Friday, April 11, 2008

The greatest treasure on Earth

1) Eucharistic Adoration, tonight, 7-8 pm, SAA Church. All who wish to adore Jesus in the Eucharist are invited!!
2) DC ‘Hood vs. St Elizabeth’s / St Raphael’s, tonight, 7 pm, @ St. Elizabeth’s gym. Go ‘Hood!
This week’s Gospels at Mass are from my favorite part of Sacred Scripture : John 6. It is a chapter with which many Catholics are unfamiliar even though we hear from it every so often during the cycle of Mass readings. Today’s Gospel passage (52-59) is one to which I refer many times in homilies, presentations, meetings, and conversations. One of the main points I stress is that our Lord is teaching over and over again that the Eucharist (a term for Christ’s Body and Blood that the Church used as early as 100 A.D.) is really his flesh and blood.

“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 him 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 him.
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.”

Most non-Catholics are unfamiliar with it, as well, but for a different reason. I told the story at Mass this morning of when I met a young woman years ago who was attending a Lutheran Bible college. She knew the Bible so well, but was unable to recall what John 6 was about when I asked her. After we discussed it at length, she went to her pastor with a bit of dismay to ask him why she had never been taught about the Bread of Life discourse (John 6). He replied, “who have you been talking to? A Catholic?” Protestant denominations interpret John 6 as being figurative or symbolic only; Catholic and Orthodox churches interpret it as being literal.

One of the key points in how to interpret this chapter properly is the reactions of those at the scene. The Jews react to this teaching with confusion, grumbling, and anger. They have taken Jesus to be speaking literally and are so outraged at this teaching that they walk away from him. And, his reaction to this: he lets them leave. He doesn’t stop them and say, ‘wait, you misunderstood me. I wasn’t speaking literally’. He doesn’t do that because he was speaking literally!

Someone asked on here a while ago how the Church knows when to interpret Sacred Scripture literally and when to interpret it figuratively. First, the Holy Spirit guides the Church in interpreting Scripture without error. Second, Jesus makes it pretty clear in John 6 that the teaching of the Eucharist is to be taken literally. In addition to the reasons I’ve already given, he uses the word “bread” 11 times referring to himself, “flesh” 5 times, and “blood” 4 times. He teaches more on the Eucharist than any other teaching.

My hope is that every reader of this site is a herald of John 6! This happens mainly in the way we live our lives centered on the Eucharist. But, let us not be afraid to invite others - in person or online – to share in the incredible richness of the teaching of the Eucharist, the greatest treasure on Earth.


At 11:20 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

It's one thing to have an intellecual belief that Jesus meant it in the literal sense, but another to truly experience it. And, why do so many Christian religions still interpret it figuratively?

At 2:41 PM, Blogger fran said...

I wish the John 6 Gospel passages and all of the homilies given this week could be posted. They have been beautiful, powerful and incredibly moving. That does not even do it justice. I cannot really put it into words.

"Why do so many Christian religions still interpret it figuratively?" Fr. Greg touched on it this morning. The answer: faith, or lack thereof.

At 12:09 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I’m not real insightful when it comes to scripture readings so I went on line to see what I could find on The Bread of Life Discourse. As I expected, there were numerous web sites with information, some more helpful than others. One particular article ended with a prayer that caught my attention ( It was a long, deep prayer by Teilhard de Chardin and I had to read it more than once.

Teilhard de Chardin’s prayer addresses our thoughts before approaching the altar for communion. It is with the hope of: “…discernment of the infinite perspectives hidden beneath the smallness and closeness of the host within which you are concealed. Already I have accustomed myself to recognize beneath the inertness of the morsel of bread a consuming power which, as the greatest doctors of your Church have said, far from being absorbed into me, absorbs me into itself.” The last four words are what made me stop, think and realize that I totally missed the - “remains in me” part of (John 6: 56). “Whoever eats my Flesh and drinks my Blood remains in me and I in him.”

I realized I have been approaching communion with the “I in him” perspective; i.e. with consumption of the host, Jesus becomes part of me. I do believe this to be true, but it is what I should be thinking of and being thankful for as I walk away from communion.

When I approach the altar for communion, I should be thinking of whether or not I have given to Jesus, contemplating my worthiness of being part of Him of remaining in Him. As the prayer points out in its’ last sentence, “In the host, Lord Jesus, you offer me my life.” In order to receive more, I must first offer back my life to the host. Then I will be living, “Through Him, in Him and with Him…”

At 10:07 AM, Blogger Ty Roach said...

Reading and re-reading John Chapter 6 in front of the Blessed Sacrament in Eucharistic Adoration really changed me! Thanks Fr. Greg for leading me to that passage and helping me understand.

As you say, Jesus did indeed mean what he said. Those hearing him speak understood him literally too, as did all the early church.

When folks misunderstand Jesus, he correct them. Ref Matthew 16:11 when he talks about the "yeast of the Pharisee's" and his disciples thought that Jesus was reprimanding them for not bring any bread, but he corrected their misunderstand saying "How is it that you do not understand that I did not speak to you concerning bread? But beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees.” Then they understood that He did not say to beware of the leaven of bread, but of the teaching of the Pharisees and Sadducees.


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