19th Sunday in Ordinary Time (Yr B) – Jn 6, 41-51
“The bread that I shall give is my flesh, for the life of the world.” As in Jesus’ time, this statement is still confusing to many people in the world today. Many Christian denominations have different interpretations making their communion service different from each another. My family are split Christian denominations and over the years we have had many interesting and sometimes heated discussions over our beliefs. Topics like praying to Mary and the Saints, and the understanding of the Sacraments especially the Eucharist, who for us as Catholics is the Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity of Our Lord Jesus Christ.
In the Gospel message today we need to examine the context more carefully. We will have to return to the original Greek language the Bible was written in. When we compare the English verses to the Greek a more accurate interpretation becomes clear, but it is more disturbing to hear. We encounter the Greek verb ‘phago’ which means ‘to eat’. But when the Jews started to complain more forcefully towards Jesus, then He intensifies the language, and changes the word into the verb ‘trogo’ a more graphical term, meaning ‘to chew’ or to ‘gnaw on’. For example when an animal is gnawing on its prey. It is understandable that the Jews and even the disciples had difficulty with this radically new statement.
Christ’s words have such a tremendous realism, that they cannot be interpreted in a symbolic way. If Christ were not really present under the form of bread and wine, this dialog with the Jews would make absolutely no sense. But if Jesus is really present in the Eucharist and is accepted by faith, then the meaning is quite clear and we can see how immeasurable and tender-hearted his love is for us.
In the first reading we hear Elijah was in the wilderness and that he had given up, wishing he was dead. But an angel told him to ‘Get up and eat’ and there appeared a scone and a jar of water, to encourage Elijah to eat for the journey that will last for 40 days. This was food from heaven in order to strengthen Elijah for his long journey ahead.
This brings to mind our heavenly food which we will be receiving today at communion, our food for the journey ahead. It will strengthen us physically and spiritually, giving us the strength we need to combat the difficulties of daily life. This food is available to us daily, not just at weekends, so, feel encouraged to receive your daily heavenly nourishment in the Eucharist throughout the week.
Jesus has given us His Body and Blood, His true flesh to eat and to chew on. When we come to Holy Communion with a contrite heart and we stand before the Lord’s table to receive the Eucharist and our response is to say ‘Amen’, which translates to ‘so be it.’ We are confirming and accepting in our hearts that we truly believe Jesus’ words in the scriptures, and through the Holy Spirit we receive grace and the gift of eternal life.
The Church Fathers were aware of the power in the words of consecration during the Eucharistic prayers. These words were said by Jesus during the last supper. Jesus, who is the Son of God, the Word made Flesh – in Greek ‘the Logos’. This same power of Almighty God that created the whole universe out of nothing, through His divine love with the Fathers will, created the whole human race, and now He gives us nourishment by His own flesh and blood enabling us to receive the gift of eternal life, so we can be with Him in paradise.