3rd Saturday in Easter Time
We are the end of Chapter 6 of St John’s Gospel, the Chapter on the Eucharist. Yesterday Jesus told His disciples ‘whoever eats my Flesh and drinks my Blood has eternal life.’ This is the context for today’s Gospel when some of the disciples murmured saying ‘This saying is hard, who can accept it’
These were first century Jews who had it ingrained in them that they were never, ever, to ever consume anything with its blood in it, much less drink the blood of a human person. It is important to see how Jesus responds to this. He does not recant what He has said. He keeps insisting on this. To have eternal life we must eat His flesh and drink His Blood. This is absolutely certain.
On the one hand, he will not take back that we must eat His Flesh and drink His Blood. On the other hand, what is this flesh and blood? It is not the flesh or blood of a dead human being. He tells them ‘What if you were to see the Son of Man ascending to where He was before. This is crucial. Jesus does not just drop this randomly. It is to draw us deeper into the mystery – this flesh and blood that we consume in the Eucharist is the flesh and blood of Jesus who was crucified but who rose and ascended to the Father. Yes it is flesh. No it is not the flesh of a dead man but someone who has risen. It is the flesh and blood that comes down from heaven where the Son of Man is.
Now because it is from heaven – St John as a good Jew expects us to put this together. The Eucharist is the new manna. It is the fulfillment of the old manna.
The old manna also came down from heaven. In Deuteronomy, Moses tells the people – the Lord was feeding you with manna which neither you nor your ancestors had known to teach you that man does not live by bread alone but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.
Jesus will echo this in this Chapter on the Eucharist. He tells them ‘this is the bread that came down from heaven. Your ancestors ate and died but whoever feeds on this bread will live forever.’ And then he says something very important that takes you back to Deuteronomy if you pay close attention to allusions. My words are Spirit and life. In Deuteronomy –the old manna is linked to every word that comes from the mouth of God. Here the new manna fulfils the old because it is now linked with the Word in the flesh – whose words are Spirit and life.
What is to be our attitude? We cannot figure this out. When God comes in the flesh and when His words are spirit and Life, how can we even begin to understand? So great a mystery cannot be comprehended by our puny minds. We can only allow ourselves to be drawn into the mystery, to let our minds be enlightened by the encounter with the person of Jesus and this only by remaining with Jesus and not pulling away ever from Him. Like Peter we say ‘Lord to whom shall we go, Your have the words of everlasting life, Your words are Spirit and Life.