The word of God and the Eucharist

In paragraph 54 of Pope Benedict XVI’s Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation on the Word of God in the Life and Mission of the Church (30 September 2010), he states the following:

What has been said in general about the relationship between the word and the sacraments takes on deeper meaning when we turn to the celebration of the Eucharist.

  • The profound unity of word and Eucharist is grounded in the witness of Scripture (cf. Jn 6 Lc 24), attested to by the Fathers of the Church, and reaffirmed by the Second Vatican Council.

Here we think of Jesus’ discourse on the bread of life in the synagogue of Capernaum (cf. Jn 6,22-69), with its underlying comparison between Moses and Jesus, between the one who spoke face to face with God (cf. Ex 33,11) and the one who makes God known (cf. Jn 1,18).

  • Jesus’ discourse on the bread speaks of the gift of God, which Moses obtained for his people with the manna in the desert, which is really the Torah, the life-giving word of God (cf. Ps 119 Pr 9,5).

In his own person Jesus brings to fulfilment the ancient image: “The bread of God is that which comes down from heaven and gives life to the world” … “I am the bread of life” (Jn 6,33-35).

  • Here “the law has become a person. When we encounter Jesus, we feed on the living God himself, so to speak; we truly eat ‘the bread from heaven’”.

In the discourse at Capernaum, John’s Prologue is brought to a deeper level. There God’s Logos became flesh, but here this flesh becomes “bread” given for the life of the world (cf. Jn 6,51), with an allusion to Jesus’ self-gift in the mystery of the cross, confirmed by the words about his blood being given asdrink (cf. Jn 6,53).

  • The mystery of the Eucharist reveals the true manna, the true bread of heaven: it is God’s Logos made flesh, who gave himself up for us in the paschal mystery.

Luke’s account of the disciples on the way to Emmaus enables us to reflect further on this link between the hearing of the word and the breaking of the bread (cf. Lc 24,13-35).

Jesus approached the disciples on the day after the Sabbath, listened as they spoke of their dashed hopes, and, joining them on their journey, “interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself” (Lc 24,27).

The two disciples began to look at the Scriptures in a new way in the company of this traveller who seemed so surprisingly familiar with their lives.

  • What had taken place in those days no longer appeared to them as failure, but as fulfilment and a new beginning.
  • And yet, apparently not even these words were enough for the two disciples.

The Gospel of Luke relates that “their eyes were opened and they recognized him” (Lc 24,31) only when Jesus took the bread, said the blessing, broke it and gave it to them, whereas earlier “their eyes were kept from recognizing him” (Lc 24,16).

  • The presence of Jesus, first with his words and then with the act of breaking bread, made it possible for the disciples to recognize him.
  • Now they were able to appreciate in a new way all that they had previously experienced with him: “Did not our hearts burn within us while he talked to us on the road, while he opened to us the Scriptures?” (Lc 24,32).

In paragraph 44 of Sacramentum Caritatis, Pope Benedict XVI also says:

The liturgy of the word and the Eucharistic liturgy, with the rites of introduction and conclusion, “are so closely interconnected that they form but one single act of worship.”

  • There is an intrinsic bond between the word of God and the Eucharist.

From listening to the word of God, faith is born or strengthened (cf. Rom 10:17); in the Eucharist the Word made flesh gives himself to us as our spiritual food.

  • Thus, “from the two tables of the word of God and the Body of Christ, the Church receives and gives to the faithful the bread of life.” (134)

Consequently, it must constantly be kept in mind that the word of God, read and proclaimed by the Church in the liturgy, leads to the Eucharist as to its own connatural end.

“From the Depths of Our Hearts: Priesthood, Celibacy, and the Crisis of the Catholic Church” by Pope Benedict XVI and Robert Cardinal Sarah

“It is true that meditation on the Word of God is an important and fundamental task of the priest of God in the New Covenant. Even so, this Word was made flesh. To meditate on it always means also to be nourished by the flesh that is given to us in the Most Holy Eucharist as bread from heaven. To meditate on the Word in the Church of the New Covenant always amounts to abandoning oneself to the flesh of Jesus Christ” (38).


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