This material was first published by Redemptorist Publications
and is included here with their permission.
“Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood abide in me, and I in them.” John 6:56
One piece of music can sound completely different when played in different ways.
For example, it’s possible for a pianist to play a sonata according to the printed notes with the prescribed crescendos, diminuendos and phrasing. The sound produced will be a faithful reproduction of what the composer wrote and may be perfectly enjoyable to listen to.
It’s also possible for a pianist to play that same sonata with a sensitivity to the music which goes far beyond technical expertise. The pianist’s own spirit joins in with that of the composer and together they create something new and living which is “heard” by an audience at a very deep “soul” level. Both performing and listening have become spiritual experiences involving the whole being.
The words of Jesus today invite us to enter into a relationship with him at a “soul” level involving the transformation of our whole being so that we live the eternal life of the spirit.
We know today that Jesus is talking about his flesh and blood as spiritual food and drink and about the eternal life of the spirit but his words can still sound as shocking to us as they must have done to his first listeners.
“Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood abide in me and I in them”.
For Jews the idea of drinking blood would be offensive. The life of any being was contained in its blood which could therefore belong only to God who gave that life. We don’t have to share that belief to say, with many of the disciples “this teaching is difficult, who can accept it?”
Jesus, however, is very clear in what he says. If we wish to receive the gift of eternal life then we must be willing to feed on Jesus and to allow Him to dwell within us.
For many of his followers this is too much and they turn away and Jesus questions the twelve. Typically it’s Peter who answers for them, “Lord, to whom can we go? You have the words of eternal life. We …. know that you are the Holy One of God”.
Peter doesn’t say he understands all that Jesus says or that he finds it easy to accept this teaching. He does say that however hard the words may sound, because they are spoken by Jesus he trusts them as words of eternal life and for Peter there is nowhere else to go to find such words.
What might it be like for someone attending a communion service for the first time to see us eating and drinking while the words “The body (the blood) of Christ keep you in eternal life” are said? Could that not be as shocking as Jesus words were to his followers?
Our response will reflect the way we ourselves have come to understand these words of Jesus and how our lives are being changed by that understanding.
When we feed on the body of Christ we are feeding on his full humanity. We enter into his human life which he lived the way God meant us to live. We follow his example in the way he relates to people and how he treats the stranger, the downtrodden, the unclean and the tormented. To do this we need to read and reflect on the Gospel stories of Jesus so that they become part of our story lived out in our own lives.
When we drink the blood of Christ we drink in his eternal life of the spirit. The spirit of Christ enters the centre of our being where it meets our true self, the person we were meant to be for all eternity. Only through this intimate union between Christ and our true selves can we enter fully into the eternal life of the spirit.
To allow ourselves to grow to be the people we are meant to be we need to make time and space to be with Christ, to talk with him and listen to what he is saying in our innermost being.
To accept the demands of living our human life as God intends us to live and to allow the extraordinary intimacy of letting Jesus dwell within us may seem difficult. Perhaps we need more time before we can fully accept these ideas and commit ourselves. We may never understand these mysteries but we can say, with Peter, “Lord, to whom can we go? You have the words of eternal life”.
1) Jesus is very clear that in order to live in eternal life his followers must eat his flesh and drink his blood.
2) Through this sharing in the bread of Jesus’ sacrificial human life and the wine of his life-giving blood we will enter into an intimate relationship with Jesus who will dwell within us.
3) These words may seem shocking and difficult to accept but nevertheless they are the words of both spirit and life.
4) The words are spoken by one whom we have come to know as the Holy One of God and so where else would we go to hear the words of eternal life?
Our heavenly Father promises eternal life to all who believe in his Son, our Lord Jesus Christ. Trusting in that promise and in the power of the Holy Spirit let us pray for the church, for our world and for the healing of broken lives.
We pray for the church throughout the world as she reaches out to people searching for words of eternal life. As followers of Jesus may we enter fully into his being, becoming one with him and the Father who sent him. We pray that the Holy Spirit will strengthen us to love and serve our neighbours in Christ.
We pray for peace in the world. We pray that weapons of destruction will be replaced by the protection of God; that lies and deceit will be replaced by truth and integrity; that doubt and oppression will be overcome by faith and salvation; and that the forces of hatred and cruelty will retreat before the Spirit of love and justice so that God’s will may be done on earth as it is in heaven.
We pray for all who are weakened and distressed by illness of body, mind or spirit. We pray that God’s words of spirit and life will be heard in the darkest places of suffering. We pray that all of us will receive in our hearts the healing and wholeness of the eternal life of heaven.
We pray for ourselves and for a renewal of our commitment to following Jesus; for courage to continue when His way seems to be more than we can stand and for the grace and strength to speak out to others the words of eternal life which we have heard.
Heavenly Father we offer these prayers to you through your son, our Lord Jesus Christ. We commit to you ourselves and all for whom we have prayed trusting that you will bring all your children to share in the eternal life of your Kingdom. Amen.