In John 6 we often speak of the repeated command of Jesus for us to eat His body and drink His blood - or else we have “no life” in us. Let us examine the verses...
OK, that one doesn’t issue the command, but I wanted to include it because it contains the promise that the Son of Man will provide us with the meat which does not perish and endures unto everlasting life.
So NINE TIMES does Jesus insist upon us eating His body and/or drinking His blood. It doesn’t get much clearer here nor insistent that He was not speaking allegorically. No, He repeated it, over and over again because He meant it!
There are those who argue that the Catholic teaching on this is cannibalism, and who can abide by such a teaching? The context of the above verses indicates the Jews and even Jesus’ own disciples were thinking along the same lines:
Did Jesus call them back and say, “Wait guys, I was only speaking in symbolism here - you don’t REALLY have to eat my flesh!” No, He let them walk away precisely because they DID understand Him correctly and they had NO FAITH to accept His teaching and BELIEVE IN HIM that HE WOULD PROVIDE as He promised in verse 27. Not only did He not call back those who left in disbelief, He challenged the Twelve to leave as well:
The spokesman/coryphaeus of the Apostles stood up and said:
To my dear Protestant family, friends, associates and acquaintances, and also to my Catholic family, friends, etc. who while still claiming to be “Catholic” avoid the Sacraments of Reconciliation and Eucharist...
I am not accusing you of “walking away” (unless you’re one who has left the Catholic faith), for most of you were, like me prior to my epiphany, born into the community you worship in. You haven’t “walked away” - but someone in your family did. Prior to the 16th century, just about everyone in Western Europe who called themselves “Christian” was a Catholic (with very few exceptions and nothing large-scale). Prior to 1054ad it didn’t matter if we were Western or Eastern, our ancestors were united as One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church. So, if your heritage is Christian, you have Catholic roots. Some of you may have become a Christian from a non-Christian background, but you were only given part of the truth by those who have helped you so far on your journey of faith. Yes, Protestantism has a measure of truth to it - but they also reject some very fundamental truths, one of which we are discussing in this article. While you personally may not be one who has “walked away” - you’re part of a group which has, at some point, done so.
Have faith! Believe FULLY in His Word and TRUST Him that He not only could do what He promised, but that He DID do as He promised and provided us with the means to eat His body and drink His blood. That all started with the first celebration of the Mass when Jesus took the partaking in bread and wine from the Jewish Passover Seder and made it the Christian celebration of the Eucharist. He Himself declared, “This is My body” and “This is My blood...” and those who have faith BELIEVE Him! Those who have faith do not attempt to rationalize their way around that which He commanded no less than NINE TIMES in John 6 nor what He declared at the celebration of the Eucharist (Matt. 26:26-28; Luke 22:19-20; Mark 14:22-24 and 1 Cor. 11:24). It is through this celebration of the Eucharist where we are given the means to fulfill that which He commanded in John 6! Those who had faith and stayed with Him were able to receive that gift.
Those who left may appreciate MOST of what Jesus said and taught, but they fall short on this very critical mark! To not believe in Him enough to stay with Him means they missed out on the true gift of the Bread of Life which comes down from Heaven! Jesus Christ Himself IS that Bread of Life which comes down from Heaven. He did not ask us to symbolically partake in His body and blood, no! He said His flesh is real meat and His blood is real drink! (v. 56).
The Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC) puts it this way:
1394 As bodily nourishment restores lost strength, so the Eucharist strengthens our charity, which tends to be weakened in daily life; and this living charity wipes away venial sins.231 By giving himself to us Christ revives our love and enables us to break our disordered attachments to creatures and root ourselves in him:
1395 By the same charity that it enkindles in us, the Eucharist preserves us from future mortal sins. The more we share the life of Christ and progress in his friendship, the more difficult it is to break away from him by mortal sin. The Eucharist is not ordered to the forgiveness of mortal sins - that is proper to the sacrament of Reconciliation. The Eucharist is properly the sacrament of those who are in full communion with the Church.
- Since Christ died for us out of love, when we celebrate the memorial of his death at the moment of sacrifice we ask that love may be granted to us by the coming of the Holy Spirit. We humbly pray that in the strength of this love by which Christ willed to die for us, we, by receiving the gift of the Holy Spirit, may be able to consider the world as crucified for us, and to be ourselves as crucified to the world. . . . Having received the gift of love, let us die to sin and live for God.232
1396 The unity of the Mystical Body: the Eucharist makes the Church. Those who receive the Eucharist are united more closely to Christ. Through it Christ unites them to all the faithful in one body - the Church. Communion renews, strengthens, and deepens this incorporation into the Church, already achieved by Baptism. In Baptism we have been called to form but one body.233 The Eucharist fulfills this call: "The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not a participation in the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not a participation in the body of Christ? Because there is one bread, we who are many are one body, for we all partake of the one bread:"234
If you are the body and members of Christ, then it is your sacrament that is placed on the table of the Lord; it is your sacrament that you receive. To that which you are you respond "Amen" ("yes, it is true!") and by responding to it you assent to it. For you hear the words, "the Body of Christ" and respond "Amen." Be then a member of the Body of Christ that your Amen may be true.235
Footnotes from the CCC:
231 Cf. Council of Trent (1551): DS 1638.
232 St. Fulgentius of Ruspe, Contra Fab. 28,16-19: CCL 19A,813-814.
233 Cf. 1 Cor 12:13.
234 1 Cor 10:16-17.
235 St. Augustine, Sermo 272:PL 38,1247.