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Spiritual Bread

March 26, 2017

 Sunday Laetare

For my flesh is real food and my blood is real drink.  Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me, and I in them.  Just as the living Father sent me and I live because of the Father, so the one who feeds on me will live because of me.  This is the bread that came down from heaven. Your ancestors ate manna and died, but whoever feeds on this bread will live forever.”  He said this while teaching in the synagogue in Capernaum.
On hearing it, many of his disciples said, “This is a hard teaching. Who can accept it?”
Aware that his disciples were grumbling about this, Jesus said to them, “Does this offend you?  Then what if you see the Son of Man ascend to where he was before!  The Spirit gives life; the flesh counts for nothing. The words I have spoken to you—they are full of the Spirit and life.  Yet there are some of you who do not believe.” For Jesus had known from the beginning which of them did not believe and who would betray him.  He went on to say, “This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless the Father has enabled them.”

 

 

John 6:55-65

Do you want to live? We all want to live. And everyone wants to become something in life. Even those who are tired of life want to, at least, live if only in better conditions. Those who are satisfied with their life wants to live without the sufferings and afflictions that come with the years.
Everyone wants to live. And they all strive to get the best possible conditions for life and uphold them. This may not be as clear in Western society, since we have all of the things necessary for life readily available. As a result, we may focus more on how to live, on living well, and that we can have fun. It is different in other countries: there people must still fight to obtain the basic things and necessities for survival. The essentials correspond to food and drink; they are rightly called “supplies”. If you want to survive, food is always needed. You cannot live without food, at least not for long.
It is remarkable that foodstuffs come to represent life itself. These are logically plant or animal products. Take, for example, bread: At the beginning it is only a seed of wheat or rye. It is sown in the earth and it develops all the power contained in its interior and it becomes a stem of cereal. The fruit then grows on the stem. Then the plant is cut, ‘it is killed’; its fruits are threshed, ground and mixed with other ingredients and finally baked. From a living stalk of cereal there arises the edible bread that we use to live. The same happens with other edibles: they come from plants and animals and often plants and animals must die so that we can live through their products.

For people in Jesus’ time, this was common in their daily lives. They also wanted to live. And since most of them were poor, they really had to work hard to get their daily bread. They had to ‘go after’ bread everyday like many people in modern day poor countries. Jesus’ contemporaries were very aware of their own history and that God is the origin of all things necessary for life and that ultimately everything depends on him, even if they have enough or not. Their daily bread was considered to be a gift from God. With amazement, we still hear the old story of how the Lord led the people of Israel in the wilderness for forty years and fed them: with manna, with bread from heaven.
A couple of thousand of Jesus’ contemporaries wanted to see a similar miracle. They had followed Jesus into the wilderness to listen to him. Many perhaps just waited to see a miracle. Jesus had preached for many hours and the people were hungry. But there was no food in that lonely place, especially for such a large number of people. There Jesus performed a famous miracle that revealed him as the Son of the Heavenly Father. Just as his father had once fed the children of Israel with manna, now Jesus, with a few loaves and fish, also fed the multitude. The people were so impressed that they wanted to make him king, but Jesus suddenly disappeared. They searched for him and found him elsewhere. And there he began to preach, and a part of this sermon is what we have heard in our text.
In this preaching Jesus addressed the general human need, their desire to live and that all have the necessary bread. This fundamental situation was used by Jesus as a parable for something more important. What was important was clearly expressed by the introduction: “Amen, amen, therefore I tell you”; in other translations: “certainly”. And then the words that impacted people followed (and also touch many people today). Jesus said: ‘If you do not eat the flesh of the Son of man nor drink his blood, you will not really have life.’ Do you want to live? Then we must eat the flesh of Jesus and drink his blood. Jesus also compared himself with manna, the bread of heaven in the desert: “Your ancestors ate manna and died, but whoever feeds on this bread will live forever. This is the bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me, and I in them. Whoever feeds on this bread will live forever.”

These words are not about survival, nor of the prolongation of life until a certain age. Daily bread fulfills this purpose, for that is our food. Here we are concerned about much more; we are talking about eternal life, which is the life received when we are in relationship with the Heavenly Father. For only in fellowship with the Creator will we find the meaning of our life and live a life to the fullest, as our Creator set it. Only in communion with the Creator does our life lose its temporal limit; death can no longer kill.

Do you want to live with God, to live forever? That can be done when you have the right food. That is, the bread of heaven; this is the true food and the true drink of which Jesus speaks. He said, “For my flesh is true food and my blood is a true drink.” Only he who eats the flesh of Jesus and drinks his blood will have eternal life. Only those who do so will be found not guilty on the day of the final judgment and will rise, the others will go to condemnation. Jesus said, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise them up at the last day.”
Eating the flesh of Jesus and drinking his blood – if you think about it, it does sound shocking, doesn’t it? It seems to be a kind of cannibalism. Many of those who listened to Jesus found these words weird, were disappointed in him and turned away. Eat your flesh and drink your blood – But why? Jesus explained why this should be so. He said, “Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me, and I in them. Just as the living Father sent me and I live because of the Father, so the one who feeds on me will live because of me.”
The Heavenly Father is the source of all life; without him or separated from him there can be no life. The only-begotten Son is of the same essence as his father and comes from the Father, which is why he also brings fullness of life with him. Only those who are related to the Son will have a part in that true life, in the life of the Son and also in the life of the Father. That is to say whoever lives in Jesus. Or the other way round: where Jesus lives. That is only possible when that person receives Jesus inside of him, in a certain way, he “eats” and “drinks” him. Let us listen again to the words of Jesus: “Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me, and I in them.” Here we can discover another point of comparison with our provisions: from the biological point of view we live by means of food, which comes from this world. From the spiritual point of view, we live from the food that comes from the true fullness of life, that is, from heaven, from the Father, in the figure of his son, in the form of his flesh and blood. And just as the grain must first be cut down and killed, to become bread, and just as the cattle must first be slaughtered, to become BBQ, so also the Son of man must first die, that his flesh and blood may come to become true food that allows us to live for eternity. This took place on the cross, where the Lamb of God was sacrificed for us. This sacrifice comes from Jesus himself and has been foretold with many words and images. Among them is also our verse of the week:
“Very truly I tell you, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds.”(Jn 12:24).
But how can this happen? How can we eat flesh and drink the blood of Christ? We can do this through the sacrament. Here Jesus said something that even goes far beyond Holy Communion. He said, “If you do not eat the flesh of the Son of man or drink his blood, you do not really have life.” If that had been said only in reference to the sacrament, we would have to assume that young children do not have spiritual life, since they do not take part in the sacrament. This statement would contradict everything the Bible says about baptism. We need to understand the words of Jesus in a broader sense: here “eating his flesh and drinking his blood” means:
…to believe in him! His flesh and blood come to us through grace, through the preached Word of God and the administration of the sacraments. Right now, in this moment where we hear the word of God, we are eating of his flesh and drinking of his blood, if we truly believe in his word. This also happens during the forgiveness of sins. Through confession, we eat the flesh and drink the blood of Christ.
When a person is baptized, they eat and drink the flesh and blood of Christ. During the sacrament it is also very clear since, through the miracle of this sacrament, the body and blood of Christ are truly represented by the bread and wine. Anyone who partakes of the sacrament while accepting it with faith “eats” his flesh and “drinks” his blood in the biblical sense. Then it is a spiritual food for salvation, for eternal life, which differs from eating with the mouth. Do we want to then live? Then let us eat his daily bread, let us strengthen ourselves with this food! Do we want to live forever? Then let us eat the bread of life of Jesus Christ: Let us believe in him and strengthen ourselves with the means of his grace. Amen.

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