Sunday 22-06-14 Bread of life (Jn 6:51-58)
Dear brothers and sisters in Jesus Christ, today as we celebrate in a special manner the feast of Jesus’ precious body and blood, we begin to catch a glimpse of the power of Jesus' words that those who eat my flesh and drink my blood abide in me and I in them (v.56). Eat – Drink – Abide. The image of the banquet remains, throughout the whole Bible, as the central image of life and communion." 'Man is what he eats,' the German philosopher Feuerbach wrote. Jesus' words to the gathered crowd caused a debate among the Jews who heard them. "How can this man give us his flesh to eat?" Not only does Jesus offer his flesh and blood for the life of the world, there is no life apart from eating the flesh and blood of the Son of Man. That means these words had to do with, on the one hand, taking the whole of Jesus’ life and ministry into one's being - an intimate union with Jesus Christ and on the other hand, referring to the unity/koinonia among the believers. Intimate union with Christ - unity among brethren.
Here John is revealing the inner meaning of what Matthew, Mark and Luke will portray in the outward act of eating bread and drinking wine in the transformation of the Passover meal into an eating and drinking, "in remembrance of me." What is the memorial that he has left for us? It is none other than service and love. “If I, your Lord and teacher, have washed you feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet”(13:14), “you love one another as I have loved you”(15:12). That is why the judgment becomes unique, “truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me,”(Mt 25:40). That is why St.John omits the narration of the institution of the Eucharist at the last supper and brings Jesus’ washing of disciple’s feet. Again seeing the disunity among the Corinthians St.Paul scolds them, “when you come together, it is not really to eat the Lord’s Supper.”
Therefore, I want to make clear that communion with Christ is a lifestyle and the celebration of the Eucharist, however, does not create intimacy with the Lord -- it is a reflection of it. It should be an expression of our love and communion. True enough, we think of communion with Christ as the sacrament of Holy Communion -- an act we participate in when we are gathered together in the church for corporate/common worship. Our Eucharist is more than a mere remembrance of what once was; it is the bread of life itself, the cup of salvation. The very physical and tangible presence of the crucified and risen Christ incorporated into our very being! Therefore, communion with Christ means a restoration of the intimacy with God that brings fulfillment and satisfaction. There is no life sustaining nourishment for the spirit to be had apart from the Lord. "I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats of this bread will live forever..."
We are in communion with Christ in the whole of our lives. While we were studying in our minor seminary, Fr.Rector used to remind us, “Holy mass is not part of the day but heart of the day.” In other words, Life in communion with Christ is not confined to a few moments in public worship of Eucharist, but is a morning 'till evening, every waking moment feeding on the One who gives us his very self to feed upon. Communion with Christ has always been a mark of the follower of Christ. We would make significant gains in our life of "followership" -- or "discipleship," if we would focus on the Eucharist as the deepest expression of our communion with Christ and not simply a "going to" or "taking of" that begins and ends in the sanctuary. Let us not forget, to feed on Christ all the days of my life is to be in communion with Christ.
In communion with Christ also means to follow the Jesus-way. St.John in his first letter says, “whoever says, ‘I abide in him’, ought to walk just as he walked”(1:6). It means to accept the call to sacrifice ourselves for the sake of the Kingdom. It means to live the Kingdom way/message before the Kingdom is realized in its full.
Finally, then, it is clear that Jesus, when asking the crowd to “eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood” is also alluding to the new community meal that he will give at the last supper, which is itself an eternal reference to his death on the cross. Whatever else Christianity is then, it must be seen as a meal, a fellowship meal at a table spread before his new flesh and blood community, comprised as it is of both Jew and Gentile, and spread out before them by the LORD himself. St. Paul says, ”as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the lord’s death until he comes”(1cor 11:26). Again, “for all who eat and drink without discerning the body, eat and drink judgment against themselves”( 1 cor 11:29).
At this holy Eucharist, then, this table of Our Lord Jesus Christ, the heavenly banquet he himself instituted and prepared, Jesus invites us to partake of this new life, offered through his death and his resurrection. At his table we are in communion with the Son, finding the promise of life, renewal, peace, and the reality of community and of true humanness. And, at his table we find the promise of the reality of the present and future Kingdom. In other words, what we dream for the world in our heart of hearts -- peace, hope, a common humanness -- was actually accomplished when the Son died on the cross. And this is what is offered in the Eucharistic meal -- the shared memorial and the shared community life of the Son.
I conclude with this short homily with St.Paul “As you therefore have received Christ Jesus the Lord, continue to live your lives in him, rooted and built up in him and established in faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving” (col 2:6).To live in Christ is to love. Let us remember, “no one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends”(Jn 15:13).