Thursday, April 01, 2021

A Communion of Cannibals?

Sermon for Maundy Thursday

Are you a cannibal?

There are many people who misunderstand what the Lord does on Maundy Thursday. They see us eating the Lord's Body and drinking His Blood and will say that, if we really believe this then we must be cannibals.

It's a misunderstanding that might cause us offence but it is a misunderstanding that is almost as old as the Last Supper itself. Indeed, the Romans report that Christians engage in cannibalism in their worship and use this as a reason to persecute them.

And still today, in tracts and scurrilous rumours, Catholics are seen as crypto-cannibals. But we most certainly are not.


First, we must understand that we do eat and drink the Body and Blood of Christ. Jesus tells us this very clearly in St John's gospel. 

People will say that Jesus is not talking about the Eucharist but about His death on the Cross. Jesus tells us, "unless you eat of the Flesh of the Son of Man and drink of His Blood, you shall not have life within you." On hearing this, many disciples are scandalised. They think he is talking about cannibalism. They leave, grossly offended by what Jesus is saying. But Peter stays, and the others, because Jesus has the words of eternal life.

And today, at the Last Supper, Jesus says, "this is My Body" and "this is My blood" and the disciples remember what Jesus has said, and that His flesh is meat Indeed and that His blood is drink indeed. In eating His Body and drinking His Blood, the disciples consume Life itself.


And here is the point. Jesus is not feeding them with His Human flesh and blood, though He is there body, blood, soul and Divinity. He is feeding them with His Divinity through His physical but non- scientific Body. Jesus is Divine and Human. There are not two Christ's, one Human and one Divine, but one Christ with two natures. His Divinity is made Man at the Incarnation: Mary is indeed the Mother of God.

It is not human flesh that we eat at Mass, nor is it human blood that we drink. If it were then they would look, smell and taste like human flesh and blood. But Jesus is still there in His humanity, though under the appearance of bread and wine so as not to scandalise those that partake of the Sacrament.

But we do truly eat of the Body and Blood of Jesus. In the consecrated Host, in the Chalice, truly are the physical Body and Blood of Christ, just as Mary is the Mother of God. We can believe that and take into our frail human bodies the true Life of God Incarnate. 


Tomorrow we will see the body of the Lord nailed to the Cross. We will see His blood pour from His wounds. We will see Him die. God dies in His Human nature.

And God lives in those who take Him into their human bodies. This is not eating death like cannibals do.

His body is broken on the altar of the Cross for our redemption, and It is broken at the Eucharist for our sanctification. This is the means of our resurrection and our door into Eternity.


Today, we see a small, human being betrayed by his friend, denied by another and forsaken by all, and we weep for our sin of rejecting God. But through this sin, breaking the power of Sin and Devil, God gives us Himself so that we may live. Let us take, eat, drink in humble and fitting reverence before Him in complete gratitude for the Holy Mystery we receive. And let us life the Life we have consumed.

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