Sunday, May 29, 2005
Unless You Eat the Flesh of the Son of Man  

For the Feast of Corpus Christi, the Gospel reading is a section from Jesus' discourse on the Bread of Life which is recorded in St. John's Gospel (6:51-58). In this passage, Jesus states the most amazing thing. He says,
"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."(53-58)

This is His response to the Jews who after listening to Him and quarreling among themselves, ask, "How can this man give us his flesh to eat?"

I remember sitting in my class on the Gospel of John at the Protestant Evangelical college I attended when this passage was discussed. The professor who had a very reformed theological bent got excited at this passage, because, as he noted with childlike enthusiasm, Jesus' response simply turned up the heat on the audience. Jesus was not backing down or softening his answer. Little did I know how much Jesus was really turning up the heat on His audience which now included me. The scales on my eyes prevented me at that time from seeing that this was not some symbolic reference. Jesus was talking about His real flesh and blood. The same flesh and blood that He said He would offer up on the cross: "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. (51)"

Over the ensuing years, I began to learn that Catholics were the true Biblical literalists because they took Jesus' words literally while the vast majority of separated brethren switched from literal to symbolic in John 6. I kept being faced with this idea that Jesus was not talking about a mere symbol through books that I read, including the Catechism, and programs on EWTN. However, it was not until I read David Currie's book Born Fundamentalist, Born Again Catholic that I received the grace to shake my interpretative perspective and begin to see what the Church has proclaimed since the beginning. The key was verse 51. The flesh that Jesus was to offer up for the life of the world could not be symbolic; otherwise the Gnostics were right that Jesus flesh was not real flesh. Instead, Jesus must be talking about His flesh which He took on at the Incarnation.

In order to suddenly find that Jesus was only speaking symbols in the verses following verse 51, you have to violate basic exegetical ideas, not to mention common sense. Beside, Jesus is answering their question. He does answer their question by clearing up any confusion that might exist with the idea that He is actually speaking about His flesh and blood. Instead, He simply underscores what He had already said about His being the Bread of Life which has come down from Heaven and which must be eaten in order to obtain eternal life.

The background of this discourse is based on our Lord having miraculously fed the multitude bread (John 6:1-13). The next day the same folks follow Him to where He has relocated because they are looking for more food (6:26). Jesus does not tell them to stop working for food. He tries to redirect their efforts to work for food that does not perish. Thus, begins the dialog and Jesus' discourse that culminates in His declaration that whoever eats His flesh and drinks His blood has eternal life. That is really quite unbelievable. Except by grace.

Posted by David at 2:00 AM  |  Comments (0)  | 


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