Psalm 107:1-32 • Jeremiah 23:1-8 • Romans 8:28-39 • John 6:52-59
Jesus’ teaching in the Gospel of John today is troubling: “When many of his disciples heard it, they said, ‘This teaching is difficult; who can accept it?’” “Because of this many of his disciples turned back and no longer went about with him.” What silly people, we might be tempted to say. Surely they know Jesus’ words aren’t meant to be taken literally. There’s a nice spiritual reading available that will resolve all these problems—just depend on Jesus and he will nourish us. Let Jesus be our bread, for “one who eats this bread will live forever.” That’s not wrong, of course, in general or as a reading of this passage. It just feels a bit too easy to me; that this spiritualized reading of these words can’t fully account for the strange imagery of Jesus offering his flesh to be eaten and his blood to be drunk, that we’re muting just how unsettling Jesus’ words are. “Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood have eternal life, and I will raise them on the last day; for my flesh is true food and my blood is true drink.”
What might it mean to taste Jesus, to consume him, to find ourselves filled by his flesh? Eating is sensual; it’s a matter of texture, of being surprised by new and unfamiliar flavors or flavors that conjure old memories, of satisfying a gnawing hunger, an emptiness inside us. It’s something done in community, with people we love, something the rest of the day revolves around, something we plan for. It takes preparation, shopping in advance, time to cook; sometimes it takes gifts from others for us to be able to eat at all. Is this how we approach the Lord’s table? Is this how we come to the Eucharist, having prepared ourselves to eat the flesh of Christ? What do we need, this Lent, in order to taste Jesus in the bread and wine we share together?
— Joe Lenow