This Is My Flesh For The Life Of The World
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
Last week we heard that Jesus said to the crowds, and to us, “Come to me!” You who are hungry and thirsty, you who do not know the meaning of your life, come to me, come and drink and you will thirst no more. And we saw that this gospel was an invitation; it has to be. God leaves us free to respond to him or not. Jesus yearns to give himself to us with all the passion of a lover, but he does not force us.
And this week we continue with Chapter Six of St. John’s gospel (6: 41-51) where we hear the Jews are murmuring again because Jesus said that he was the bread that came down from heaven. How could he come down from heaven if we know his father and mother? John is using irony here because his readers know that his real father was not Joseph and that his mother had a virgin birth. His real father is the Holy Spirit.
And Jesus tells them to stop murmuring since you can only understand this if the Father draws you. In other words God draws you means that he gives you the grace, he helps you. He doesn’t say it directly but they don’t understand because they are very rebellious; they don’t want to understand. They just want bread. They are very worldly, very carnal. And they don’t ask for light to be able to understand. Again, they want miracles and they want them now!
So if you have people in your family who do not understand, be patient. Pray that they will respond to the help that God sends them. Ask the Lord to draw these friends, relatives, enemies to himself. Don’t be mad at them. It’s not entirely their fault. Maybe God has not helped them as much as he helped you and me. Pray that they have a willing disposition with the Lord. Pray that they don’t want to have everything explained to them in black and white. Only through Christ can one see God. It is a miracle whom he enlightens, and inflames with this desire.
When Peter makes his profession of faith in a different gospel Jesus says to him it is not flesh and blood that has revealed this to you, but it is a free gift of my Father. It is through no merit of your own, Peter. The mystery has been revealed to you. Revelation means a drawing back of the curtain. The hand of God is the one who draws it back. He shows his face to certain people, probably the ones who really long for it.
None of us would have this desire to see God unless he spoke to us first, and touched our hearts in some way. It could have been through a suffering or difficulty or loneliness. The Father will be the one who teaches. And when he is heard by us he changes our hearts of stone to a heart of flesh.
Again Jesus repeats what we heard last week. Only one thing is necessary to be saved. I need to believe. Believe that my salvation comes from outside of me; it comes from Christ. When John says “eat this bread” it means to believe. If you eat this bread you will live, if you believe it. That is why you say, “Amen” when the priest says, “Body of Christ.” It means, so be it, I believe. I truly believe that he is the only one. He entered death and has overcome it; he is the only One who did so. And he wants to give us this eternal life.
The manna that the Jews received did not protect them from death. But the living bread will save them from death, Jesus says. It will save both body and soul. Jesus says that you will physically die but I will raise you up, and you will die no more.
But the most astounding thing that Jesus says is: “The bread that I give is my flesh.” This is more amazing than, “I am the bread come down from heaven.” What are we to believe when he says eat my flesh? The early persecutions against the Christians said that they were cannibals; they ate the flesh of others. But Jesus does not mean this. He is saying what he said at the last Supper. “This is my body given up for you.” He is alluding to his passion. “This is my flesh for the life of the world.” It is for the salvation of all.
He is not just speaking of balancing the scales to offset the sin of Adam and Eve. It is much more than that; it is to show the love of the Father for you and me. Jesus re-veals the love of God for you. He is the Word of the Father that is made flesh. He dies and rises for you. Those who eat me, who believe in me, will live forever.
St. John Vianney was 13 when he received his first Communion and how much he looked forward to that day. In the late 1700’s after the French Revolution all the churches were closed and priests had to administer sacraments secretly. Nuns and lay people quietly prepared the kids in those years. So 16 of them gathered on the chosen day in the large home of one of the families. Each mother brought a white veil or armlet carefully hidden and was worn by the first communicant. Years later when he spoke of this event it was always with tears. When he taught kids he showed the rosary that he received at first communion and encouraged the children to preserve theirs and to use it.
Let us not take the reception of Holy Communion for granted. Maybe it is time to make a good confession or to resolve your marital situation in order to receive Communion worthily fully believing that it is the Body and Blood of Christ that enters us each week. Maybe it is a time to reflect on the Amen we say before we receive.