John 6:51-58 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 Jesus is adding a dimension of nourishment, spiritual nourishment, to our diets. He never says, “Don’t eat bread made with yeast or meat or vegetables.” In fact, his messages is quite the opposite. When your body is hungry, feed it even if it means picking grain on the Sabbath or eating food that is reserved for the priests. Take care of your physical body AND take care of your Spiritual body.
Everything about the revelation of Jesus is both - and or non-dualistic. First and last, new and old, one and many, body and spirit, mortal and immortal, human and divine. Much as we need to supply nourishment to our bodies so too must we provide nutrition to our Spirits.
Bread is not a symbol that signifies or represents something else; a cross, star of David, red circle with a diagonal line across it. Bread is a sacrament. Its life sustaining property renders it naturally sacred. When Jesus aligns himself with “living bread” from heaven he is saying, “The message I bring is of a Spiritual nature intended to nourish your Spiritual life.”
During his final meal with his friends Jesus speaks words that we hear during our celebration of Holy Eucharist. “Whenever you eat this bread and drink this wine, remember me.” Let us not forget that Jesus blesses, breaks and shares bread in the context of a meal with his friends. Meals are occasions in which we all participate, meals that consist of both the bread of earth and the bread of heaven. Meals are everyday life, the context in which the realization of our Spiritual lives occurs. **
Jesus reveals a way of life that transcends separation of the secular and the sacred. He shows us The Way to live that is essential to our flourishing. Jesus does not instruct us to “Think about this bread and what it means.” He invites us to “eat this bread” because it is not about understanding all of this, it is about doing it. Jesus is inviting us to incorporate the fullness of our divine humanity, our human divinity.
Like Jesus, we are bread made of two ingredients, the physical and the Spiritual. Inevitably our physical beings are challenged, diminish and die. If the only way we find meaning and value is through our effectual actions and avoiding the annihilation of our small selves, well, all that remains for us is to become stale, moldy and disintegrate. Only when we receive, consume and embody the bread as revealed in Jesus are the physical and Spiritual possibilities of life unleashed in us.
If we do not eat, we do not live. That statement is as true with regard to our physical lives as it is for our Spiritual lives. When we hear John’s Jesus say, “I am the living bread that comes down from heaven…” he is telling us that he brings to us that which we require to nourish our spiritual lives. If we do not eat of this Spiritual bread our Spirits will not flourish.
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** For more on this nondual perspective listen to Fr. Thomas Keating speaking about “The Little Way of St. Teresa of Liseaux” at https://youtu.be/7wBBOAORoSY