I have been leading a class that features the study by Dr. Brant Pitre, entitled, “Lectio: Eucharist.” I also have my hands in a few other studies that have been influenced by the “Eucharistic Revival” that is taking place in the Church as well. That’s a good thing! What I am finding, on this “go around,” however, is that just like so many things in the spiritual life, the information is making a different, yet greater impression on me this time. As such, I’ve been wondering what’s different about presenting these passages this time. What I realized is that the reaction of the study participants has been far more intense than in past years, and their reactions have really impacted me. Why are they reacting with such intensity? I think it is the fact that Dr. Pitre takes the time to explain the passages in detail, connecting the Old Testament passages to the New Testament, but more than that, it is his specific focus on the words of John Chapter 6, that has provided deeper appreciation for the Real Presence in the Eucharist.
First of all, when we are talking about Jesus and his teaching on the Eucharist, many of us know that we can go to each of the gospels to hear Jesus’ words at the Last Supper. That, in itself, is a huge thing. Each of the Gospel writers made sure to include these important words, and the events that included them. That distinction lets us know that they were very important to the writers, and to the early Church. John’s Gospel, however, takes that important event, and includes another exchange with the disciples that occurred earlier. The first part of that exchange features Jesus’ words about the importance of believing the things he says, and believing in him as the giver of eternal life. The next part is very direct.
Jesus compares the bread that he will give to the manna that God gave the Jewish people in the desert, then he says, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me will never hunger, and whoever believes in me will never thirst. …. For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who sees the Son and believes in him may have eternal life, and I shall raise him [on] the last day.” The Jewish people “murmur” in disbelief, and Jesus follows with these words: “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” (John 6:53-58).
The following verses are some of my favorite verses in scripture. In Joh 6:60 we hear, “Then many of his disciples who were listening said, “This saying is hard; who can accept it?” Followed by, “As a result of this, many [of] his disciples returned to their former way of life and no longer accompanied him. Jesus then said to the Twelve, “Do you also want to leave?” Simon Peter answered him, “Master, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe and are convinced that you are the Holy One of God” (John 6:66-69). I bet it is easy to understand why I love Peter’s words, but I love the other verses, as well, because they provide such concrete proof that Jesus meant exactly what he said. He was preparing his disciples for his words at the Last Supper, knowing that what he had to say was going to challenge them to the core.
More next week.