Gospel – John 6:51-58

Jesus said to the crowds:
“I am the living bread that came down from heaven;
whoever eats this bread will live forever;
and the bread that I will give
is my flesh for the life of the world.”The Jews quarreled among themselves, saying,
“How can this man give us his flesh to eat?”
Jesus said to them,
“Amen, amen, I say to you,
unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood,
you do not have life within you.
Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood
has eternal life,
and I will raise him on the last day.
For my flesh is true food,
and my blood is true drink.
Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood
remains in me and I in him.
Just as the living Father sent me
and I have life because of the Father,
so also the one who feeds on me
will have life because of me.
This is the bread that came down from heaven.
Unlike your ancestors who ate and still died,
whoever eats this bread will live forever.”

Reflection on the Gospel

Let us remember that we are in the holy presence of God.

Today’s gospel reading begins by repeating verse 51 from last Sunday’s reading.  Today’s gospel is a duplicate of the preceding discourse in which the bread of life is now Eucharist.  No longer are we told that eternal life is the result of believing in Jesus.  Eternal life now comes from feeding on his flesh and drinking his blood.  Jesus is now the agent of salvation, not the Father.  A new vocabulary is used throughout this section:  eat, feed, drink, flesh, blood.  No wonder the Jews quarreled among themselves!  Jews do not drink the blood of an animal along with its flesh.

There are indications that this is Eucharistic language.  First, the stress on eating.  This is not metaphorical language.  This is hostile language in the Jewish mind.  Second, the formula in verse 51 – John does not record the institution scene as do the Synoptic gospels.  But here we have the memory of the farewell dinner of Jesus as preserved in the Johannine tradition.  In particular, it resembles the Lucan words of institution in Luke 22:19-20.  In the Johannine tradition the washing of the feet is the ticket to the table (John 13).  The verbs to eat and drink are now applied to the bread and wine of the Eucharistic meal.

De La Salle in his reflection on this chapter refers to the Eucharistic bread as meat:

“In the holy gospel, Jesus calls the Eucharist not only bread but meat.  Nourish yourself with this Eucharistic meat to strengthen yourself interiorly and to overcome all the obstacles to your salvation. This divine meat of the Eucharist produces another effect in us, namely that those who eat it live in Jesus Christ and Jesus Christ lives in them.  Another admirable effect produced in a soul by the divine meat of the Eucharist is that it makes the soul live an altogether supernatural and divine life.  (MD 49:1-3)”

While the Synoptic gospels record the institution of the Eucharist, it is John who explains what the Eucharist does for the believer.  The Eucharist empowers the disciples to experience eternal life now in this life.  “Now this is eternal life, that they should know you, the only true God, and the one whom you sent, Jesus Christ.  (John 17:3).”

This Sunday’s gospel reading ends with another allusion to the Prologue and the manna in the desert.  “This is the bread that came down from heaven.  Unlike your ancestors who ate and still died, whoever eats this bread will live forever. (6:58).”

Our faith in the person of Jesus will be sustained by fidelity to the Eucharist which in turn will strengthen the Eucharistic Fraternity, the Church.

De La Salle continues his reflection on the Eucharist:

“A soul who eats then this flesh of Jesus Christ and is nourished by this meat no longer lives a natural life, no longer seeks to satisfy his senses, no longer acts by his own spirit, but by the Spirit of God, who has become its nourishment.  (MD 49:3)”

Brother Malachy Broderick, FSC
St. John’s College Community

Saint John Baptist de La Salle – Pray for us.
Live, Jesus, in our hearts – Forever.