Jn 6; 1-15


fr tam nguyen’s photo; thanks!


My friend is a Protestant mom who regularly attends Mass with her Catholic husband and kids. She told me that she always receives Communion with her family. Surprised, I asked if she believes that in doing so, she receives the Body and Blood of Christ. She replied that she believes she receives the “symbol” of the body of Christ and wonders how the Bread is the “real” Body of the Lord.


Mark’s Gospel readings give way to John’s Gospel beginning this Sunday as we reflect on the profound and true meaning of the Eucharist for us. When Jesus fed the multitudes, the people “saw the sign” (Jn 6:14), according to John. So let us reflect on the difference between a symbol and a sign according to the Catholic understanding of these words (since some people use these words in a different sense).


A symbol is a something that points to something else; it is a reminder. A heart-shape is a symbol of love, not love itself but only a reminder of it. The dove is a symbol of peace, and our flag is the symbol of our country.  The Cross is a symbol of the Death and Resurrection of Jesus. These things clearly point us to something else beyond the symbol.


A sign is different. It already contains the truth it wants to convey. It the reality itself. The wedding ring on the finger is a clear sign that somebody is already taken, so off-limits guys! A billowing smoke from the window is a sign that the house is on fire, so get help fast.


The Eucharist, the bread and wine we bless and receive at Mass, is the most powerful sign of God’s love. The bread and wine are the signs, the proof of Christ’s presence in the humble appearance of simple, ordinary food. When Jesus celebrated the Last Supper, he called the bread “My Body” and the wine “My Blood,”; thus, these are signs and not symbols only.


The Bread and Wine do not merely remind us of or point out to us the Lord Jesus but make him truly present in fullness. In the Bread and Wine, Jesus is truly present in a powerful spiritual, mysterious and sacramental way that can only be received in faith. And that is why our response to the priest words: “The Body of Christ” is “Amen,” I believe… I have faith… I profess that you are truly present in this sign of bread and wine I receive.


Jesus, give me the grace to receive you in Communion worthily, humbly, and full of faith. May you enter my body and soul and remain in my heart always as my Lord and God.