18th Sunday Year B
Theme of the week: Partake in the Eucharist and become a new creation, living in true righteousness and holiness.
Last week, we begin a five-week reflection on the Holy Eucharist. This week, let us continue our reflection by first recalling what the Eucharist is. It is the Body and Blood of Christ given to us to partake, sealing the New Covenant of eternal life between God and us.
The First Reading recalled an episode during the Exodus when the Israelites, hungry and thirsty, recalled how “good” things used to be in Egypt. There is often a price to pay for following the path of righteousness. Our Lord Jesus foretold that his followers will be persecuted in Jn 15:19-20. Jesus himself would subsequently follow the path to Calvary, a path the Father sets out for him, and pay a heavy price. In the midst of carrying our crosses in our daily lives, like the Israelites, we too sometimes lament how “good” things used to be before we take on the current path. Even though God has delivering the Israelites from slavery, they grumbled and reminiscence on their days of slavery, when they have food in plenty. In response, God rained down manna (bread) and quails to feed the people. That God provided heavenly food to save His people is an Eucharistic theme that is often repeated in the Bible.
In a similar story to that of the First Reading, the Gospel tells of how the people sought out Jesus. This happens after the event in last week’s Gospel where Jesus fed the people with bread. For many of the people, seeking out Jesus was probably no more than seeking out a food supply. On finding Jesus, Jesus urged them to not just yearn for earthly bread, but yearn for heavenly bread instead – “the bread of God is that which comes down from heaven and gives life to the world” (verse 33). Leaving no doubt what he was referring to, Jesus then went on to proclaim that He is the Bread of Life. This is a clear reference to the Eucharist – bread and wine transformed into the Body and Blood of Christ while retaining their respective physical appearances.
The Second Reading explains what partaking in the Eucharist means. The old nutritionist wisdom of “you are what you eat” certainly takes on a spiritual dimension in this context. When we partake in the Eucharist, Christ himself becomes an integral part of us. Through the grace of Eucharist, we “put away [our] former way of life, [our] old self, corrupt and deluded by its lusts” (verse 22); and in so doing, we “clothe [ourselves] with the new self, created according to the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness” (verse 24).
The next time we step up to the altar to receive the Eucharist, let us reflect: how am I putting away my former way of life and clothe myself in righteousness and holiness?