A Chase After the Wind?
A Reflection on the Gospel of John 6:52-59 - 28 April 2023
Internet Image from DSouza
The Happy Life
The Old Testament is a beautiful library of different genre. I particularly like the Wisdom Books; Job, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes (Qoheleth), Wisdom, and Sirach (Ecclesiasticus). These books concentrate on the daily human experience and ultimately focus on the question of; “how is the good or happy life to be lived?” Ultimately, the answer is that for the wise, it is the life oriented on God that really matters. For those who reject wisdom, seek happiness outside of God, they turn away from life in loving the created instead of the Creator. They turn from true life and “love death”. The author of the Book of Proverbs writes,
“Happy the one who listens to me [Wisdom], attending daily at my gates, keeping watch at my doorposts; For whoever finds me finds life, and wins favor from the Lord; But those who pass me by do violence to themselves; all who hate me love death.” (Proverbs 8:34–36 NABRE)
The human problem is that, though we may recognize the wisdom of achieving true happiness through God, we often allow sin to get in the way, and from the very beginning in the Garden of Eden, we reject God and so, in the words of Qoheleth in the Book of Ecclesiastes, chase vainly “after the wind”.
I have seen all things that are done under the sun, and behold, all is vanity and a chase after wind. (Ecclesiastes 1:14 NABRE)
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What do you chase after?
The word used in Ecclesiastes for vanity in Hebrew is, hebel (הֶבֶל). It means emptiness, futility, absurdity. Everything in human life without right orientation toward God, is absurd, subject to loss: “What profit have we from all the toil which we toil at under the sun?” Without God, no absolute profit or gain is possible. Even if some temporary profit or gain is achieved, it is ultimately cancelled out by death, the great leveler. Wisdom has some advantage over foolishness, but even wisdom’s advantage is temporary and qualified. In the end, true wisdom leads us to God, all else is vain, empty, absurd. Sin gets in the way. In a culture that consistently turns away from God, should we wonder that it has become what Pope St John Paul II calls a, “culture of death?”
That they might have life …
Is this what God wants for us? How then, can our life have meaning? The Lord gives us the answer today within the Eucharistic Discourse in the Gospel of John. Our life only has meaning in remaining, abiding, in Him. This is the drumbeat of the Gospel. God emptied Himself (Philippians 2:6–8) so that we may live. Jesus tells us that,
A thief comes only to steal and slaughter and destroy; I came so that they might have life and have it more abundantly. (John 10:10 NABRE)
Given human concupiscence, our inclination to sin and death, even after Baptism, we cannot truly live outside of God’s self being constantly poured into us. Just as God “empties” Himself to become man, so we too, must empty ourselves in humility when we sin, seeking reconciliation, so that God may again pour Himself, his divinity, into us. This is what Jesus is telling us when in John Chapter 6 He tells us,
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. (John 6:55–57 NABRE)
In the Eucharist of Christ’s real presence, we are filled with His resurrected life, death has no hold over us. Not only do we receive life, but with Christ pulsing through every fiber of our being, remaining in Him as He remains in us, we are filled with His purpose. We are filled with His, and therefore our, life’s true meaning. We no longer “chase after the wind” but, after the Kingdom of God. St Peter tells us very directly of the effect of being filled with our Lord,
His divine power has bestowed on us everything that makes for life and devotion, through the knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and power. Through these, he has bestowed on us the precious and very great promises, so that through them you may come to share in the divine nature, after escaping from the corruption that is in the world because of evil desire. (2 Peter 1:3–4 NABRE)
The entire goal of the Christian life is to become another Christ. It is a matter of being transformed into continuations of Jesus’ own divine life, of allowing the Lord’s own tenderness, joy, and offering to the Father to be reproduced in each of our lives as well. Without being filled with the Eucharist, the body, blood, soul, and divinity of Christ, true life, eternal life, is only possible through God’s infinite mercy. Jesus tells us,
“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. (John 6:53 NABRE)
One final note. Sometimes I have heard people lament that they are frustrated with their own return to sin, time after time. They worry that the life of Christ is not filling them in the Eucharist. To them I offer the words of St Josemaría Escrivá,
“‘Going to Communion every day for so many years! Anybody else would be a saint by now’, you told me, ‘and I … I’m always the same!’ ‘Son,’ I replied, ‘keep up your daily Communion, and think: what would I be if I had not gone’” (St Josemaría Escrivá, The Way, 534).
Don’t “chase after the wind” but, be filled with your life’s true purpose, Christ. Then, get out of the way. Quoting St Josemaría Escrivá once more,
…if you don’t allow God’s grace and your director to do their work, the sculptured image of Christ, into which the saintly man is shaped, will never appear. (St Josemaría Escrivá, The Way, 56)
DSouza, M. (2013, August 5). Ecclesiastes 1:2; 2:21-23, Colossians 3:1-5, 9-11, psalm 90:3-6, 12-14, 17, luke 12:13-21. Whom Sall I Send? Send Me Lord. Retrieved April 26, 2023, from https://whomshallisend.blogspot.com/2013/08/ecclesiastes-12-221-23-colossians-31-5.html
Josemaría Escrivá de Balaguer. (2004). The Way; Furrow; The Forge. Scepter Publishers. Print
New American Bible Revised Edition (NABRE). Washington, DC: The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, 2011. Print.
Peter, You cannot take John 6:63 out of the overall context of the Bread of Life discourse(John 6:22-69). Jesus says, no less than 4 times, that we must consume Him…. In John 6:63 He once more tells us that without His spirit (pneuma) in us we cannot have true life. See the four times below.
1. John 6:51 (NABRE): 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.”
2. John 6:53–55 (NABRE): 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.
3. John 6:56–57 (NABRE): 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.
4. John 6:57 (NABRE): so also the one who feeds on me will have life because of me.
When He asks the question … does this shock you? He then replies:
John 6:63 (NABRE): 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.
Jesus is telling us that our flesh is of no avail. He, Christ is the spirit (pneuma - breath) that takes dead flesh and animates it (life in Hebrew is Zoe - that which animates). How does He do this but by entering into us not just spiritually but physically as Jesus states four times previously!
Jesus will link the Bread of Life Discourse (eating His flesh and blood) to the Last Supper when He tells us that we must eat the Bread that IS His Body (Greek soma - being) and drink the Wine, which IS His Blood. This is my body. This is my blood. This is how we eat His flesh and drink His blood. Jesus is VERY CONSISTENT in this. To deny this is to take Sacred Scripture out of its full context.
By the way, St Paul reaffirms the teaching of the Real Presence in 1 Corinthians 10:16–17 : The cup of blessing that we bless, is it not a participation in the blood of Christ? The bread that we break, is it not a participation in the body of Christ? 17 Because the loaf of bread is one, we, though many, are one body, for we all partake of the one loaf.
How do we become one body (Greek - soma - being) without receiving Christ in the Eucharist? St Paul is very clear, we only share in the one body because we partake of the one loaf. The language in Greek is again… very clear. This belief was not challenged for over 1500 years because it was not consistent with Protestant theology.
Finally, If you believe that Jesus is speaking in parable, why didn’t He explain it to the disciples? The reality is that He lets those that refuse to accept what He has told them go. He does not chase them down to soften what He has told them no less than four times. That is how important this teaching is!
It seems inconceivable to me that one would accept the miracles of (1) the Virgin Birth, (2) Jesus’ recorded miracles in His earthly ministry (especially water into wine (changed substantially), multiplication of loaves and fishes, and walking on water (Jesus is not limited by nature), (3) His redemption of all humanity through His death on the cross, and (4) His Resurrection and then refuse to believe that Jesu will do exactly what He says He will do as explained in John 6, and enacted at the Last Supper.
In Baptism we receive divine adoption through the Holy Spirit.
CCC 1265 Baptism not only purifies from all sins, but also makes the neophyte “a new creature,” an adopted son of God, who has become a “partaker of the divine nature,” member of Christ and co-heir with him, and a temple of the Holy Spirit.
In the Eucharist, that life is nourished.
“CCC 1382 “the celebration of the Eucharistic sacrifice is wholly directed toward the intimate union of the faithful with Christ through communion. To receive communion is to receive Christ himself who has offered himself for us.”
“CCC 1392 What material food produces in our bodily life, Holy Communion wonderfully achieves in our spiritual life. Communion with the flesh of the risen Christ, a flesh “given life and giving life through the Holy Spirit,” preserves, increases, and renews the life of grace received at Baptism. This growth in Christian life needs the nourishment of Eucharistic Communion, the bread for our pilgrimage until the moment of death, when it will be given to us as viaticum.”
When we sin mortally, that life received in Baptism and nourished in the Eucharist must be restored through the Sacrament of Reconciliation and once again nourished through the Eucharist. Remember, you cannot set aside Sacred Scripture -
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.
Hope that helps clarify. When we receive Holy Communion, we receive Christ, fully alive in us. We ought then to think and act with the mind of Christ. This is the ultimate purpose of our life!