Friday, August 14, 2009

Daily - 8/14/09

John 6:51-58

51 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."

52 The Jews quarreled among themselves, saying, "How can this man give us (his) flesh to eat?"

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."


For those keeping score ... we are in the third of a four week series of Sunday gospels that discuss the Bread of Life discourse in John 6. Which means that the Church thinks it's pretty important. It's so important that we go to this very passage in Lent during Holy Week ... which is why the passage and this message are so familiar. :)

When Jesus says "Amen, Amen, I say to you ..." I think of Him as saying "Listen to me!" Other translations of this are "Verily, verily I say to you", or as the protestant NIV translation says, "I tell you the truth."

So here we have Christ saying, listen to me, I speak the truth. My flesh is TRUE FOOD. My blood is TRUE DRINK. The question of whether to believe he is speaking literally or figuratively has been going almost ever since he said those words.

From the very beginning, the Church teaching has been clear. Here are the testimonies of priests from the first and second centuries of the Church. The first one listed was taught directly by the human author of today's reading. :

Ignatius of Antioch, direct pupil of St. John the Evangelist: Take note of those who hold heterodox opinions on the grace of Jesus Christ which has come to us, and see how contrary their opinions are to the mind of God ... They abstain from the Eucharist and from prayer because they do not confess that the Eucharist is the flesh of our Savior Jesus Christ, flesh which suffered for our sins and which that Father, in his goodness, raised up again. They who deny the gift of God are perishing in their disputes. Epistle to the Smyrnaeans, Chapter 6, 110 A.D.

Justin Martyr, pupil of Polycarp, direct pupil of St. John the Evangelist: Just as our Savior Jesus Christ was made flesh by the word of God and took on flesh and blood for our salvation, so also were we taught that the food, for which thanksgiving has been made through the word of prayer instituted by him, and from which our blood and flesh are nourished after the change, is the flesh of that Jesus who was made flesh. Indeed, the Apostles, in the records left by them which are called gospels, handed on that it was commanded to them in this manner: Jesus, having taken bread and given thanks said, ``Do this in memory of me, this is my body.'' Likewise, having taken the cup and given thanks, he said, ``This is my blood'', and he gave it to them alone. Apology, I.66-67, 2nd century.

St. Irenaeus of Lyons: If the body be not saved, then in fact, neither did the Lord redeem us with His Blood; and neither is the cup of the Eucharist the partaking of His Blood nor is the Bread which we break the partaking of His Body . . . He has declared the cup, a part of creation, to be His own Blood, from which He causes our blood to flow; and the bread, a part of creation, He has established as His own Body, from which He gives increase to our bodies. Against Heresies, [5,2,2] 180 A.D.