A special gathering with family and friends often centers around food. Certainly any one of us could eat alone, using food as the fuel that will keep us going. But it is at a table filled with love and companionship as well as lovingly-prepared food that we are really fed down to our souls.
I have the sense that this is the kind of food Jesus is offering us in today’s Gospel. In these weeks after Easter, we linger with the Gospel of John. The Fourth Gospel treats us to John’s poetic peeling back of Jesus’ delicately layered message, repeated over and over again. Jesus tells us he is the “Bread of Life” and if we feed on this bread, we will live forever.
In today’s gospel, we see the confusion of people who can only understand it their way. There are quarrels and people wonder, “How can this man give us his Flesh to eat?” But Jesus calmly repeats his message: “Unless you eat the Flesh of the Son of Man and drink his Blood, you do not have life within you.”
How is it that we can eat his flesh and drink his blood? We can do this because his gift to us is the sacrifice of his very body and blood for us. He died that we might live. He is broken and given to feed our hunger. When he gives himself to us, that gift is real indeed. For those of us who are Catholics, the Eucharist is the sacrament of that gift - it makes real what it symbolizes.
It helped me when I learned that the Greek word for “feed” that John used in this Gospel could more accurately be translated “graze.” Graze on Jesus. Make him the center of our lives. Focus our life on Jesus. Just as we need food to survive, we need Jesus to “graze” upon, to return to over and over, to feed us to our very souls. Whoever “feeds on me will have life because of me.”
John’s imagery is startling but the invitation from Jesus is very human. If we constantly return to the source of our life, he promises us a real relationship with him. Not only will we remain in Jesus but that Jesus will remain in us. In every day of our lives, that invitation is renewed and if we accept it, we will be fed with a life we could not have imagined. Real presence. Real food and drink. Preparing us to really give our lives as food and drink for others.
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