Eucharist in Action
Today’s Gospel elaborates further on the teaching that Jesus began in our liturgy last week. In that reading, the crowds wondered about how Jesus could say that he had come down from heaven because they knew Jesus to be the son of Joseph. In this Gospel, some have difficulty with Jesus’ teaching that he is the living bread sent from God. Recall that Jesus had told them that just as God gave the Israelites manna to sustain them in the desert, so now God has sent new manna that will give eternal life. We hear the concluding verse of last week’s Gospel repeated in today’s reading: Jesus himself is the bread sent by God; Jesus’ flesh is the bread that is given for the life of the world.
Clearly Jesus is not speaking of cannibalism and so he takes the image further by talking of his flesh and blood. Partaking in his flesh and blood means believing in him and in his life-giving death. Through their faith they are in communion with him and that communion is Jesus and trinity expressed through the Eucharist. The believer comes to live in him and draws life from him just as Jesus himself drew life from the Father. Everything here must be viewed from the perspective of Jesus’ death on the cross. Through the Eucharist we come to live by the same self-sacrificing love that brought Jesus to Calvary. Many today continue to struggle to accept these words. But they are important words because they reveal our intimate connection with Jesus. This is the mystery that is at the heart of our Eucharistic theology. In the elements of bread and wine, Jesus’ Body and Blood are made truly present. When we share in the Body and Blood of Christ, Jesus himself comes to dwell within us. This communion with the Lord makes us one body, brings us eternal life, and sends us forth to be Christ’s body for the life of the world. John shows us the Eucharist in action and this is a reminder that the union with Jesus offered through Holy Communion cannot be thought of in some purely personal, devotional way. Jesus gives himself to us so that we can give ourselves to others.