Today’s Gospel reading is from John chapter 6:51-58. It was great to hear our priest give a homily that affirmed the physical reality of Jesus in the Eucharist. Many claim that Jesus was being metaphorical in saying that we must eat his flesh and drink his blood to have eternal life. They use verse 64 to support the idea that Jesus was talking symbolically since he says, “It is the Spirit who gives life, the flesh is of no avail. My words are spirit and life.”
Yet, Jesus did not say, “MY flesh is of no avail” but he said “THE flesh is of no avail.” This was to contrast Spiritual truth with human inability to understand intellectually. Certainly, the flesh of Jesus avails much because it is his flesh that he gives on the cross for the life of the world. However, the flesh is our human frailty and lack of understanding, as in “The Spirit is willing but the flesh is weak,” or “You judge according to the flesh and not after God.” The flesh indeed profits nothing! Our human weakness cannot match the power of the Holy Spirit.
Furthermore, the word “Spirit” never means “symbolic” anywhere in Scripture. The Spirit is very real and does not “symbolize” anything. The Spirit is the power by which God makes calm weather out of storms, water into wine, life out of dust, creation out of nothingness, blind people see, deaf people hear and bread and wine into Christ’s own body and blood. As God said, “Let there be light” and there was light (God’s words being Spirit and life), Jesus said, “Take and eat. This is my body, this is my blood.” That is Spirit and life in Jesus’ words, not metaphor!
If you are a Christian, when have you actually eaten Jesus’ flesh and drank his blood, thereby receiving the power and life of the Spirit the way Jesus prescribes? Have you been partaking of a mere symbol? We are called to believe the Spirit of Truth, by faith, not to understand with our fleshy brains.