A spiritual organ transplant

I wonder if any of you have given blood recently? Perhaps you’ve been to one of those mobile donating points. There are some blood types that are always in high demand by the blood banks, either because they can be given to absolutely anyone – that’s O positive, or because that blood type is very rare – the rarest is AB negative, which only 1% of people have.

As well as the blood donation program, there’s the organ donor register, too. If you have a donor card in your wallet, then it means you’re willing to donate an organ to those in need, so when we pass from this life to the next, our hearts, or some other part of us, will be given to somebody in need of a transplant.

In our Gospel reading, Jesus is continuing what’s known as his “bread of life discourse”. The church has been going through this passage over the last few weeks, and the central idea is that Jesus is calling himself the living bread – the food that lasts forever, and brings those who eat it to eternal life.

So far, Jesus has been explaining himself, but the more he says, the more his listeners misunderstand him – one might almost suspect that they’re deliberately misunderstanding him.

So Jesus, in this reading, goes all out – no misunderstanding.

Jesus tells his audience that he will give his body for bread, and his blood for wine. The Jews are appalled at this idea: beyond any suggestion of cannibalism, the law of Moses says that Jews shouldn’t consume blood. But Jesus isn’t being so literal: while he really does give himself for food and drink, he gives us this in the Mass. 

There, not only is his body given for bread, but bread is given to become his body. Not only is his blood given for wine, but wine is given for his blood. 

This brings me back to transfusion and transplant.

In the Book of Common Prayer Holy Communion service, there’s a prayer that asks “so that our sinful bodies may be made clean by his body, and our souls washed through his precious blood.” When we receive Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament, when we consume his body, it’s like a spiritual organ transplant. Jesus gives us his body to give us life; he gives us his blood to bring us fully to life.

Usually when we have a blood transfusion it’s because we’ve lost blood, because we’ve been bleeding too much. We don’t get rid of “bad blood” usually before we begin. But the difference beteeen that and a transplant is that usually we have the organ already, be it a heart or a lung, or you may remember a few years ago the footballer, Wayne Rooney, had a hair transplant! It isn’t usually that we don’t have the heart, the lung, the liver, or the hair. But rather, it isn’t working properly. So it has to be removed before the new organ, the transplanted organ, can be inserted and installed. 

That’s why we confess our sins at the beginning of mass, and why some people make their confession to a priest. 

In confessing our sins we’re removing all the bad bits of us, those malfunctioning organs, so that when we come to the mass, we’re ready for the body of Jesus, we’re ready for his spiritual transplant to be grafted into us, to give us life again. If we didn’t, then it would be like trying to implant a new lung, while the old one, the one that wasn’t working, was still in. The new one couldn’t do anything!  

We come to mass with all sorts of baggage, don’t we. Regrets about the week just passed, things we wish we’d done differently. At the mass we’re invited to lay all that down at the feet of Jesus, to confess our sins and get rid of the bits of our life that aren’t working properly, and to receive Jesus’s own body to make things right again. 

Sometimes this can be frightening. I once had a hospital operation on my foot. It wasn’t a big operation, but I remember being quite nervous about it! And in the same way I think we can get attached to our problems and become uncomfortable about letting them go. But with Jesus there’s no need to be afraid. The life we get from Jesus, the life he gives us in the mass, isn’t just a repaired, good-as-new version of our original life: no. It’s the divine life of the Son of God. And it can be ours!

So let’s not be afraid, let’s come to Jesus today, and he will give us his life and his love, his body, blood, soul and divinity.