Aug. 16, Twentieth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Cycle B. Readings:
1) Proverbs 9:1-6
2) Ephesians 5:15-20
Gospel: John 6:51-58
By Jeff Hedglen
Catholic News Service
A friend of mine once told me he didn’t believe that the bread and wine of holy Communion are really the body and blood of Jesus. He said the difficulty for him ultimately was that he could not get past how the bread and wine still taste like bread and wine after the prayers of consecration.
I didn’t know how to respond. Luckily, I was studying for my master’s degree in theology at the time, so I took this question to my professors.
What I learned is this: Everything that exists can be thought of in two ways. First, there’s “substance” or that of which something is made. Second are the “accidents,” a philosophical term meaning the look, feel, taste and texture of something.
For example, the “substance” of a Hershey bar is sugar, cocoa butter, chocolate, soy lecithin, vanilla and some artificial flavors. (I looked it up.) The “accidents” are smooth, creamy, sweet, chocolaty, wonderful and mouthwatering.
If the Eucharist were in the form of a Hershey bar, during the eucharistic prayer the substance of the bar would change from sugar, cocoa butter, etc., to the body, blood, soul and divinity of Jesus. But the accidents (smooth, creamy, sweet, chocolaty …) would remain the same. So even though it still tastes like chocolate, it is actually Jesus. The same is true for the bread and wine.
We’re so used to a world in which “what you see is what you get” that it is often hard to come to terms with the mystery of the Eucharist. It was no different in the time of Jesus, as we see in this week’s Gospel.
But Jesus makes a bold statement when he says, “Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life.” Then, in case anyone thought he was speaking metaphorically, he adds, “For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink.”
Jesus loves us so much that he gave us his body, blood, soul and divinity so that we could connect with him on an intimate level and receive strength from this connection.
Thus, every time you receive the Eucharist, what you see is not what you get. What you see is a little round wafer of bread and common wine. What you get is Jesus!
How has your belief in the Eucharist grown over time? How would your explain the Eucharist to a non-Catholic?