Heavenly Food

Jesus said to the Jewish crowds:
“I am the living bread that came down from heaven;
whoever eats this bread will live forever;
and the bread that I will give
is my flesh for the life of the world.”

The Jews quarreled among themselves, saying,
“How can this man give us his flesh to eat?”
Jesus said to them,
“Amen, amen, I say to you,
unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood,
you do not have life within you.
Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood
has eternal life,
and I will raise him on the last day.
For my flesh is true food,
and my blood is true drink.
Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood
remains in me and I in him.
Just as the living Father sent me
and I have life because of the Father,
so also the one who feeds on me
will have life because of me.
This is the bread that came down from heaven.
Unlike your ancestors who ate and still died,
whoever eats this bread will live forever.”
(John 6:51-58)

Scripture Study

6:51 I shall give: The future tense points both to the Cross, where Jesus surrenders his life for human sins, and to the eucharistic liturgy, where Jesus offers himself as living bread to a starving world.

6:52 his flesh to eat?: The crowd is thinking of cannibalism, i.e., the sin of eating a human corpse, an idea thoroughly repugnant to them (Deut 28:53). This is a misunderstanding. Jesus gives us, not his mortal flesh as it was during his earthly ministry, but his glorified humanity as it was after rising from the dead. This is why he calls himself the “living bread” (6:51).

6:53 eat the flesh … drink his blood: Jesus is speaking literally and sacramentally. If he were speaking metaphorically or figuratively, his words would echo a Hebrew idiom where consuming flesh and blood refers to the brutalities of war (Deut 32:42; Ezek 39:17–18). no life in you: i.e., divine life. ● Drinking the blood of animals is forbidden under the Old Covenant (Gen 9:4; Lev 17:10–13; Deut 12:16). To do so is to consume “life” that is merely natural and of a lower order than human life. Jesus’ injunction does not fall under these prohibitions. The “life” he imparts is not natural but supernatural; it does not pull us down to the level of animals; it elevates us to become sharers in his divine nature (2 Pet 1:4) (CCC 1391).

6:58 will live for ever: The expression occurs rarely in the Bible, only twice in John (6:51, 58) and once in the Greek version of Gen 3:22. ● A comparison is thus implied between the Tree of Life, which bore the fruit of immortality, and the Bread of Life, which tradition calls the “medicine of immortality” (CCC 1331).

Scripture Reflection

Friends, today’s Gospel passage is one of the most shocking in the New Testament. Those who heard it were not only repulsed intellectually, they were disgusted, viscerally. For a Jewish man to be insinuating that you should eat his own flesh and drink his blood was about as nauseating and religiously objectionable as you could get.

So what does Jesus do? Does he soften his rhetoric when he hears these reactions? Does he offer a metaphorical or symbolic interpretation? Does he back off? On the contrary, he intensifies what he just said: “Amen, amen I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you do not have life within you.” As all the scholars point out to us, the verb used here in Greek is trogein, which indicates the way an animal eats.

So what do we do? How should we understand this? If we stand in the great Catholic tradition, we honor these mysterious and wonderful words of Jesus. We resist all attempts to soften them or explain them away or make them easier to swallow. We affirm, with all of our hearts, the doctrine of the real presence.

– Bishop Robert Barron

May the virtues of faith, hope, and love go with you today – DV.

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