Jesus said, "I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats of this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.” The Jews then disputed among themselves, saying, "How can this man give us his flesh to eat?" 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. Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood have eternal life, and I will raise them up on the last day; for my flesh is true food and my blood is true drink. Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood abide in me, and I in them. Just as the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so whoever eats me will live because of me. This is the bread that came down from heaven, not like that which your ancestors ate, and they died. But the one who eats this bread will live forever.”
Reflection “Those who trōgō (eat) my flesh and drink my blood abide in me, and I in them.”The Greek trōgō is used as a verb that means chewing, gnawing or crunching with the teeth. This is not an homogenized message about receiving holy food and drink. This is Jesus’ radical invitation to the disciples and us. “But the one who eats, gnaws on, chews and crunches my flesh and drinks my blood will live forever.” No wonder the religious Jews balked. They must have been as repulsed as we may be entertaining images of savagery or cannablism. Eat my flesh, chew on it, gnaw on it, crunch it with your teeth then swallow it and you will live forever.
A long time ago when I began to seriously study the Bible a wise mentor counseled me, “If you really want to encounter Jesus, eat the gospel of Mark. Read it as a story from beginning to end. Do that three times. Then, read it slowly, one sentence, even one word at a time, until it becomes part of you. Eat the gospel of Mark, incorporate this story into your own being.” And Jesus said, “Unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you.”
I believe the disturbing words and images in today’s gospel text are intended to propel us into something more than a magical relationship with Jesus, the miracle worker who gives us bread when we are hungry. When we choose to accept Jesus’ invitation, we consciously and conscientiously eat, chew on, assimilate and integrate the flesh and blood of Christ to become the flesh and blood of Christ. As Christians we are not intended to simply memorialize the historical person of Jesus; tell the story and close the book. As Christians we are intended to become the eternal flesh and blood, the hands and feet of Christ. This is Eucharistic, or sacramental eating. Trōgō, chewing, gnawing, crunching with our teeth, wrestling with the words that offend and repulse us until we arrive at the marrow of meaning and remember who and whose we are.
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