I am finding it difficult to explain to my child how it is that in Holy Communion we eat the body of Christ and drink his blood without this seeming like cannibalism.
Chapter 6 of St John's Gospel tells us that when Jesus said "the bread which I shall give for the life of the world is my flesh-, some of his hearers asked: "How can this man give us his flesh to eat?" Jesus did not draw back from what he said but emphasised it further: "Truly, 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.'•
When even his disciples murmured, he asked them: "What if you were to see the Son of Man ascending where he was before?" and added: "It is the spirit that gives life, the flesh is of no avail; the words that 1 have spoken to you are spirit and life."
Our Lord teaches us that he really intends to give us his flesh and blood but that this is spiritual food, not material food for our bodies . The liturgical celebration of this sacred mystery makes present the risen and ascended body of Christ through the power of the Holy Spirit.
To emphasise the point, we might draw attention to the fact that after Our Lord died on the Cross the disciples did not go to the tomb to engage in a macabre cannibalistic feast, Rather, they treated his dead body with customary marks of respect: after the Resurrection, they recognised him as risen precisely in the "breaking of the bread" (Lk 24.35).
When we receive the Holy Eucharist, we do indeed feed upon the body, blood, soul and divinity of Jesus Christ. By doing so, we share in His risen life. When we teach children that it is not important what the Sacred Host tastes like but what it truly is. the sacred Body and Precious Blood of Our Lord, we are also teaching them that this is not about bodily food but about the food and life of our souls.
What's your view? And do you have a dilemma of your own? Write to us at the address on this page or e-mail [email protected]