Carry the gospel with you

Posted in christian, Christianity, inspirational, religion, scripture by Mike on June 26, 2011

Gospel reading of the day:

John 6:51-58

Jesus said to the crowds: “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 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.”

Reflection on the gospel reading: We Catholics easily see in this passage a reference to the Eucharist. Because we do this, we can skip over certain meanings implicit at the core of what Jesus says here. When we do this, that is, gloss over the text with a superficial understanding of its Eucharistic overtones, we fail to recognize not only what Jesus really is saying here, but we also avoid a radical truth about the Eucharist itself.

Our bodies, both flesh and blood, are completely identified with who we are. There is no way that we can know each other except as bodily. When Jesus talks in this passage about eating his body and drinking his blood, he is talking about our complete identification with the totality of who he is: what Jesus knows; what Jesus feels; how Jesus acts. Jesus in this passage makes an offer of presence in our lives that calls for a response, either for a yes or for a no to knowing as Jesus knows, feeling as Jesus feels, acting as Jesus acts, becoming identified with Jesus’ totality in our totality. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me and I in him. If we understand the passage asks for our total identification with Jesus, we have understood the passage.

We Catholics, of course, recognize Jesus’ presence in the Eucharist, and after years of going to communion, it’s easy for us to look into this passage and see advice that we should go to mass and receive the Eucharist. But if we understand the passage in its deep meaning, we need to recognize that there is something radical that we should understand when we go to communion. Our Eucharist should be a radical commitment to think, feel, and act with Jesus. Eucharist isn’t a wimpy walk to the communion rail: it is a fundamental statement about who Jesus is, who I am, and the inseparability of those two realities.

Spiritual reading: Christianity has all too often meant withdrawal and the unwillingness to share the common suffering of humankind. But the world has rightly risen in protest against such piety… The care of another – even material, bodily care – is spiritual in essence. Bread for myself is a material question; bread for my neighbor is a spiritual one. (Jacques Maritain)

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