from the errors of my ways.  And he started my “lesson” with a line from today’s Gospel:
“unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you do not have life within you.”

Was Jesus really meaning for us to eat His flesh? , he asked.  Then he flipped to our first reading and read this line:  “Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes forth from the mouth of God”

See right there… it says it is the word of God that we must eat… it’s the Bible.  And when Jesus says we have to eat his flesh, he’s really meaning we have to chew on his word… read the bible and really take it into ourselves.  Then to support his argument, he went just a little further down in John’s Gospel where Jesus said,

"It is the spirit that gives life, while the flesh* is of no avail. The words I have spoken to you are spirit and life. "

See right there?!, he said.  Jesus is saying the flesh isn’t important, so he’s not really saying we should eat his physical flesh, he’s really meaning it’s the Bible that is important!  It’s the scripture he wants us to devour!

Does that make sense to anybody here?  Well, yeah – it’s actually a pretty well-presented argument.  I remember sitting there thinking – that ‘sounds’ logical – but something’s not quite right with it.  It’s this kind of faulty logic that pulls many people out of the church.  So – let’s all understand right now the true understanding…first so we can explain to others, but mainly to keep ourselves from falling for this faulty logic.
Go back to the first reading…
“Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes forth from the mouth of God”.

What is this “word that comes forth from the mouth of God?”  My friend said the word is the Bible…but Let’s look at the first four verses of John’s Gospel – chapter 1:
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.
He was in the beginning with God.  All things came to be through him, and without him nothing came to be.

What came to be 4through him was life, and this life was the light of the human race
What was the Word that was with God in the beginning?  Was it a Bible?  Not a chance… the Bible didn’t exist until around the 4th century after Jesus was born.  The Word was with God and the Word WAS God – seems pretty clear this is talking about Jesus.  Jesus IS the Word of God.  God spoke his Word and all creation sprang into being.  It was through His Word – Jesus – that the whole world was created.  He is the source of all life.

Now – if we understand Jesus is the Word – how does that change our interpretation of our quote:  “Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes forth from the mouth of God”.

Suddenly this means we don’t just live by eating just bread, but by eating the living Word – Jesus, who comes from the mouth of God.  That matches up pretty clearly with what Jesus himself said – “unless you eat my flesh, you have no life in you”. 
Also look at it this way:  Man does not live on bread alone… another way to translate that his “Man does not live on JUST BREAD”.  When we come to the altar and receive what looks like a wafer of bread… It is NOT “bread alone”.  It’s not JUST bread – it IS the body of Jesus. 

Jesus really meant we must eat his flesh.  This is NOT symbolic speech.

And the best proof that this is true comes just a few verses later in John chapter 6… most of Jesus’ disciples actually walked away from him because of this teaching.  They said, “how can this man give us his flesh to eat?”   “this is a hard teaching” – they couldn’t handle it – so they left.  If Jesus HADN’T meant what He said, he could so easily have said – wait, I was just using a metaphor – you know, hyperbole…. It’s just a figure of speech – I really meant you have to study my words.

He didn’t say that. 

Instead he asked the apostles if they wanted to leave too.  Jesus was willing to lose EVERY person following him over this one crucial teaching.  He really DOES want us to eat His flesh and drink His blood.  In doing so, we are consuming the very source of life in the universe.  As we consume him, he consumes us from the inside out - changing us into little Christs… You and I are sent out into the world to continue to spread His love.  As a member of His Church, which is the Body of Christ on earth – He sends us out to continue to bring life to the world. 

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