A Reflection on the Gospel of John 6:52-59 - 28 April 2023
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!
I love Saint Josemaria Escriva's books because he was so very blunt and pithy. He could actually be quite cutting. Then, he would advise one not to be discourages by distractions in prayer because God loves us like children struggling to recite what we are taught and being distracted by the most meaningless things.
Thank you for this great reflection. I was discussing vanity in my classroom, and you really clarified through the Hebrew "hebel (הֶבֶל)," a much deeper understanding: emptiness, futility, absurdity. God Bless you Deacon Mark.
To those who are frustrated with their own return to sin, time after time, and worry that the life of Christ is not filling them in the Eucharist: the life of Christ is in us when we are in the state of sanctifying grace. This prepares us for the Eucharist. I don’t know where the idea comes from that the purpose for the Eucharist is to receive the life of Christ. There are prior sacraments associated with receiving it.
When Christ spoke of eating His flesh and drinking His blood in order to have eternal life, His audience took Him literally. In John 6:63 Jesus eventually explained what He meant to His disciples. He tells them that “It is the spirit that gives life; the flesh profits nothing: the words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life.” Jesus did not speak of the Eucharist at this time. The Last Supper had not even occurred. Because Jesus speaks of the Spirit instead, His words can also be applied to the future outpouring of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost.
Inner peace and strength from God are fruits of the Spirit. Those who are frustrated because they have not experienced them in the Eucharist should consider that these fruits come to a person when we are reconciled with God prior to the Eucharist. A good place to start is to view humility toward God for emptying ourselves as something that we need to do even before we commit acts of sin (cf. 1Peter 5:5-7; Philippians 4:6-7; James 4:5-10).
Thank you for this! The clarification of vanity was most helpful! The words of Josemaria Escriva very comforting and encouraging!