An extract from a sermon preached by Blessed John Henry Newman

The Feast Day of Blessed John Henry Newman occurs on 9 October. In this extract from one of his Parochial and Plain Sermons, Newman preaches on the Resurrection of the Body. The text is St Luke chapter 20, verses 37-8 in the Authorised Version:

Now that the dead are raised, even Moses showed at the bush, when he called the Lord the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob. For He is not the God of the dead, but of the living; for all live unto Him.

The God of Abraham

God graciously called Himself the God of Abraham. He did not say the God of Abraham’s soul, but simply of Abraham. He blest Abraham, and He gave him eternal life; not to his soul only as without his body, but to Abraham as one man. And so He is our God, and it is not given us to distinguish between what He does for our different natures, spiritual and material. These are mere words; each of us may feel himself to be one, and that one being, in all its substantial parts, and attributes, will never die.

You will see this more clearly by considering what our Saviour says about the blessed Sacrament of His Supper. He says he will give us his flesh to eat. How is this done? We do not know. He gives it under the outward symbols of bread and wine. But in what real sense is the consecrated bread His body? It is not told us, we may not inquire. We say indeed spiritually, sacramentally, in a heavenly way; but this is in order to impress on our minds religious, and not carnal, notions of it.

The Sacrament’s effect

All we are concerned to know is the effect on us of partaking this blessed food. Now observe what he tells us about that. `Except ye eat of the flesh of the son of man and drink his blood, ye have no life in you, Whose eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, hath eternal life and I will raise him up on the last day’ (John vi. 53, 54).

Now there is no distinction made here between soul and body. Christs blessed Supper is food to us altogether, whatever we are, soul, body and all. It is the seed of eternal life within us, the food of immortality, to `preserve our body and soul unto everlasting life’ The forbidden fruit wrought in Adam unto death; but this is the fruit which makes us live for ever. Bread sustains us in this temporal life; the consecrated bread is the means of eternal strength for soul and body. Who could live this visible life without earthly food?

Our sustenance

And in the same general way the Supper of the Lord is the ‘means’ of our living for ever. We shall have no reason for thinking we shall live for ever unless we eat it, no more than we have reason to think our temporal life will be sustained without meat or drink. God can, indeed, sustain us, not by bread alone;’ but this is His ordinary means, which His will has made such. He can sustain our immortality without the Christian sacraments, as He sustained Abraham and the other saints of old time; but under the Gospel these are His means, which He appointed at His will. We eat the sacred bread, and our bodies become sacred; they are not ours; they are Christ’s; they are instinct with that flesh which saw not corruption; they are inhabited by His Spirit; they become immortal; they die but to appearance, and for a time; they spring up when their sleep is ended, and reign with Him for ever.