We are continuing these past weeks and ending next week with the sixth chapter of John’s Gospel in which Jesus talks about Eucharist. Today we read: “I myself am the living bread come down from heaven. If anyone eats this bread he shall live forever; the bread I will give is my flesh, for the life of the world” (Jn 6:51).
Jesus is never just bread. Jesus is always the bread of life. Jesus is always the living bread. “Life” is a quality of the Father who shares it with Jesus, who said that he and the Father are one and he is in the Father and the Father is in him. “Eternal life” means being in relationship with the Father (6:57), which begins in the present and lasts for eternity. Jesus as the “living bread” is the means by which this relationship is established and maintained. Jesus is necessary for this abundant “life” just as bread is necessary for one’s physical life. It is through the Eucharist that the Father continues to give Jesus to establish and maintain this life-giving relationship. God is certainly not limited to the sacramental means of restoring the relationship with humanity, but Eucharist is the ordinary means for the Catholic Christian). “Just as the living Father sent me and I live because of the Father, so the one who feeds on me will live because of me” (Jn 6:57).
Jesus tells the crowd and his disciples this bread he will give will be superior to the manna that their Jewish ancestors ate. What Jesus offers is, in some ways, similar to what the ancestors received - bread from heaven as a gift from God; but in other ways is something brand new - it is a person, not manna. Something new is happening. (Some of the people will be his disciples, but some will leave him because they cannot accept what he is saying:) “Unless you eat the flesh of the son of man and drink his blood you cannot have life in you” (Jn 6:56). Jesus does not say how this is going to happen but indicates the necessity of eating his flesh and drinking his blood.
While the Synoptic Gospels record the institution of the Eucharist, it is John who explains what the Eucharist does for the Christian.
- You have life in yourself (v.53)
- You have eternal life (v.54)
- You will be raised by Jesus on the last day (v.54)
- You remain in Jesus and he in you (v.56)
- You will live through Jesus (v.57)
- You will live forever (v.58)
These are declarations we can and should declare to those who eat and drink that they have these benefits. Brian Stoffregen in Crossmarks has written: “When we eat bread and drink wine; or eat donuts and drink coffee, or pretzels and beer, or whatever that food and drink ends up nourishing our blood which, in turn, nourishes every cell in our bodies. That biological fact can present a very graphic picture of Jesus remaining in us. Jesus is not just in our heart or head; but Jesus (as bread and wine) becomes part of every nook and cranny of our entire being - or more correctly flowing through every tiny capillary in every cell of our bodies.” “ Just as Jesus’ source of life came from the Father—from being sent by the Father and from living in obedience to the Father (rather than obeying self), so the source of our life comes from our relationship with Jesus—believing in him and “eating and drinking” him and being sent by and obeying Jesus.
From the bulletin of 8/16/2009