Saint Thomas of Canterbury, Bolton

Stay with us, Lord, on our journey

Cycle B

Twentieth Sunday in Ordinary Time

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John 6.51-58

"My flesh is real food and my blood is real drink"

Over the past four weeks we have been listening to chapter 6 of the Gospel according to John. Following the multiplication of loaves by which he had provided them with bodily nourishment, Jesus spoke to the crowd of himself as "the bread of life". He was speaking of himself as divine revelation, as God's own life-giving word. As such he called for people to believe in him, to become one with him in mind and heart and in spirit, and so gain from him a share in his own divine and eternal life.

Today's reading provides another understanding of the "bread of life". Jesus is speaking here, not just of our receiving eternal life through believing in him, but of our need for that new life to be nourished by receiving him. He has moved on now to speak of offering himself to us in the Eucharist: "the bread which I shall give is my own flesh for the life of the world". The Father has life, says Jesus, and I have life because of the Father. He who eats me will have life because of me, and that person will live for ever. "He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life. And I shall raise him up on the last day".

In the Eucharist Jesus offers himself to nourish and transform those who receive him, to establish with them a communion of life, a participation in the very life of God, thus granting them here on earth a foretaste of heaven and of the fullness of eternal life. To be not just nourished but also transformed by the Eucharist demands more than simply “receiving holy communion”. To be in communion with Jesus is to seek to know him intimately, to listen to his word and follow his way, to surrender to the working of his Spirit, to beg him to so live in us that we may continue to grow in him.