Exegesis of the Gospel: John 6: 51-58
Today's Gospel presents us with the conclusion of the bread of life discourse. Each segment of this discourse has moved closer to a full exposure of the Johannine theology of the Eucharist.
This final section uncovers the high point of that teaching. Christians continue to debate this section (Jn 6:51–18), some wanting to see it as a separate section while others connect it intimately with what has gone before. Most Catholic exegetes see it as a conclusion which is connected to what has gone before and not as a separate section of eucharistic theology.
1) I am the living bread that came down from heaven. This is a clear “I am” statement wherein Jesus declares himself to be the bread that came down from heaven. The eating of this bread leads to eternal life. Now, however, Jesus makes a new point. His flesh is for the “life of the world.” This has been the whole purpose of the Incarnation. Now he feeds the world with the Eucharist.
2) Misunderstanding. Those Jews who reject Jesus are shown once again not to be able to grasp what he is saying. They take issue with Jesus declaring that he gives the world his flesh to eat. Using an “amen, amen” statement to get their attention and make an important point, Jesus further states that unless they eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, they do not have life within them. Now the emphasis is on flesh and blood, eating and drinking. Clearly this is the full description of the Eucharist. Eating Jesus' flesh and drinking his blood leads to eternal life and ultimate resurrection on the last day. This is true food and true drink.
3) Eucharist as divine mutuality. Jesus has highlighted the reality of the Eucharist. Now he reflects further on its meaning. He makes reference to remaining in him and he in us. In other words, participation in the Eucharist draws the believer into an intimate relationship with Jesus (remaining or abiding). The Eucharist in the Gospel of John is all about relationship and presence. It is a life-giving relationship with a divine presence that leads to eternal life. This is not the same bread that the ancestors ate. Their bread could nourish but it could not give eternal life. Those who eat and drink the Eucharist will live forever.