This past Sunday at Mass the Gospel was taken from one of my favorites, and I just want to take a second here to talk about it.
The actual reading was a truncated version of the Bread of Life discourse, from John 6. The relevant verses - and my favorite - are John 6:48 - 58.
Real quickly, here's how they are in my Bible:
"I am the bread of life. You ancestors ate the manna in the desert, but they died; this is the bread that comes down from heaven so that one may eat it and not die. 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 of the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you do not have live 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."
What I really love about these verses is how absolutely intense and in-your-face they are. The next lines are about how all but the 12 Apostles leave him after this teaching, because it's just so hard to accept. And the verses even have people quarreling and questioning this teaching. The Jews are basically saying "he doesn't really mean to say that people have to eat him, right? It must be a metaphor or something, right?"
To which Jesus says, "No, I'm telling you: you've got to actually physically eat my body and drink my blood."
And let's face it - that's graphic. And hard. Very very difficult to accept. But at the same time, so very awesome. To think that Christ's sacrifice is actually consumable - that by eating Christ in the sacrifice of the Mass, we can share in eternal life? Wow. That's just so awesome.
Anyways, I just wanted to throw this out there. Because this idea - these verses - for me, they're at the heart of my Christianity. They're the reason I'm Catholic, and not some other denomination. Because Catholics really believe that Communion is Christ's flesh and blood. Catholics actually embrace that crazy belief that we've gotta eat and drink Jesus. And I love that.
Sure, maybe people would disagree. There are a lot of people out there who interpret away the plain meaning of those verses quoted above.
But the fact remains: if you accept that Jesus is Lord, at very least the Bread of Life discourse has to give you pause. You can't look at that teaching, and just pass over it. Those are the words of Christ, saying "if you want eternal life, you've got to eat me." And that's about as in-your-face as it can get.
Taste and see