"Only insofar as you eat and drink flesh and blood, the flesh and blood of the Son of Man, do you have life within you. The one who brings a hearty appetite to this eating and drinking has eternal life and will be fit and ready for the Final Day. My flesh is real food and my blood is real drink. By eating my flesh and drinking my blood you enter into me and I into you. In the same way that the fully alive Father sent me here and I live because of him, so the one who makes a meal of me lives because of me." (John 6:53-57)
On the surface, Jesus' words may seem rather gruesome. When he first said them, he was addressing Jews, whose strict code of law forbade any drinking blood. So why did he invite them to do so? Because "by eating my flesh and drinking my blood you enter into me and I into you." The Eucharist provides us with an unforgettable image of what Jesus deeply desires: to be totally a part of us, intimately integrated with us at the cellular level.
To better understand this, think of the food we eat. It can be healthy, nutritious, and life-giving, or it can be junk, adding calories and fat and useless ingredients the body just sloughs off. When we eat the good stuff, our body maintains its health and vitality. We feel better. We look better. We're healthy. We move more vibrantly through our day. We simply live better.
When we make a meal of Jesus, spiritually recalling his sacrifice through the bread and the wine, he does something similar to our spiritual and emotional self. We become more purposeful, more fulfilled. We can more readily take the risks God calls us to, because we're ready for it. He is with us, totally part of us, intimately present.
Unfortunately, as bad as our physical diet can be at times, our spiritual diet can be just as unhealthy and non-nutritious. We feed on shallow pabulum. Or junk. Or we avoid the basic parts of a healthy spiritual diet or even starve to death spiritually, not making any effort to eat anything.
We have to remember to make Jesus a constant part of our life-to eat him up in a deeply meaningful, deeply spiritual way. That's why our churches observe the Lord's Supper regularly: to remind us that Jesus wants to be a continually intimate part of our lives-to the very core of our being.
The next time you take communion, and every time you take the bread and the wine, remember how deeply Jesus loves you and wants to be with you and in you. He was willing to give up everything this physical life held for him in order to make that happen.
So what's on your menu today?
Jesus, I am humbled to know that you want to be such a deeply intimate part of my life. I know eating the bread and drinking the wine is just an image of the reality that you offer-the reality of your living, active presence within me. I want to eat heartily. Amen.