[Jesus said,] "I am the living bread that came down from heaven; whoever eats this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give is my flesh for the life of the world." The Jews quarreled among themselves, saying, "How can this man give us (his) flesh to eat?" Jesus said to them, "Amen, amen, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you do not have life within you. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him on the last day.

For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me and I in him. Just as the living Father sent me and I have life because of the Father, so also the one who feeds on me will have life because of me. This is the bread that came down from heaven. Unlike your ancestors who ate and still died, whoever eats this bread will live forever." John (6:51-58) The feast of Corpus Domini assumes an altogether special significance in the Year of the Eucharist. One of the fruits that Pope John Paul II (it is still difficult to believe that he is not among us) expected from this year was "to revive Eucharistic wonder in Christians," namely, wonder before the "divine enormity" (Paul Claudel) that is the Eucharist.

In the second reading of today's feast, St. Paul writes: "The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not a participation in the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not a participation in the body of Christ?" The Eucharist is therefore fundamentally a mystery of communion. We know different types of communion. One, very intimate, is that between us and the food we eat, because it becomes flesh of our flesh and blood of our blood. I have heard mothers say to their children, when they hug them in their arms and kiss them: "I love you so much that I could eat you!" It is true that food is not a living and intelligent person with whom we can exchange thoughts and affection, but let us suppose for a moment that the food is the living and intelligent one himself, would we not then finally have the perfect communion? This is precisely what happens in Eucharistic communion. In the Gospel passage Jesus says:

"I am the living bread, which came down from heaven. ... My flesh is real food. ... He who eats my flesh has eternal life." Here, food is not a thing, but a living person. We have the most profound, though also the most mysterious, of communions. Let us look at what happens in nature in the realm of nutrition. It is the strongest vital principle which assimilates the less strong. It is the vegetable that assimilates the mineral, the animal that assimilates the vegetable. This law is also verified in the relations between man and Christ. It is Christ who assimilates us to himself; we are transformed into him, not he into us. A famous atheist materialist said: "Man is what he eats." Unwittingly, he gave the best definition of the Eucharist.

Thanks to it, man truly becomes what he eats, namely, the body of Christ! After St. Paul's initial text we then read: "Because there is one bread, we who are many are one body, for we all partake of the one bread." It is clear that in this second case the word "body" no longer indicates the body of Christ born of Mary, but "all of us," it indicates that greater body of Christ which is the Church. This means that Eucharistic communion is always also communion among ourselves. All of us eating from the one food, form only one body. What is the consequence? That we cannot have true communion with Christ if we are divided among ourselves, if we hate one another, and are not disposed to reconcile with each other.

"If you have offended a brother," St. Augustine said, "if you have committed an injustice against him, and then you go to receive Communion as though nothing had happened, perhaps full of fervor, you are like someone who sees a friend arrive whom he has not seen for a long time. He runs to meet him, throws his arms around his neck, and stands on tiptoe to kiss his forehead. ... But, while doing this, he does not realize he is stepping on his friend's feet with shoes of nails. Our brothers, in fact, especially the most poor and abandoned, are Christ's members, they are his feet still resting on earth." When giving us the host, the priest says: "The body of Christ," and we respond: "Amen!" Now we know to whom we say "Amen" -- that is, "Yes, I receive you" -- not just Jesus, the Son of God, but also the one who is next to us. Father Raniero Cantalamessa, OFM Cap., 27 May 2005[Italian original published in Famiglia Cristiana; translation by ZENIT]

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