At the morning Mass at my parish that I attended, the Gospel proclaimed was an excerpt from the Bread of Life discourse (Jn 6:51-58), appropriate for the Mass of the Last Supper to be celebrated later that day. (See the short but impactful homily here.)
In the Eucharist course I teach to men in formation to become deacons, we do a deep dive into John 6. Here are my notes on these verses:
51 I am the living bread which came down from heaven; if any one eats of this bread, he will live for ever; and the bread which I shall give for the life of the world is my flesh.”
[The future tense points both to the Cross (life surrendered for human sins) and to the Eucharistic liturgy (Jesus offers Himself as living bread for a starving world). (Scott Hahn and Curtis Mitch, eds., The Gospel of John (Ignatius Catholic Study Bible) (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2003), 30)]
[Regarding the manna, this was a figure of this bread – Christ himself – which nourishes Christians on their pilgrimage through this world. (The Gospel of Saint John (The Navarre Bible) (Dublin: Four Courts Press, 1987), 105)]
52 The Jews then disputed among themselves, saying, “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?”
[They misunderstand. Jesus gives us not mortal flesh but His glorified humanity as it was after rising from the dead. After all, He just called Himself “the living bread.” (Hahn and Mitch, 30)]
[The value of several commentaries: Navarre says: Christ’s hearers understand perfectly well that he means exactly what he says; but they cannot believe that what he says could be true; if they had understood him in a metaphorical, figurative or symbolic sense there would be no reason for them to be so surprised and nothing to cause an argument. (The Gospel of Saint John, 105)]
53 So Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of man and drink his blood, you have no life in you;
[Jesus is speaking literally and sacramentally. If He were speaking metaphorically or figuratively, His words would echo a Hebrew idiom where consuming flesh and blood refers to the brutalities of war (Deut 32:42; Exek 39:17-18). (Hahn and Mitch, 30])
[Drinking the blood of animals is forbidden. But Jesus is talking about imparting supernatural life – we are elevated to become sharers in the divine nature. (Hahn and Mitch, 30)]
[Once again Jesus stresses very forcefully that it is necessary to receive him in the Blessed Eucharist in order to share in divine life and develop the life of grace received in Baptism. (The Gospel of Saint John, 105-106)]
54 he who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day.
[“Eats” in Greek (trogo) is used in this verse and in 56, 57, and 58. It means to “chew” or “gnaw” (usually used in reference to animals). In the previous verses a more common verb for eating was used. So we have a change of focus and emphasis from the necessity of faith to the consumption of the Eucharist. Graphic connotation adds force to His words: He demands we express our faith by eating, in a real and physical way, His life-giving flesh in the sacrament. (Hahn and Mitch, 31)]
[Love this from Aquinas: “The Word gives life to our souls, but the Word made flesh nourishes our bodies. In this sacrament is contained the Word not only in his divinity but also in his humanity; therefore, it is the cause not only of the glorification of our souls but also of that of our bodies.” (The Gospel of Saint John, 106)]
[The profound Liguori: “True friends wish to be united is such a manner as to become only one.” Certainly true for Jesus and something for which we should strive. (The Gospel of Saint John, 106)]
55 For my flesh is food indeed, and my blood is drink indeed.
[Communion is necessary for maintaining the life of the soul. Frequent, even daily, communion is recommended to wash away slight sins and to restrain habitual sins and to take precautions against serious sin. (MF) (The Gospel of Saint John, 106-107)]
56 He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him.
[The most important effect of the Blessed Eucharist is intimate union with Jesus Christ. (The Gospel of Saint John, 107)]
[“In John, the verb ‘remain’ (meno) designates the mutual indwelling of Father and Son, the eternal relationship between them in which Jesus invites his disciples to share (see 1:39; 14:10; 15:4-10). By our consuming Christ’s body and blood in the Eucharist, he dwells within us, and we in turn share in his divine life.” (Francis Martin and William M. Wright IV, The Gospel of John (Catholic Commentary on Sacred Scripture) (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2015), 130)]
57 As the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so he who eats me will live because of me.
[By receiving in this sacrament the body and blood of Christ indissolubly united to his divinity, we share in the divine life of the second Person of the Blessed Trinity. (The Gospel of Saint John, 107)]
[Liguori: A suitable disposition to receive since none could communicate if worthiness was required? But we anxiously desire to advance in the love of Jesus. (The Gospel of Saint John, 108)]
58 This is the bread which came down from heaven, not such as the fathers ate and died; he who eats this bread will live for ever.”
[“will live for ever” is used only once in the OT: Gen 3:22 where it relates to the Tree of Life. Both the Tree of Life and the Bread of Life give immortality. (Hahn and Mitch, 31)]
[Just as the Israelites ate manna daily we are invited to nourish our soul frequently with his body. (The Gospel of Saint John, 108)]
[Beautiful St. Josemaria Escriva quote: “‘Going to Communion every day for so many years! Anybody else would be a saint by now, you told me, and I…I’m always the same!’ Sin, I replied, keep up your daily Communion, and think: what would I be if I had not gone?” (The Gospel of Saint John, 108)]
Finally, if Jesus meant what He said in the headline (and He did), consider what that means for the Catholic and the imperative to evangelize. For the non-Catholic, consider if and how you fulfill this requirement of Our Savior.
God bless you this Holy Triduum and Easter Season.