Acts 9:1-20; Ps 117:1bc, 2; Jn 6:52-59
As the Psalm proclaims the LORD has been steadfast in his kindness, and his fidelity endures forever. The LORD has taken advantage of the Chosen People by summoning another apostle into the fold by calling Saul and sending Paul out to all the world. The Risen Christ has spoken. In the gospel today the Lord Jesus speaks with the authority of one, who comes from above, to settle the quarrel among the crowd that has been looking for living bread. They cried out in disgust, how can this man give us his flesh to eat? Ananias was not happy with the Lord’s choice of Saul, and the crowd will not be happy with the answer that the Lord Jesus gives.
The well-trained Pharisee Saul, breathing murderous threats against the Lord’s disciples, requested and received the authority to arrest and imprison those who follow the New Way. On the way to carry out his threat, Saul suddenly sees and hears from the One he is persecuting. Though shaken and blinded Saul follows the command of the Lord Jesus, “get up and go into the city, where you will be told what to do.” Ananias, one of the Lord’s disciples in Damascus, sees and hears from the Risen Lord. Jesus commands Ananias to go heal and baptize Saul. This faithful disciple speaks of his fear; this Saul is dangerous. What does the Lord Jesus say that convinces Ananias to do his will? Why was Ananias willing to go to heal the blind murderer Saul? Perhaps this command from one who seemed to be the Lord Jesus really was a demon testing him. Then the Lord said, “I myself shall indicate to him how much he will have to suffer for my name.” Was it these words about suffering that convinced Ananias? Surely, no demon would try to attract someone with suffering. It could only be The One who suffered out of love who would invite someone to join Him in suffering out of love.
The Lord Jesus, the man of suffering, comes from above. He is the living bread for us to eat because the Father who has life sent him. Jesus’ teaching in today’s gospel reflects upon the painfully difficult verb, to eat. This verb in the original Greek emphasizes the physical aspects of eating, and it is usually translated “to munch” or “to crunch.” No wonder the crowd was disgusted with Jesus. Perhaps this is a hint that the Lord Jesus is moving beyond a wisdom reference. No longer is the Living Bread just a development from the Jewish idea that the People would be nourished constantly by the wisdom of the Torah. The Lord Jesus says, “the man who feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me, and I in him.” Anyone can come feed and drink; all men and women must feed, eat, munch, crunch, gnaw at the flesh and consume the blood if they want to live. Such a literal statement is too offensive, but the Lord Jesus already knew that. He does not withdraw his offensive message. Rather, He makes it even more offensive by referencing a drinking of his blood as well as eating his flesh. Such a command does not make sense outside of the context of the Eucharist. Where else can anyone eat flesh and drink blood? The believer hearing this text proclaimed already experience the sacramental mysteries of the Lord Jesus lifted up, broken open, and spilled out so that we can have life eternal. Indeed, this is a hard saying; too difficult even for some who their whole life have been going to Mass and communion.