Sunday, August 16, 2015

Gnawing Our Lord

Our Gospel readings are still in the Bread of Life discourse. This week's installment was John 6:51-58.1

After two millennia, what our Lord said may have lost some shock value:
"Whoever eats 19 my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him on the last day."
(John 6:54)
On the other hand, last year someone asked me if I realized that Catholics are cannibals. We are, sort of: but it wasn't our idea. (June 22, 2014)

Bread, Gnawing, and Choices

Quite a few Christians sidestep this bit of the Gospel, but I can't.

I'm a Catholic: so I must take what our Lord says seriously, acknowledge the authority Jesus gave Peter, and act as if it matters. (Matthew 16:18; Catechism of the Catholic Church, 74-95, 101-120, 124-133, 170-171, 1814-1816)

Getting back to eating our Lord's flesh, Matthew 26:26-29 says pretty much the same thing, emphasizing the forgiveness of sins.

"Eats," in John 6:54, isn't the verb Greeks used for nice human-style eating. When John's Gospel was written, that verb described how animals eat. "Munch" or "gnaw" mean about the same thing in today's English. (John 6, footnote 19, NAB)

I think it's pretty obvious that our Lord really meant 'eat my flesh, drink my blood:'
"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 6:57-58)
One thing I like about Jesus: our Lord doesn't avoid awkward realities. (June 7, 2015)

Next Sunday's Gospel reading, John 6:60-69, starts with many of our Lord's disciples saying "This saying is hard; who can accept it?" — and leaving.

I must accept the reality of the Eucharist. There is no other viable option. It's like Simon Peter said:
"Jesus then said to the Twelve, 'Do you also want to leave?'

"Simon Peter answered him, 'Master, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.

"We have come to believe and are convinced that you are the Holy One of God.' "
(John 6:67-69)

An Incredible Claim

A few chapters later, Jesus says "...before Abraham came to be, I AM." (John 8:58)

Someone who says "I am God" may be delusional, lying: or, on our Lord's case, stating a fact. That wasn't, perhaps, obvious at the time.

I'd be — dubious, at best — about our Lord's incredible claim, if it weren't for what happened later.

All four Gospels describe our Lord's last Passover in Jerusalem.

Matthew, Mark, and Luke show Jesus breaking bread, giving it to the disciples, and saying pretty much the same thing:
  • "Take and eat; this is my body"
    (Matthew 26:26)
  • "Take it; this is my body"
    (Mark 14:22)
  • "This is my body, which will be given for you; do this in memory of me."
    (Luke 22:19)
John 13 through 17 covers the same event, but starts with our Lord washing Peter's feet and ends with a prayer. I see it as an account of the disciples' final briefing before our Lord's death.

Then Jesus was tortured, publicly executed, and buried.

A few days later, our Lord stopped being dead.

The surviving 11 Apostles had trouble believing that, but after a series of meetings and working lunches they were convince that our Lord was actually, break-bread, eat-a-fish, put-your-hand-in-my-side, ALIVE. (Luke 24:30-31; Luke 24:41-43; John 20:26-27)

Standing Orders and Looking Ahead

A little later, Our Lord gave us a promise and standing orders — and left. (Matthew 28:18-20; Mark 16:15-19; Luke 24:49-51)

It took two angels to break up the crowd:
"While they were looking intently at the sky as he was going, suddenly two men dressed in white garments stood beside them.

"They said, 'Men of Galilee, why are you standing there looking at the sky? This Jesus who has been taken up from you into heaven will return in the same way as you have seen him going into heaven.' "
(Acts 1:10-11)
Two millennia later, at every Mass, we are there with our Lord at the Last Supper, and Golgotha. (Catechism, 1323, 1330, 1362-1372)

And we remember why we will keep working and watching until the end of time. (Mark 13:33-37; 1 Corinthians 16:22; Revelation 1:4; Catechism, 1402-1405)

Another millennium of the long watch:

1 " flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink..." — small wonder folks "quarreled among themselves:"
"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 19 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 6:51-51)

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