Eat and drink

It sounds baffling, intrusive, jarring. How can he say it? “If you do not eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you will not have life in you.” From that time on until now people have misunderstood or rejected these words. With the Jews who complained Jesus simply repeated his words more emphatically.

Of course it requires a big jump in human consciousness to understand. It is a different kind of knowledge and a different kind of food and drink.. It is the language of faith. As so often, Jesus starts with everyday things. What can be more basic than food and drink? In the desert the people complained of malnutrition and thirst. They did not believe. God – rather reluctantly, the way it is presented – gave them manna and water from the rock.

In the desert they were given food and drink that they could understand. Now, in the new age of the reign of God, they are offered new bread and new drink – a share in his own life. They have no idea what he means. But, as he said to the disciples at his farewell, “you will understand later.” And they did. From earliest times they gathered in one another’s houses and broke bread together. We do not know much about how they did it but Paul tells us there were abuses in Corinth and he went on to give us the earliest account of the Eucharist.

There are three aspects of the Eucharist we can savour. First, it is “for you.” This bread carries the meaning of Jesus giving his life for us on Calvary and the Church describes this as “the Sacrifice” of the Lord for us fulfilling the sacrifice by Abraham of his son, Isaac. Second, the bread is to be eaten and the wine drunk. The Greek word used for eating is trogo, a “particularly emphatic one for the physical act of eating” (Peter Edmonds). In other words we are speaking of a human act we do every day which is loaded with divine life, did we but know it. And thirdly, the life that is promised is shared and we learn that we are one people. From the second century we have a document, the Didache, or Teaching, which speaks of the gathering together of people through the Eucharist, “as this broken bread, once dispersed over the hills was brought together and became one loaf, so may your Church be brought together from the ends of the earth into your kingdom.”

Today there is a threat of famine in Yemen, South Sudan, Somalia and NE Nigeria. Food is the most basic human need. Real as it is, famine also exists in human hearts longing for the food of life and community. This week we celebrate the gift of the Eucharist which Jesus gave to us. This event, which many of us take part in regularly, is a basic focus of everything Jesus wanted for us. It is the point of impact in the pond from which ripples spread out to every person in every place and time.

18 June 2017, Corpus Christi

Deuteronomy 8:2-3,14-16                   I Corinthians  10:16-17                       John 6:51-58

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