"Does this Shock You?"

Take into consideration the following passages from the Gospel according to John:

John 1:1-5

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.
He was in the beginning with God.
All things came to be through him, and without him nothing came to be. What came to be through him was life, and this life was the light of the human race; the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.

John 6: 35, 48-58, 60-66 (see John 6: 22-71 for the entire passage)

Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me will never hunger, and whoever believes in me will never thirst.
I am the bread of life.

Your ancestors ate the manna in the desert, but they died;
this is the bread that comes down from heaven so that one may eat it and not die.
I am the living bread that came down from heaven; whoever eats this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give is my flesh for the life of the world.”

The Jews quarreled among themselves, saying, “How can this man give us (his) flesh to eat?”

Jesus said to them, “Amen, amen, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you do not have life within you.
Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him on the last day.
For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink.
Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me and I in him.
Just as the living Father sent me and I have life because of the Father, so also the one who feeds on me will have life because of me.
This is the bread that came down from heaven. Unlike your ancestors who ate and still died, whoever eats this bread will live forever.”
Then many of his disciples who were listening said, “This saying is hard; who can accept it?”

Since Jesus knew that his disciples were murmuring about this, he said to them, “Does this shock you? What if you were to see the Son of Man ascending to where he was before?
It is the spirit that gives life, while the flesh is of no avail. The words I have spoken to you are spirit and life.
But there are some of you who do not believe.” Jesus knew from the beginning the ones who would not believe and the one who would betray him.
And he said, “For this reason I have told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted him by my Father.”

As a result of this, many (of) his disciples returned to their former way of life and no longer accompanied him.

This first passage is from the start of John’s Gospel of Jesus. It defines just who Jesus is.

Jesus is the Son of God, the Second Person of the Trinity (I’ll explain the Trinity in a later post, hmm-mmm!). John refers to Jesus as “The Word.” Jesus is the Word of God. The Bible is also the Word of God. Jesus is the Bible. The Bible is Jesus.

In the beginning was Jesus, and he was with God, and was God (a glimmering of the Dogma of the Trinity) and was in the beginning with God.

All things (everything) came to be (were created) through Him, and nothing that was ever created, was created without Him. All of creation came to be through Him, including life. Especially human life.

He was the beginning, and was in the beginning, and was God, and was with God, and everything came into existence through Him.

Sounds rather confusing from a human perspective, almost as if it were a riddle, which in a way it could be. But not so much if you relax and ponder it prayerfully.

If you read this carefully, the implication is staggering. Jesus wasn’t just some itinerant First Century Palestinian Jewish preacher who claimed to be God and backed it up by performing miracles. Nor was He a just a wise man who had a lot of nice things to teach us about how to live and get along.

He was (for lack of a better word) the instrument through which the Creator – God the Father – the First Person of the Trinity- created the Universe. The single point through which all of Creation came into existence.

And then He, Himself, became a man and lived among us. Billions and billions of years after the Universe was created through Him, He did not come down to us in some majestic, overpowering Olympian way to do His teaching among us. He was born a vulnerable and innocent baby in difficult circumstances, as if He was using His own beginning as a human as a teaching lesson.

Now, the second group of passages are from John’s 6th Chapter. This is the “Bread of Life Discourse”. In it Jesus is telling His listeners that He is the “Bread of Life”, the truest path to salvation (eternal life with God the Father). Only through Him is the way to the Father fully revealed. And He just happens to mention that it is His own flesh that is this “Bread of Life”, and by eating His flesh one can attain eternal life. Naturally this disgusts some of His listeners and they cannot accept this difficult teaching of His, and they leave.

They are disgusted because He was speaking literally, and not symbolically, and they knew this. If He was speaking symbolically, they wouldn’t have left, or if so because of a misunderstanding, He would have corrected them. He would be a shepherd, going after lost sheep. But instead, He was literally referring to His flesh as bread, that when eaten will grant eternal life. This was too difficult to accept, his listeners left, and He didn’t change His story to accommodate them.

The entire passage (John Chapter 6, verses 22-71), forms the basis for the Catholic Church’s Doctrine of the Real Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist. The wafer that Catholics receive during Communion is literally, and not symbolically, Jesus. Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity, He’s all there, in the form of a little piece of bread. The priest utters the words at Mass which in some mysterious way humans can never completely fathom, transubstantiate (change the substance) of the bread into His Body. And yet it remains looking like bread. We cannot ever comprehend how this can be, it is a Divine mystery. But we have Jesus’ testimony in John’s Gospel that this is so.

Just as astonishing as God becoming human as a little baby, Jesus today is physically present among us as the Communion bread (the Eucharist). Humans just can’t make this stuff up. It would have been laughed at into oblivion 2,000 years ago. But they believed because they understood the symbolism of the bread, and accepted Jesus’ connecting it to His Body in a literal manner, and something about Him helped convey its truthfulness into their receptive hearts and minds. They didn’t understand it, but His followers accepted it. They knew it to be a Divine mystery and thus not to be understood completely. They trusted Jesus.

The Jesus in John 1:1-5 is the same Jesus in John 6:22-71. The instrument or point through which all of Creation was made is fully there in the form of bread.

Catholics have a devotional practice called “Eucharistic Adoration”. In thousands of Churches and Parish Halls and whatnot around the world, there are rooms or chapels in which the consecrated (transubstantiated) Eucharist is kept exposed in a receptacle known as a monstrance. It is common to spend 15-60 minutes every so often in prayer before the Eucharist. In some churches it’s done on a regular schedule.

To spend time in prayer with the Eucharistic Jesus. With Him, through Whom all things were made and through Whom all pass through to the Father, (and, as stated in the Book of Revelation, through Whom all things are made new again after the End).

OK, now
. If that idea doesn’t shake you a bit to the marrow of your bones…

NOTE: This post was edited on April 28, 2009 to reflect changes in links referenced in the original version. The URL cited previously is no longer valid and so was deleted. Since I often refer to this post, I figured an edit was needed.

Know someone, perhaps yourself, who might like Catholic devotionals for alcoholics? Please take a look at my books! (Thank you!!)

"The Recovery Rosary: Reflections for Alcoholics and Addicts"

and "The Stations of the Cross for Alcoholics"