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Contemplating today's Gospel

Today's Gospel + homily (in 300 words)

Friday of the Third Week of Easter

1st Reading (Acts 9:1-20): Saul, still breathing murderous threats against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest and asked him for letters to the synagogues in Damascus, that, if he should find any men or women who belonged to the Way, he might bring them back to Jerusalem in chains. On his journey, as he was nearing Damascus, a light from the sky suddenly flashed around him. He fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to him, «Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?». He said, «Who are you, sir?». The reply came, «I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. Now get up and go into the city and you will be told what you must do». The men who were traveling with him stood speechless, for they heard the voice but could see no one. Saul got up from the ground, but when he opened his eyes he could see nothing; so they led him by the hand and brought him to Damascus.

For three days he was unable to see, and he neither ate nor drank. There was a disciple in Damascus named Ananias, and the Lord said to him in a vision, «Ananias». He answered, «Here I am, Lord». The Lord said to him, «Get up and go to the street called Straight and ask at the house of Judas for a man from Tarsus named Saul. He is there praying, and in a vision he has seen a man named Ananias come in and lay his hands on him, that he may regain his sight». But Ananias replied, «Lord, I have heard from many sources about this man, what evil things he has done to your holy ones in Jerusalem. And here he has authority from the chief priests to imprison all who call upon your name». But the Lord said to him, «Go, for this man is a chosen instrument of mine to carry my name before Gentiles, kings, and children of Israel, and I will show him what he will have to suffer for my name».

So Ananias went and entered the house; laying his hands on him, he said, «Saul, my brother, the Lord has sent me, Jesus who appeared to you on the way by which you came, that you may regain your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit». Immediately things like scales fell from his eyes and he regained his sight. He got up and was baptized, and when he had eaten, he recovered his strength. He stayed some days with the disciples in Damascus, and he began at once to proclaim Jesus in the synagogues, that he is the Son of God.
Responsorial Psalm: 116
R/. Go out to all the world and tell the Good News.
Praise the Lord, all you nations; glorify him, all you peoples!

For steadfast is his kindness toward us, and the fidelity of the Lord endures forever.
Versicle before the Gospel (Jn 5:56): Alleluia. Whoever eats my Flesh and drinks my Blood, remains in me and I in him, says the Lord. Alleluia.
Gospel text (Jn 6:52-59): 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.” These things he said while teaching in the synagogue in Capernaum.

“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.”

Fr. Àngel CALDAS i Bosch (Salt, Girona, Spain)

Today, Jesus makes three key avowals, such as: that we are to eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood; that if we do not take the Holy Communion we cannot have life; and that this life is the eternal life and the condition for resurrection (cf. Jn 6:53-58). There is nothing in the Gospel so clear, so emphatic and so definite as these statements of Jesus.

We Catholics are not always up to the level the Eucharist requires: at times, we try “to live” without the living conditions set up by Jesus and, yet, as John Paul II has written “Eucharist is too big a gift to admit any ambiguities and reductions.”

“Eat to live”: to eat the flesh of the Son of Man is to live as the Son of Man. This food is called “communion”. It is “food”, and we say “food” so that there is no doubt with respect to its assimilation, to its identification with Jesus. We receive Holy Communion to remain united: to think like him, to speak like him, to love like him. We Christians were missing John Paul II's Eucharistic Encyclical, The Church lives from the Eucharist. It is a passionate encyclical: it is “fire” because the Eucharist is ardent.

“I have eagerly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer” (Lk 22:15), Jesus was saying that evening of the Holy Thursday. We have to recuperate the Eucharistic fervor. No other religion has a similar initiative. It is God himself who descends to man's heart to establish a mysterious love relationship. And as of that point the Church is built and participates in the Eucharist apostolic dynamism and eclesial mission.

We are actually digging into the mystery, as Thomas did when he was touching the wounds of Christ resurrected. We Christians should revise our fidelity to the Eucharistic fact just as Jesus Christ has revealed it and the Church proposes it to us. And we should live once more the “tenderness” towards the Eucharist: well made and slow genuflection, increase the number of spiritual communions... And, starting from the Eucharist, men will look sacred, as they just are. And we shall serve them with renewed tenderness.

Thoughts on Today's Gospel

  • “Creator and Lord of all things, whatever their nature, he brought forth bread from the earth and changed it into his own body. Not only had he the power to do this, but he had promised it; and, as he had changed water into wine, he also changed wine into his own blood. It is the Lord’s Passover.” (Saint Gaudentius of Brescia)

  • “The Eucharist remains a ‘sign of contradiction’ and can only be so because a God who makes himself flesh and sacrifices himself for the life of the world throws human wisdom into crisis.” (Benedict XVI)

  • “The Lord addresses an invitation to us, urging us to receive him in the sacrament of the Eucharist: ‘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).” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, Nº 1384)