Sunday, June 10, 2012

Faith In The God Who Became Man Is Believing In A God With A Body...This Faith Is Real And Fulfilled; It Brings Full Union Only If It Is Corporeal, If It Is A Sacramental Event In Which The Corporeal Lord Seizes Hold Of Our Bodily Existence

We have just heard the dramatic and incomparably explicit words of Jesus from John's Gospel: "Unless you eat the flesh of the Son of man and drink his blood, you have no life in you...My flesh is food indeed" (6:53, 55). When the murmuring of the Jews arose, the controversy could easily have been quieted by the assurance: Friends, do not be disturbed; this was only metaphorical language; the flesh only signifies food, it isn't actually that! - But there is nothing of that in the Gospel. Jesus renounces any such toning down.; he just says with renewed emphasis that this bread has to be literally, physically eaten. He says that faith in the God who became man is believing in a God with a body and that this faith is real and fulfilled; it brings full union only if it is corporeal, if it is a sacramental event in which the corporeal Lord seizes hold of our bodily existence. In order to express fully the intensity and reality of this fusion, Paul compares what happens in Holy Communion with the physical union between man and woman. To help us understand the Eucharist, he refers us to the words in the creation story: "The two [= man and wife] shall become one" (Gen 2:24). And he adds: "He who is united to the Lord becomes one spirit [that is, shares a single new existence in the Holy Spirit] with him" (1 Cor 6:17)

When we hear this, we at once have some notion of how the presence of Jesus Christ is to be understood. It is not something at rest but is a power that catches us up and works to draw us within itself. Augustine had a profound grasp of this in his teaching on Communion. In the period before his conversion, when he was struggling with the incarnational aspect of Christian belief, which he found impossible to approach from the point of view of Platonic idealism, he had a sort of vision, in which he heard a voice saying to him: "I am the bread of the strong, eat me! But you will not transform me and make me part of you; rather, I will transform you and make you part of me." In the normal process of eating. He takes things in, and they are assimilated into him, so that they become part of his own substance. They are transformed within him and go to build up his bodily life. But in the mutual relation with Christ it is the other way around; he is the heart, the truly existent being. When we truly communicate, this means that we are taken out of ourselves, that we are assimilated into him, that we become one with him and, through him, with the fellowship of our brethren. - Pope Benedict XVI, God Is Near Us