Friday, May 1, 2009

Daily - May 1, 2009

I'm going to add the preceding verses to the Saturday gospel to help look at what is happening here.

John 6

53 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.

54 Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him on the last day.

55 For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink.

56 Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me and I in him.

57 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.

58 This is the bread that came down from heaven. Unlike your ancestors who ate and still died, whoever eats this bread will live forever."

59 These things he said while teaching in the synagogue in Capernaum

John 6:60-69 (Saturday gospel)

60 Then many of his disciples who were listening said, "This saying is hard; who can accept it?"

61 Since Jesus knew that his disciples were murmuring about this, he said to them, "Does this shock you?

62 What if you were to see the Son of Man ascending to where he was before?

63 It is the spirit that gives life, while the flesh is of no avail. The words I have spoken to you are spirit and life.

64 But there are some of you who do not believe." Jesus knew from the beginning the ones who would not believe and the one who would betray him.

65 And he said, "For this reason I have told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted him by my Father."

66 As a result of this, many (of) his disciples returned to their former way of life and no longer accompanied him.

67 Jesus then said to the Twelve, "Do you also want to leave?"

68 Simon Peter answered him, "Master, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.

69 We have come to believe and are convinced that you are the Holy One of God."

Christ begins the dialogue with "Amen, amen I say to you," which means "This is truth." He tells the disciples that his flesh is TRUE food, and his blood is TRUE drink. That they must FEED on him.

He says he is the bread that came down from heaven. The ancestors ate manna, and they are dead. Those who feed on Jesus, though, will live forever. Look what happens next ... people leave. The teaching was too much for them to accept.

As I said yesterday, that process has been going on for 2,000 years. From the moment Christ said the words, people have objected to them, or have sought other meanings for them. The answer of the early church, however, was unanimous on the subject. Yesterday's message included some of its testimony.

FOOTNOTE - Note in verse 63, Jesus says that it is the spirit who gives life, and the flesh is to no avail. There are many who interpret this to mean that the whole discourse is figurative. This was addressed by Chrysostom and Augustine 1,700 years ago, as explained by Aquinas 700 years ago:

992 Then (v 64), he settles the offense they took at what he said. And, as Chrysostom says, he distinguished two ways in which his words could be understood. And secondly, he showed which way was appropriate here (v 64b).

With respect to the first, we should note that Christ’s words can be understood in two senses: in a spiritual way, and in a material way. Thus he says, It is the spirit that gives life, that is, if you understand these words according to the spirit, i.e., according to their spiritual meaning, they will give life. Flesh profits nothing, that is, if you understand them in a material way, they will be of no benefit to you, they will, rather, be harmful, for “If you live according to the flesh you will die” (Rom 8:13).

What our Lord said about eating his flesh is interpreted in a material way when it is understood in its superficial meaning, and as pertaining to the nature of flesh. And it was in this way that the Jews understood them. But our Lord said that he would give himself to them as spiritual food, not as though the true flesh of Christ is not present in this sacrament of the altar, but because it is eaten in a certain spiritual and divine way. Thus, the correct meaning of these words is spiritual, not material.

So he says, The words that I have spoken to you, about eating my flesh, are spirit and life, that is, they have a spiritual meaning, and understood in this way they give life. And it is not surprising that they have a spiritual meaning, because they are from the Holy Spirit: “It is the Spirit who tells mysteries” (1 Cor 14:2). And therefore, the mysteries of Christ give life: “I will never forget your justifications, because through them you have brought me to life” (Ps 118:93).

993 Augustine explains this passage in a different way, for he understands the statement, flesh profits nothing, as referring to the flesh of Christ. It is obvious that the flesh of Christ, as united to the Word and to the Spirit, does profit very much and in every way; otherwise, the Word would have been made flesh in vain, and the Father would have made him known in the flesh in vain, as we see from 1 Timothy (c 4). And so we should say that it is the flesh of Christ, considered in itself, that profits nothing and does not have any more beneficial effect than other flesh.

For if his flesh is considered as separated from the divinity and the Holy Spirit, it does not have different power than other flesh. But if it is united to the Spirit and the divinity, it profits many, because it makes those who receive it abide in Christ, for man abides in God through the Spirit of love: “We know that we abide in God and God in us, because he has given us his Spirit” (1 Jn 4:13).

And this is what our Lord says: the effect I promise you, that is, eternal life, should not be attributed to my flesh as such, because understood in this way, flesh profits nothing. But my flesh does offer eternal life as united to the Spirit and to the divinity. “If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit” “Gal 5:25). And so he adds, The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life, i.e., they must be understood of the Spirit united to my flesh; and so understood they are life, that is, the life of the soul. For as the body lives its bodily life through a bodily spirit, so the soul lives a spiritual life through the Holy Spirit: “Send forth your Spirit, and they will be created” (Ps 103:30).