Thursday of the 3rd Week of Easter - John 6:44-51.No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him; and I will raise him up at the last day. It is written in the prophets, 'And they shall all be taught by God.' Every one who has heard and learned from the Father comes to me. Not that any one has seen the Father except him who is from God; he has seen the Father. Truly, truly, I say to you, he who believes has eternal life. I am the bread of life. Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died. This is the bread which comes down from heaven, that a man may eat of it and not die. I am the living bread which came down from heaven; if any one eats of this bread, he will live for ever; and the bread which I shall give for the life of the world is my flesh."
To silence their murmuring, Jesus further explains what is written in the prophets about Him. "All your sons shall be taught by the LORD, and great shall be the prosperity of your sons." (Isaiah 54:13) Those who do not hunger because they go to Jesus and those who do not thirst because they believe in Him (from John 6:35) are taught by God and the fact that God is the One Who teaches them is of vital importance. Although they have not seen the Father, they learn from Him through Jesus Who has seen the Father and comes from the Father. And so their prosperity is great: they shall not die, but live forever.
Finally, we reach the "hard saying" in chapter 6 that will separate the true believers from those who do not believe: "The bread which I shall give for the life of the world is my flesh."Jesus has explained about the manna eaten by their ancestors in the desert. It was bread that was perishable. The people eventually died who ate it. The manna or bread from heaven of which Jesus speaks is not the same. It is Jesus Himself and those who eat it will not die.
But Jesus has not yet given of His flesh. He refers to it as "I AM the living bread" and yet as "the bread which I SHALL give". Jesus IS the bread, but they will have to wait to receive this bread that is living. So fast forward to the Last Supper which is the Passover meal in the synoptic gospels. Jesus takes the unleavened bread of Passover and changes it when He says,
Then He takes the cup of blessing and says,"Take this, all of you, and eat it: this is my body which will be given up for you." ~
"Take this, all of you, and drink from it: this is the cup of my blood, the blood of the new and everlasting covenant. It will be shed for you and for all so that sins may be forgiven. Do this in memory of me."In the gospel of John, Jesus did not drink the final cup at the Last Supper because it is the cup of His suffering. He finishes the Passover meal from the cross for Jesus IS the NEW Passover Lamb. Before He dies, He cries, "I thirst!", then drinks the fruit of the vine and cries "It is finished!" What is finished? His cry denotes that it is the end of the Passover sacrifice. Passover's final cup of blessing has been consumed.
But none of this makes any sense until later, after the Resurrection. How was this first revealed? It was the disciples on the road to Emmaus who first came to know Jesus in the breaking of the bread. The flesh to which Jesus refers IS His flesh but who do they receive? It is the Risen Lord. Jesus, the man of history, was constrained by time and space just as we are. But following the Resurrection, Jesus' human form has been TRANSFORMED. His body is no longer bound by time and space. So the Risen Christ is present to us now in all times and in all places, but in a very special way in the Eucharist in the breaking of the bread.
At every Mass,we again hear the priest, acting in persona Christi, say the marvelous words.
"Take this, all of you, and eat it: this is my body which will be given up for you." ~
"Take this, all of you, and drink from it: this is the cup of my blood, the blood of the new and everlasting covenant. It will be shed for you and for all so that sins may be forgiven. Do this in memory of me."Only through Jesus' death AND Resurrection does the bread become His flesh and ordinary wine become His Precious Blood. We do not receive Christ in the tomb when we take Communion, but the Risen Lamb of God who is the living bread. The blood of the new and everlasting covenant that was shed on the cross is given to us as the cup of life for Jesus has risen from the dead. The death and Resurrection of Jesus changes everything. It turns death on its head. This is what happens when God dies on a cross and rises from the dead. He comes to us hidden - in distressing disguise, as Mother Teresa would say.
"When Jesus came into the world, He loved it so much that He gave His life for it. He wanted to satisfy our hunger for God. And what did He do? He made Himself the Bread of Life." ~ Mother Teresa