Order.Homily preached by Brs. Simeon at Springwood and Maroubra on Sunday 16th August 2015
TWELFTH SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST. YR B.
Gospel: John 6: 51-58
“Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me and I in him.”
In the Name of the One God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Amen.
Some of you may remember that back in the 1970’s, a soccer team crashed landed while flying over the Andes Mountains. After quite some time had passed, they realised all rescue efforts had been abandoned, and they had run out of food. How would they survive? After much debate, they decided to eat the flesh of those who had died. As horrific as that seems to us, because they ate the flesh of others, they survived. Thankfully we don’t need to resort to such drastic measures for our daily survival,.... yet Jesus tells us that unless we eat his flesh and drink his blood, we have no life in us.
Two dimensions of Jewish worship provide the context of today’s Gospel, the fourth part of the “bread of life” discourse in John 6.
John’s discourse about the bread of life in Chapter 6 of his Gospel is his way of dealing with the Eucharist, especially since his Gospel is the only one of the four Gospels that does not include the story of the Last Supper. The story is told in its own way in all four Gospels because each one was written for a different audience. In John’s case, his Gospel was written for the church in Greece approximately 60 years after Christ’s Ascension. At this time in history, the Greeks were leaders in politics, philosophy ideology and culture, so their interpretation was much different than that of the Hebrews, for example.
When an animal was sacrificed on the temple altar, part of the meat was given to worshippers for a feast with family and friends at which God was honoured as the unseen “Guest.” It was even believed by some that God entered into the flesh of the sacrificed animal, so that when people rose from the feast they believed they were literally “God-filled.”
In Jewish thought, blood was considered the vessel in which life was contained: as blood drained away from a body so did its life. The Jews, therefore, considered blood sacred, as belonging to God alone. In animal sacrifices, blood was ritually drained from the carcass and solemnly “sprinkled” upon the altar and the worshippers by the priest as a sign of being touched directly by the “life” of God.
With this understanding, then, John summaries his theology of the Eucharist, the new Passover banquet (remember that John’s Last Supper account will centre around the “mandatum,” the theology of servanthood, rather than the blessing and breaking of the bread and the sharing of the cup).
To feast on Jesus the “bread” is to “feast” on the very life of God -- to consume the Eucharist is to be consumed by God.
In inviting us “to feed on his flesh and drink of my blood,” Jesus invites us to embrace the life of his Father: the life that finds joy in humble servanthood to others; the life that is centred in unconditional, total, sacrificial love; the life that seeks fulfilment not in the standards of this world but in the treasures of the next.
In the “bread” of the Eucharist, Jesus shows us how to distinguish the values of God from the values of the marketplace; he instructs us on how to respond to the pressures and challenges of the world with justice and selflessness; he teaches us how to overcome our fears and doubts to become the people of compassion, reconciliation and hope that God created us to be.
In the “bread” he gives us to eat, we become the body of Christ with and for one another; in his “blood” that he gives us to drink, his life of compassion, justice and selflessness flows within us, and we become what we have received: the sacrament of unity, peace and reconciliation.