By Tom Bair
A Reading from the Gospel of John 6:52-59
52 The Jews then disputed among themselves, saying, “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?” 53 So Jesus said to them, “Very truly, I tell you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. 54 Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood have eternal life, and I will raise them up on the last day, 55 for my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink. 56 Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood abide in me and I in them. 57 Just as the living Father sent me and I live because of the Father, so whoever eats me will live because of me. 58 This is the bread that came down from heaven, not like that which the ancestors ate, and they died. But the one who eats this bread will live forever.” 59 He said these things while he was teaching in a synagogue at Capernaum.
Now here is a stumbling block indeed. The idea that he could serve up his body and blood as food, and that this food was integral to having life in you at all — this is a compounded mystery, and to some of his hearers, a compounded blasphemy.
You can almost hear the grumbling: “What is he talking about?”
This is not surprising, because this lack of comprehension and disbelief persists to this day. I have friends who have politely told me that they just don’t get it, that this teaching, this “communion,” harks back to primitive cults, that it certainly defies reason, and that it is creepy.
This exposition, the greatest in my opinion, by Jesus, is where the mystic rubber meets the road. And here is where faith enters the picture: we proceed in faith, and it is the practice, the praxis, that teaches. We nourish the soul by following, day by day. We are not unquestioning; we do doubt, we do wonder.
And we carry on and learn to enter the mystery. “What the truth hath spoken, that for truth I hold,” as the hymn extols. We “act our way into right thinking,” finding that this mystery is experiential in the very best sense. We present ourselves, in whatever condition of belief or disbelief, to the form of the Eucharist and receive the very deeply mystic in the very ordinary elements.
“The one who eats this bread will live forever,” he says. What a glorious promise! What great nourishment on the road to eternal life. May I have more and more the joy of presenting myself at his table, hearing the Word, and growing in the love, adoration, and praise that works its way in us, strengthening and deepening our faith.
Tom Bair serves as a lay leader in the Episcopal Church. He teaches stewardship and holds an Education for Ministry (EFM) practicum from the University of the South. He is married to the Rt. Rev. Gerry Wolf.
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The Diocese of Southeastern Mexico – La Iglesia Anglicana de Mexico
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