I like to think if I were a follower of Jesus in his earthly ministry I would have been able to pick up on the pattern:
- Jesus encounters people suffering and in need
- Jesus performs a miracle and meets their need
- Jesus gives us a teaching about who He is and why He is here among us
I’m smart like that.
So when Jesus multiplied the loaves and fishes to feed 5,000 men, not counting women and children, I’d knowingly look over at one of my apostle friends and smile, “Watch this Bartholomew, now he’s going to say something awesome.” This time is a little different though. This time Jesus goes to pray alone while we all pile into a boat and cross the sea (just an aside, there was a huge storm and Jesus walked on water to us. No big deal).
The next day all the people come across the sea to where we are. They’re curious, seeking and excited. I see what you did there Jesus. Make them wait a day and come to you. Nice touch. John, get ready to write this down.
“Truly, truly, I say to you, it was not Moses who gave you the bread from heaven; my Father gives you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is that which comes down from heaven, and gives life to the world…I am the bread of life; he who comes to me shall not hunger, and he who believes in me shall never thirst.”
Well played Jesus. We should hunger for a relationship with you and thirst for righteousness like we hunger and thirst for food and water! Still, these new disciples are taking your analogy a bit too literally. Maybe you should clarify?
“I am the bread of life. Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died…I am the living bread which came down from heaven; if any one eats of this bread, he will live forever; and the bread which I shall give for the life of the world is my flesh.”
Lord, that might be taking things in the wrong direction. See, the people are confused because they think you mean this “eating and drinking” literally. If you explained that this is just a metaphor for meditating on your teachings or that its symbolic of learning to share better that might help.
“Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of man and drink his blood, you have no life in you; he who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day. For my flesh is food indeed, and my blood is drink indeed. He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him.”
Now the people are leaving. “This saying is too hard. Who could believe it?” Jesus, call them back! Tell them it’s all an analogy! It is all an analogy, right? You wouldn’t let people leave you because they couldn’t understand a metaphor, would you?
Now Jesus looks at us. At me.
“Do you wish to leave also?”
Peter speaks up, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life; and we have believed, and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God.”
This changes everything.
Because Jesus isn’t some ancient teacher whose wise words remain with us today.
He is with us today.
In the Eucharist we can actually know the risen Jesus—not a long dead historical figure. He is alive and wants an intimate and eternal relationship with you and me.
Our God comes to us in the appearance of simple bread and simple wine. The Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Jesus Christ are really and truly present in the Eucharist we receive, because that is the promise He made.
The Holy One of God, for whom and through whom all things were made, desires to dwell within you and me.
His grace transforms us. We become what we eat and, by this Eucharistic miracle, Jesus abides in us.
“When you approach the tabernacle remember that God has been waiting for you for twenty centuries.”
-Saint Josemaría Escrivá