Jesus said to the crowd:
“I am the living bread that came down from heaven;
whoever eats this bread will live forever;
and the bread that I will give
is my flesh for the life of the world.”
The Jewish leaders quarreled among themselves, saying,
“How can this man give us his flesh to eat?”
Jesus said to them,
“Amen, amen, I say to you,
unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood,
you do not have life within you.
Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life,
and I will raise them on the last day.
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 them.
Just as the living Father sent me
and I have life because of the Father,
so also the one who feeds on me will have life because of me.
This is the bread that came down from heaven.
Unlike your ancestors who ate and still died,
whoever eats this bread will live forever.”
For good Catholics, there’s an obvious and expected connection between participation in the Eucharist and the eternal life promised by Christ to his followers. This reading makes less sense for those who are not regular churchgoers. But it makes a very traditional connection between eschatology (the end things) and the life-giving sacramental system.
Jesus’ dissenters don’t seem to get it. But what is described here is a deep intimacy with God. What God shares with us is something as close as the very substance of the divine makeup. If we were to imitate Christ in our relationships with others, it would be as if we were giving our very flesh, our very lives. And that theme is picked up by the Lord at the Last Supper.
John 6:51-58 may be a traditional reading, but it’s also a very dangerous one. Are we prepared to live our lives in imitation of the Lord? Taking his flesh and blood into our systems–that’s what it means. Not every mourning assembly is prepared for a message like this. But if we want to be inspired to follow in Christ’s footsteps, and those of the saints, perhaps a very good message.