The 6th chapter of John, from which today’s Gospel is taken, is known to us Catholics as the Bread of Life discourse. Today, Jesus profoundly challenges us and his followers and the whole world when He declares: “Truly, truly I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in you.”
I AM When Moses encountered God (Ex. 3:14) at the burning bush and asked His name, God responded with the word, “I AM.” In Hebrew, the word reflects not only a present tense, but past and future tenses as well. God exists outside of time and for Him there is no past, present or future; everything is now. When Jesus uses the word, He not only unites Himself with the divinity of the Father but places Himself and the Truth of His words outside of time, into the perpetual now of all creation of which the Father is seen as its Author. For the Jews of Jesus’ day, and still for many humans, this word alone, and its Truth, is most challenging.
BREAD It’s often called the “staff of life,” one of the basic foods of our diet. Even though Jesus tells us that “one does not live by bread alone” (Lk. 4:4), can we imagine living without it.? It is a simple food, a delight to chew, easy to make, tasty, nutritious and adaptable in many ways. Jesus chooses well an apt food with which to equate His flesh.
LIFE At the dawn of creation. God formed man out of the clay of the ground and blew into his nostrils the breath of life (Gen. 2:7). From the earliest times, even before the Trinitarian nature of God was made known, the Father is seen as the source of life. Jesus shows His unity with the Father and thus His flesh and blood becomes not just a form of nourishment but a source of eternal life. Blood was seen as containing life. By drinking Christ’s blood, God unites us with His divinity for all eternity.
St. Thomas Aquinas puts it so well when he writes, “O precious and wonderful banquet, that brings us salvation and contains all sweetness! Could anything be of more intrinsic value?”