Scripture: Lectionary #277. 4/27/12. Acts 9:1-20. Psalm 117:12. John 6:52-59
As we come to the last part of Jesus’ discourse on the Eucharist, we are informed that this took place in the synagogue at Capernaum. This is an excellent way of identifying the theological outlook of the Fourth Gospel which is seen at Passover time when the readings in the synagogue would be based on the Feast of Passover and Jesus’ realism in referring to it would fit perfectly. John always surprises us with his insights of both a liturgical and historical nature. There is no doubt that this discourse did take place during the Passover. Jesus has only one mentioned in the Synoptics, but here in John we have Jesus’ ministry extending to more than one year. The mention of three Passovers in the reading of this Gospel attests to a longer ministry.
Perhaps, this is the first Passover event taking place in the northern section of Galilee. Jerusalem will later be the final Passover when Jesus is the Lamb of God sacrificed at the same time the lambs were being led to be slaughtered for the Passover. The final part of Jesus’ Eucharistic dialogue is so blatantly real that it shocks his listeners. The physical act of eating his flesh and blood are repelling to those who do not understand the necessity of absolute faith in Jesus as the Bread of Life to still remain with him after hearing this part of the dialogue. Flesh and blood for the listeners of Jesus’ time is extremely difficult because they do not ingest of the blood of animal (like the Paschal lamb) with its flesh. Blood is the symbol of life. We as Jesus’ contemporary disciples understand this in the light of the sacramental quality of the Eucharist and as Catholics in our understanding of the Real Presence. There never has been anything resembling cannibalism in our teaching of this passage and in our sacramental theology about it. We realize why religious dialogue is sometimes so difficult because one must enter into the very shoes of the other to sense the meaning of his or her religious beliefs. Texts interpreted literally then and now show that only Peter on this occasion spoke up and believed in what Jesus was really saying about his flesh and blood. We join him in saying, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.” (John 6:68). In reading John’s Gospel the literal meaning is only a start.
There are several levels of meaning in this profound Gospel based on the historical reality of Jesus and his words and signs. During this season of Easter we reflect on the Eucharist and Baptism. It is a faith inspired reflection that assimilates the entire context of the Johannine meaning of chapter six. We remember that this Gospel like the others is written in the perspective of knowing the Lord is risen from the dead and has fulfilled the promises he made to us. The Eucharist is to be seen within the perspective of the Resurrection. Our resurrection faith gives life to Jesus’ words and signs. Both lead to deepening our faith, hope, and love. Eternal life is part of the sharing in the resurrection of Jesus who is the first fruit of this grace and gift of God in Jesus’ real body and blood. Amen. Alleluia. Alleluia.