Proverbs 9:1-6, Eph 5:15-20, John 6: 51-58
A priest and a rabbi are in a car crash and it’s a bad one. Both of their cars are demolished but amazingly neither one of them is hurt. After they crawl out of their cars, the rabbi says, “So you’re a priest. That’s interesting; I’m a rabbi. Wow, just look at our cars! There’s nothing left, but we’re unhurt. This must be a sign from God that we should meet and be friends and live together in peace.” The priest replies, “Oh, yes, I agree. It’s a miracle that we survived and are here together.” “And here’s another miracle,” says the rabbi. “My car is destroyed but this bottle of wine didn’t break. Surely God wants us to drink the wine and celebrate our good fortune,” he says, handing the bottle to the priest. The priest nods in agreement, opens the wine, drinks half of it, and hands it back to the rabbi. The rabbi takes it and puts the cap back on. “Aren’t you going to have any? asks the priest. “Not right now,” says the rabbi. “I think I’ll wait until after the police make their report.”
We heard in the gospel Jesus saying to us, “For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me and I in him.” This section of the bread discourse begins with an incredibly provocative question and answer. “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?” are highly concrete. Jesus does not make these words symbolic: “eat my flesh and drink my blood.”
Lawrence of Arabia wrote in Seven Pillars of Wisdom: “All men dream: but not equally. Those who dream by night in the dusty recesses of their minds wake in the day to find that it was vanity: but the dreamers of the day are dangerous men, for they may act their dream with open eyes, to make it possible.”
Jesus’ dream to share himself as food for others is no vanity of the night: he acts his dream with open eyes; he makes it possible on the cross in the total giving of self. It’s helpful to remember that for Jesus, the word “body” meant more than it means to us – it meant the entire person. Also, in Jesus’ day, blood was regarded as the principle of life – when a person lay wounded and bleeding, the loss of blood meant the person often died. When Jesus says, “This is my body, my blood, given for you: what he is saying is, “This is the totality of my being, all that I am, all that I hope to be.” This is a great summary of Jesus’ message: a self-giving love that is offered without holding anything back. This offered as the food of life.
In the sacrament of the Eucharist we draw life from the body and blood of Jesus. “Do this in memory of me.” The act that we do here and now in this church is the deed of memory: We not only recall Jesus, we consume his memory as the food of life.
One of the key words in the middle of this story is the word “remain in me.” “Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me and I in him.” In Greek, this word, meno, means “to remain, to stay.” It means to be in an ongoing intimate relationship of love and trust: you and me, I in them. It is an intimacy of contact and of togetherness, of literally being one body by being joined through eating flesh and drinking blood. And whoever eats this bread, whoever enters into this relationship, this relationship of spiritual identity, will live forever in that spirit, that spirit of love.
So what matters in the telling of the story is to communicate that intimacy that love. The climax of this discourse is Jesus saying that what he will give for the life of the world is his flesh. This is a passion prophecy that he will die for the life of the world. He will literally give himself for the sake of the world, for the sake of those who are in the world, those who are in relationship with him, those whom he loves. This climactic part of the discourse is an appeal from Jesus to his listeners to enter into that intimacy of relationship and to remain, to stay, to abide in that intimacy of connection. This is what Jesus is asking us to do.
The meaning of the Eucharist must be reflected in the lives of those who receive the sacrament. For this is Body-broken and Blood-poured-out for others. Accordingly, we will participate fully in the benefits of the Eucharist only to the extent that we imitate, in all aspects of our lives, the generosity and unselfishness that we see in the life of Jesus himself.