John 6: 52-59
52 The Jews therefore strove among themselves, saying, How can this man give us his flesh to eat?
53 Then Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink his blood, ye have no life in you.
54 Whoso eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, hath eternal life; and I will raise him up at the last day.
55 For my flesh is meat indeed, and my blood is drink indeed.
56 He that eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, dwelleth in me, and I in him.
57 As the living Father hath sent me, and I live by the Father: so he that eateth me, even he shall live by me.
58 This is that bread which came down from heaven: not as your fathers did eat manna, and are dead: he that eateth of this bread shall live for ever.
59 These things said he in the synagogue, as he taught in Capernaum.
The Jews understand what Jesus is saying to him, but they cannot believe it. How can Jesus give to us his own flesh to eat? This seems impossible and also terrible. Jesus is not speaking symbolically, figuratively or metaphorically. Indeed, our usual English translations may soften the impact of what Jesus is saying, whereby for ‘eat’ it has been said that we might more accurately, according to the Greek [‘trwgwn’ – as this would appear in the symbols font], read ‘chew upon’, or ‘gnaw upon’. This provides us with a further insight as we consider the ways in which we partake of the deity, in which we consume the body and blood of Christ. We may too reflect upon Jesus’ Passion and the flogging our Lord suffered there, cutting his flesh to the bone, and in the course of which many would have died. Jesus will offer his precious body to be ripped apart.
Jesus once more contrasts the gift of his own body with the manna given to the Israelites to eat during the Exodus, which bread of heaven they ate and yet they still went on to die. Christ is the living bread. He is the bread that has come from heaven. Christ’s origin in heaven is, as John tells us, what sets him apart and enables our redemption. Jesus explains: just as he lives because of the Father, so we live through Christ. We are called to share in his supper and so to have life eternal.
‘The Saviour has instituted the most august sacrament of the Eucharist, which truly contains his flesh and blood, so that he who eats this bread may live forever; whoever, therefore, makes use of it often with devotion so strengthens the health and the life of his soul, that it is almost impossible for him to be poisoned by any kind of evil affection. We cannot be nourished with this flesh of life, and live with the affections of death… Christians who are damned will be unable to reply when the just Judge shows them how much they are to blame by dying spiritually, since it was so easy for them to maintain themselves in life and in health by eating his Body which he had left them for this purpose. Unhappy souls, he will say, why did you die, seeing that you had at your command the fruit and the food of life.’ St Francis de Sales