- 1 Kings 2:10-12; 3:3-14 and Psalm 111 •
- Proverbs 9:1-6 and Psalm 34:9-14 •
- Ephesians 5:15-20 •
- John 6:51-58
Thoughts on the Word:
I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats of this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.” The Jews then disputed among themselves, saying, “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?” So Jesus said to them, “Very truly, I tell you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood have eternal life, and I will raise them up on the last day; for my flesh is true food and my blood is true drink. Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood abide in me, and I in them. Just as the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so whoever eats me will live because of me. This is the bread that came down from heaven, not like that which your ancestors ate, and they died. But the one who eats this bread will live forever.”
This week we continue our journey through the 6th chapter of the Gospel according to St John. We read the Gospel and hear the words of Jesus as he declares that he is not only living bread - which came down from heaven no less! But that we are to eat this bread - AND - just to be clear the bread he gives us is his flesh. Now when we read this a few things strike us - Jesus asserts his Divinity (he is the bread that came down from Heaven!), he declares that it is he who will grant eternal life - and he will do this by giving us his flesh to eat. The correlation to the Eucharist is inescapable, so what do we learn about the Lord's Supper in this reading?
Now before we continue I want to explain the context of this conversation. Jesus was talking to Jews, (verse 59 tells us that he was in a synagogue in Capernaum) to whom the idea of consuming blood (any blood let alone human) would be offensive as it was forbidden in the Law, because the blood was considered to be the source of life (Genesis 9:4, “You shall not eat flesh with its life, that is, its blood.”). When we understand this important fact - that the flesh with blood in it contains the life, we can begin to understand the message Jesus was giving us in this clear reference to the Lord's Supper, which Christians from the very beginnings of the Church have celebrated unceasingly - receiving the body and blood of Jesus.
The key message of this week's Gospel reading is that Jesus gives us life. Not only does he lay his life down for us with his death on the cross, but he takes it up again, conquering death through his resurrection, and then he offers us not only eternal life but a share in his life through his gift to us of the sacrament of the Eucharist. He shares his own life with us through the Eucharist, where we receive the body and blood - the flesh and blood - of Jesus. We receive his life into us and as a result he abides in us and we in Him. What a gift, that the creator of all things would share his very life, and being with us!
Now there have been countless arguments over the centuries about the nature of the Eucharist. Is it literally the body and blood of Jesus? Is Is it nothing more than symbolism?
My view is that Jesus is quite clear that this meal that we celebrate is not mere symbolism. Jesus is adamant that his flesh is real food and his blood is real drink. He establishes for us that he truly is giving us his flesh and blood (his life, his very being) to eat, and on this matter I take him at his word. Now whether the bread and wine are literally changed into the actual body and blood while maintaining the appearance of bread and wine (transubstantiation) or whether the body and blood become present with the bread and wine (consubstantiation) or whether it some other way I don't know - and frankly believe it to be irrelevant. For me it is enough to know that when I receive the Eucharistic meal, I receive the real body and blood (life and being) of Jesus, and through it he dwells in me and I in him.
How do you view the Eucharist? How often do you partake - weekly (as established in the early church) daily? monthly?
God bless you this week.