First Reading: Proverbs 9:1-6
Psalm: Ps. 34:2-3, 4-5, 6-7
SecondReading: Eph. 5:15-20
Gospel: Jn. 6:51-58
In inviting us to feed on his “flesh” and drink his “blood,” Jesus invites us to change our view and attitude – to embrace the life of his Father: the life that finds joy in humble service to others, the life that is centered in unconditional, total, sacrificial love; the life that seeks fulfillment not in the conventional wisdom of this world, but in the holiness of the next.
In the “bread” he gives us to eat, we become the body of Christ with and for one another, in his “blood” of the new covenant, his life of compassion, justice and selflessness flows within us, and we become what we have received: the sacrament of unity, peace and reconciliation. What a beautiful thought, if we accept it.
For us, food and drink are essential. Not only do they have an enormous symbolic value in terms of our community or family life. Can you imagine a birthday, a wedding, or a fiesta celebration without any food? Nowadays, many important business deals and social agreements are struck over a dinner or luncheon.
“Eat better and live longer.” Immortality, it was believed in many ancient legends and myths, could be found somewhere. In the ancient Roman mythology, it was believed that the gods were kept from dying because they were fed a marvelous food called ambrosia and were given to drink a magical potion named nectar. Truly, for them, they became what they ate, their food made them what they were – immortals.
Now, that is precisely the whole point of Jesus’ words in today’s Gospel reading. On the occasion when Jesus was teaching in the synagogue ofCapernaum, he says something very strange indeed. He says in effect that all those myths and legends about food and drink capable of producing immortality were not just empty dreams, but that in fact there were indications, preparations, anticipations, pointing to what would one day be fulfilled with his coming. For indeed, Jesus has come to offer the marvelous food and the supremely potent liquid that will ensure your immortality – and that food and drink are nothing else than his flesh and blood. This is what Jesus is in effect telling us.
Of course, he is not speaking of mere physical immortality as the ancient pagans understood it: a prolongation natural life as we know it now. He is speaking of something much better. He is referring to a sharing in the very life of God, a life which begins now invisibly but very truly in our hearts – a life so powerful that eventually, after we will have experienced the physical death like a mere falling asleep, we will be brought back to life, but this time to a life of total joy and happiness, filled forever by the infinite love of God.
Jesus slept the sleep of death for only three days, and then rose again gloriously alive forever. When we partake of the Eucharist, it is not a dead Christ that we eat. It is his resurrected body, the glorious Christ we receive. How can we not be changed by it one day, since we become what we eat? With other food, for example, when we eat a piece of meat or cake, that meat or cake get assimilated and become part of us. Not so when we receive the Risen Lord in the Eucharist, we become part of his Risen Life.
For some of us this may sound too good to be true. And so, we might be tempted to react like some of Jesus’ listeners in the synagogue ofCapernaum- with skepticism. But we are in a better position than they were in judging the truth of Jesus’ words. They only saw a man of flesh and blood before their eyes. But by the grace of God, we know better. We know that Jesus is risen from the dead, forever alive with the life of his Father. And that changes everything. When Jesus promises that whoever receives the Eucharist, he will raise up the person on the last day, we know that he can do it and that he will do it.
We do not need ambrosia and nectar. We have Jesus Christ, the bread from heaven. In him humankind’s wildest dreams are far surpassed. Do you believe his words?