by Br. Minh-Vu Nguyen [cjm]
Throughout human history, there is a common wish among kings, queens which is prolonging their life by any means. Many people nowadays are trying their best to have a healthy life which also relates to a long life. They are willing to spend a lot of money and/or follow some quite strict diet along with abstinence, self-discipline, etc.
Today’s Gospel, we hear Jesus inviting us to attain an everlasting life in a simple way: “Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life”. However, it scandalized the Jews and probably many of us too because of its strange idea. In fact, we need to go back to ancient practice of sacrificing and worshipping god(s) to understand more about what Jesus means.
In those days, to make a contract or a treaty, the two contracting parties would divide an animal into two. At the end of the ceremony, each party would get their share. In case of making a covenant with god, a part of the animal would be burned on the altar although the whole animal was offered to the god. Once the flesh had been offered to the god, the worshippers believed that god had entered into it. So when they ate the flesh, they were also eating the god and becoming united with god.
Jesus tells us that he is “the living bread from heaven”, that bread is his flesh, and that his “flesh is true food”. Jesus receives his “life from the living Father who sent him to the world to become food for those who feed on him”. In an eight-sentence paragraph, we hear Jesus mentioning 5-6 times about ideas of heaven bread, flesh, blood and everlasting life which make this Gospel a climax of the discourse about “living bread”. Meanwhile, Jesus gives only one explanation: “Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me and I in him”. And that is the most important reason. If we abide or remain in Jesus who has life because of His living Father, then Jesus also dwells in us so we are one with Him. We will be in communion with Jesus who will “raise us on the last day” to be with Him forever.
In today’s Gospel, Jesus ends his discourse by repeating what he says in verse 51. Jesus also reminds his audience about the manna in the Old Testament which is not everlasting bread. People’s thirst and hunger can be only quenched and satisfied by His “true food and true drink”. The Samaritan woman asked Jesus for that water (Jn 4). The condition to obtain the eternal life had been revealed during the visit of Nicodemus to Jesus: “everyone who believes in Jesus may not perish but may have eternal life” (Jn 3, 16b).
“For God so loved the world that He gave his only Son” (Jn 3, 16a) it tells us ultimately why God prepared for us this mean as the way to journey toward Him – the only One who can satisfy our longing, our thirst and can grant us eternal life in order to be with Him forever. We are invited to act out of our faith in God to go deeper each day into the communion with God through Jesus in the Eucharist. Christ is the only sacrifice which can remit our sin and bring us back into the perfect union with God.
We pray therefore that whenever we receive the most precious Body and Blood of God’s Son, Jesus Christ, we will be filled with God’s grace to become one with Him as source of our strength in dealing with our daily concerns. As soon as we attain peace and happiness in our communion with God, we will be eager to reach out to our brothers and sisters as witness of His love by our self-giving action. We also proclaim about our loving God who prepared us the best and “true food” which can satisfy our deepest thirst in order to enjoy everlasting life with Him.