Saturday, August 18, 2012

Bread of Life

Sunday's Scriptures has Jesus speaking about "living bread." Now, there was a sense of what he was talking about because they remembered the bread from God -- the manna -- that their ancestors had eaten in the wilderness. But his flesh? That certainly didn't make any sense.

"Very truly, I tell you," says Jesus, "unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you." His images have shifted from warm bread to something apparently more sinister. There is no longer any doubt that Jesus is going to have to give his flesh and shed his blood, and that his followers will need to eat and drink his sacrifice. Jesus is giving his whole self to us, and inviting us to eat him up. Just reading or saying that can make one's skin crawl.

Obviously, and we should stress obviously, Jesus does not mean this in any literal sense of the language. There is no cannibalistic tradition his listeners would have understood. Thus their confusion. And they were not positioned spiritually to understand Jesus' word on any metaphorical level either. So many people, even some of those who were nominal disciples, left Jesus at this point thinking, "This teaching is difficult; who can accept it? This guy is nuts!" They just left the kitchen.

Clearly, cooking with Jesus is not easy. This is understandable since kitchens have not always been pleasant places to be. Kitchens used to be hell on earth. That's why Jesus entered the kitchen and baked the bread of life.

Out of such a hell comes the promise of eternal life. Taking Jesus into ourselves is a full-time challenge, one that transforms us from the inside out. After all, "you are what you eat." "Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood have eternal life," promises Jesus, "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."

If we take Jesus into ourselves, we are given eternal life.

The challenge for us is to stay close to Jesus, receive his nourishment and do his work in the world.