Year B: 20th Sunday in Ordinary Time
Gospel: John 6: 51-58
At the distance of two thousand years, it is, easy, to read or hear the words of today’s Gospel and allow their meaning almost to pass us by. Here is a real flesh and blood man saying unless you eat this flesh and drink this blood, you cannot have life within you.
It is a shocking statement in many ways and it is small wonder that the Jews argued about what he meant. Was Jesus advocating some kind of cannibalism? Was he encouraging a satanic rite of drinking human blood? What did his words mean and how - in culture which honoured the body and held blood to be sacred - how could he mean what he said?
Early Christians were indeed accused of human sacrifice - cannibalism - and the drinking of human blood as people heard snippets of their beliefs: “they meet to eat flesh and drink blood”. These accusations were cited as cause for persecution - after all, what civilised society would tolerate such behaviour?
In response, we tend to over-spiritualise this teaching. We know that Jesus is speaking of a mystical Body and mystical Blood and that their meaning goes beyond mere altar bread and sip of wine. We know that receiving Bread and Wine brings us into Communion with Christ himself and with all who form the Body of Christ - living and dead. We acknowledge the Mystery but shrink from trying to explain it as starkly as Jesus does in today’s Gospel.
Yet, as Jesus says, this Bread - become his flesh - this Wine - become his blood - are both real. The real food and real drink speak to us of his real presence within them. If Christ is in us, then we live in him and draw life from the Father through him.
The moment when we hold the Bread and sip the Wine at Communion seems insignificant in the life of the world - and yet, this moment brings us into communion with the eternal and transcendent. The forms of bread and wine will become subject to the natural process of digestion - their components becoming tiny parts of our own bodies. The presence of Christ within them will also act as food - but food for the spirit - food that feeds our soul and prepares us for eternal life.
What does it mean for me?
© 2006 Wellspring