When You Eat My Flesh (John 6:51-71)
I am the living bread which has come down from heaven. Anyone who eats this bread will live for ever; and the bread that I shall give is my flesh, for the life of the world. … For my flesh is real food and my blood is real drink. He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood lives in me and I live in him. As I, who am sent by the living Father, myself draw life from the Father, so whoever eats me will draw life from me.
To say these last that twenty verses of the Gospel of John are cause for reflection is an understatement that cannot be overstated. A lifetime is not long enough to absorb their Promise. A popular bumper sticker comes to mind: “God said it. I believe it. That settles it.” This radical, even divisive, Word from Jesus is so deep from the Bowels of God, that our Ears of Flesh cannot attain them –they can only be grasped by Faith.
So disturbing was this Word of Jesus that the crowd and many of his disciples left him: After hearing it, many of his followers said, 'This is intolerable language. How could anyone accept it?' Jesus did not rephrase, soften or explain his Word as symbolic. He didn’t even flinch. He said: It is the spirit that gives life, the flesh has nothing to offer. The words I have spoken to you are spirit and they are life.
The way of the Flesh –of the World- offers no hope for understanding this Word of his Spirit, this Voice of his Father, the Source and Culmination of Life. Before his death, Jesus left this parting Word: I shall ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate to be with you for ever, that Spirit of truth whom the world can never receive since it neither sees nor knows him; but you know him, because he is with you, he is in you.
Only in surrendering our spirit into the giving of his Holy Spirit, do we have access to the God-Given-Gift, the Spirit-Capacity to transcend our natural world, which is limited by the logic of our senses. Only through his Spirit present within us, can our Faith grasp the Reality, the Truth, of his Real Presence in the Eucharist, that when we eat his Flesh and drink his Blood, we Receive our Lord -his Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity.
When we feed on God, God becomes part of us, and as such, we become part of God. To eat with someone, has forever been a sign of common bond, of sharing life together. But now, in our Communion -our Common Union with Jesus- the symbolic is Transfigured into the literal. In consuming Jesus, we become consumed by him. In possessing Jesus, he possesses us.
When we feed on God, we abide in him, and he in us –we make our home in him, we live our life in him, with him, for him and by him. Having been mingled in Body, our identities become transposed. Like Lovers Lost in the Other's arms, we become One.
Surely, Peter must also have been wondering. “Is this madness, to talk of such Intimacy with God? Can a sane disciple not walk away from such insanity? How do I respond to these Words from my Masters Mouth? …Then Jesus said to the Twelve, 'What about you, do you want to go away too?' Simon Peter answered, 'Lord, who shall we go to? You have the message of eternal life, and we believe; we know that you are the Holy One of God.'
Peter was always the one apt to blurt things out. Perhaps, it was this very weakness, that allowed the Holy Spirit to speak through him -before his mind of flesh had a chance to filter out the Confounding Truth. Three decades later, John, in putting to pen this foundational discourse, wrote: He taught this doctrine at Capernaum, in the synagogue. John had the advantage of Pentecost, with its empowering Wisdom, plus thirty years, to reflect and formulate his response to Jesus’ discourse on the Gifting of his Body and Blood. He framed it as “doctrine”, as a central Truth. But Peter, he had his back pinned to the wall. An immediate and public response was demanded of him.
If John was the Brilliant Theologian, then Peter was the Faithful Dog. If I was allowed to have only one as my hero, it would be Peter. Even though he did not understand his Master, he was blindly Faithful. If Jesus said it, he Believed it to be True. He was so bonded to his Master that he could leap before he could understand.Lord, lead me into the Faith of Peter, your Rock. Root me in the Truth of your Word. As I approach your Living Bread, 0pen my heart -to receive your Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity –that I may draw Life from you; that you, may become part of me; that I, may become true in you.