I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats of this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.” The Jews then disputed among themselves, saying, “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?” So Jesus said to them, “Very truly, I tell you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood have eternal life, and I will raise them up on the last day; for my flesh is true food and my blood is true drink. Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood abide in me, and I in them. Just as the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so whoever eats me will live because of me. This is the bread that came down from heaven, not like that which your ancestors ate, and they died. But the one who eats this bread will live forever.”
Oh, man, I really pity the guys listening to Jesus in today’s reading. He always says stuff they can’t really understand, but today he takes the cake — or should I say, bread. “I am the bread of life,” he says, “whoever eats of this bread will live forever; and the bread is my flesh.” And when they started murmuring, he added, “and you have to drink my blood too.” Eat my flesh. Drink my blood. Really? Yeah, really, but we don’t find what he says too strange because we have the advantage of knowing about the death of Jesus, his resurrection, and his subsequent ascension into heaven.
We also have the advantage of the Holy Spirit, who, as Jesus promised, teaches us all things. But these guys 2,000 years ago; they were just listening to Jesus say the weirdest things, and one almost feels sorry for them for not understanding. However, do we understand? Even with the benefit of what we know, do we understand what Jesus is saying here? Listen again: “Very truly, I tell you, unless you eat my flesh and drink my blood, you have no life in you” (John 6:53). Is there life within us? What kind of life is it? Are we a people bursting with life, brimming with love, joy, peace? Or, are we a people who are dead inside, always sad, lonely, miserable, anxious, and frightened?
I have spoken about this several times before, but it bears repeating. Nothing can fill us but God. As Augustine famously declared, ‘You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our hearts can never be at rest until they rest in you.’ When we go without food for a certain amount of time, we feel hunger pangs, which is our body letting us know that it requires nourishment. So, we eat. But, because we are trapped within a human body, we aren’t always conscious of our spiritual hunger. This is why we need to do checks like we just did and ask the question: Do we have life in us? If we don’t, perhaps we haven’t been filling ourselves with the nourishment our soul needs.
But, you say, I receive the body and blood of Christ daily — or I used to, anyway. I still feel dead. See, that should have indicated a problem. What? That we didn’t do a soul check. Listen to what Paul wrote to the Corinthians: “Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be answerable for the body and blood of the Lord. Examine yourselves, and only then eat of the bread and drink of the cup. For all who eat and drink without discerning the body, eat and drink judgment against themselves” (1 Corinthians 11:27-33).
That is Jesus in the flesh we are consuming. Our bodies, consequently, need to be like tabernacles. Have you ever seen a tabernacle that is dirty? We are outraged if we ever come to know that one has been desecrated. Can we say the same about our bodies? This is why Paul also tells us “to offer our bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is our true and proper worship” (Romans 12:1). We have often taken the body and blood of Christ for granted, but sometimes we realize the value of something only when it is taken away. When we are able to consume him again, let us do so with much eagerness, opening not just our mouths to receive him, but our hearts as well.
And we will have life in us.