The combination of readings for this Sunday’s celebration of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ is like reading a Navy SEAL training manual. The SEALs are trained to operate in all environments, including climate extremes like the scorching desert through which Moses led the Israelites for 40 years. Why did Moses lead such a mission? Our first reading from Deuteronomy (dt 8:2-3, 14b-16a) answers that:
“To test you by affliction,” Moses told his people … [God] let you be afflicted with hunger, and then fed you with manna, a food unknown to you and your fathers, in order to show you that not by bread alone does one live, but by every word that comes forth from the mouth of the LORD.”
God didn’t need to learn about his people—they needed to learn about themselves. That’s another hallmark of a SEAL: self-awareness. They are given a mission and are taught to practice accomplishing this mission in their minds first.
By doing this together, under austere circumstances, they learn to think and act as one. Being a SEAL is not about being among a group of individuals. You are part of a group that is taught to think as one unit. In our second reading (1 cor 10:16-17) Paul uses the imagery of the Eucharist to teach the Corinthians to be one with Christ, their Lord.
“Because the loaf of bread is one, we, though many, are one body, for we all partake of the one loaf.”
Our Gospel reading from John (jn 6:51-58) shows us where Paul received his instructions: straight from the Lord himself.
“Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me and I in him,” Jesus teaches. “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.”
The Israelites were slaves in Egypt. After God used Moses to “free” them into the desert, many of them felt enslaved by that environment. But the lesson for all of us in today’s readings is that we can only be a slave to our weaknesses—imposed through original sin. Chief among those weaknesses is doubt—doubt that God will give us the strength we need to achieve the mission he gave us—the taking of His Kingdom.