Sunday Sermon for June 11, 2023, the Solemnity of the Body and Blood of Christ, Year A

Readings: Deut 8:2-3, 14b-16a; 1 Cor 19:16-17; Jn 6:51-58

In the first reading, Moses tells the people of Israel that God allowed them to be afflicted with hunger, then fed them with manna, to show that we do not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes forth from the mouth of God.  On the surface, we can look at this as speaking of the Scriptures because they are the inspired Word of God.  However, there is a deeper and more profound meaning that our feast today brings to the forefront.

St. John of the Cross said that in the silence of eternity God spoke one word: Jesus.  For all eternity we will be able to meditate on this one Word, and we will never reach the end.  Therefore, even when we speak of the Scriptures, we are simply speaking of Jesus.  All Scripture is either preparing for Jesus, it is about the life of Jesus, or it is a reflection on our Lord.  So, if we live by the Word that comes forth from the mouth of God, that Word is His only begotten Son, Jesus.

When Moses said that we live by the words coming forth from the mouth of God, this can have two meanings in our lives.  The first is that we are to live our lives according to the Word of God as it is written in the Sacred Scriptures.  So, to live by the Word of God in this sense, is to strive to conform our lives to what God has revealed, thereby becoming more and more perfectly the image and likeness of God.  God’s Word is true, it is perfect, it is the revelation of God.  Therefore, the more we conform ourselves to that Word, the more we live in truth, the more we grow in perfection, and the more we become like God.

The second meaning of living by the Word of God is to understand that Word is Jesus and without Him we have no life.  In the broadest sense, we can say that since God created our soul, and the soul is the principle of life, then without our Lord creating the soul, we would not have life.  While this is true, I am thinking about this on a more spiritual level.  Our soul has natural life, but Jesus infuses our soul with supernatural life, that is, His own life.  This is what He tells us in the Gospel: “…I have life because of the Father, so also the one who feeds on me will have life because of me.”

In the Gospel reading today, Jesus tells us that unless we eat His Flesh and drink His Blood, we have no life in us.  Since the people He was speaking to (and us as well) are all alive, He cannot be speaking of natural life.  St. Paul, in the second reading, says that the cup we bless and the bread we break are a participation in the Blood and Body of Christ. 

This participation is not merely symbolic, but real.  Jesus says His Flesh and Blood are true, or real, food and drink.  He also says that if we eat His Flesh and drink His Blood, we remain in Him and He in us.  St. Paul tells us that all who partake of the one loaf are one body.  If each of us is united because we all receive Jesus in the Holy Eucharist, then that implies that we are one with Jesus before He can be the means of unity among those who receive Him.

This union with Jesus is so profound that we actually share His life.  If we think of a mother with a baby growing within her, the baby has life because of the mother, but the baby has his or her own life that is separate from the mother.  Of course, we have our own life, but our Lord is telling us that the union He desires to have with us is so profound that we not only have life because of Him, but we have His life.  He wants our union to be so perfect that we become transformed into Him.

We can learn from the Word of God in the Scriptures how to work toward this union, but we must enter into the depths of our own soul to unite ourselves with Him.  This is a real, personal union that allows us to become the persons God created us to be.  The manna God gave the Jewish people in the desert foreshadowed the Eucharist, but the True Bread come down from Heaven is Jesus. He gives us the means to live what Moses taught, that is, to live not by bread alone, but by every word, the only Word, His Son, Who comes forth from the mouth of God.

Fr. Altier’s column appears regularly in The Wanderer, a national Catholic weekly published in St. Paul, Minn. For information about subscribing to The Wanderer, please visit