Jesus said to the Jews:
‘I am the living bread which has come down from heaven.
Anyone who eats this bread will live for ever;
and the bread that I shall give is my flesh,
for the life of the world.’
Then the Jews started arguing with one another: ‘How can this man give us his flesh to eat?’ they said. Jesus replied:
‘I tell you most solemnly,
if you do not eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood,
you will not have life in you.
Anyone who does eat my flesh and drink my blood
has eternal life,
and I shall raise him up on the last day.
For my flesh is real food
and my blood is real drink.
He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood
lives in me
and I live in him.
As I, who am sent by the living Father,
myself draw life from the Father,
so whoever eats me will draw life from me.
This is the bread come down from heaven;
not like the bread our ancestors ate:
they are dead,
but anyone who eats this bread will live for ever.’
Sunday is the Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ (Corpus Christi). The Gospel we hear is drawn from the Bread of Life discourse in the Gospel of John.
We hear the words of Jesus, familiar with the Sacrament of the Eucharist. So we are not likely to mistake Jesus words for an advocacy of cannibalism. But pity those who first heard them – how else could they have understood them?
But, perhaps those who knew him best would be able to understand the metaphor Jesus applies to himself – that he is the living bread. Perhaps they could know from their experience of his love and care for them and others, his self-sacrifice for their sake; his radical obedience to the will of the Father that he has been and is bread for their eating; wisdom for their guidance, the living word of God for their salvation.
Jesus is this for them and us, but not in words only, not in inspiration only, but in the very fact and physicality of his humanity, in its particularity and in its service of his Father and his neighbour.
The Last Supper. Eglise St Lauren, Paris. (c) 2017, Allen Morris