Tag Archives: flesh

Freedom to Follow

Jesus teaching his disciples. From a 1684 Arabic manuscript of the Gospels, copied in Egypt by Ilyas Basim Khuri Bazzi Rahib (likely a Coptic monk). In the collection of The Walters Art Museum, Baltimore, MD. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0.

Saturday of the Third Week of Easter

John 6:60-69

Then many of his disciples who were listening said, “This saying is hard; who can accept it?” 

John 6:60

Jesus respected the freedom of his disciples. Without coercion, they were free to accept his words and stay, or leave. 

Since Jesus knew that his disciples were murmuring about this, he said to them, “Does this shock you?

John 6:61

Jesus was not looking for popularity, counting the numbers of followers, or concerned about public image. On the way to the Cross, he stood to gain nothing and lose everything. As a fisher of men, he cast into the sea a most offensive bait (skandalizó—“shock”). When the fish began dispersing, Jesus made no attempt to make his bait more palatable or attractive, but reiterated his claim to be “from heaven” and “from above” (John 6:38; 3:13).

What if you were to see the Son of Man ascending to where he was before? It is the spirit that gives life, while the flesh is of no avail. The words I have spoken to you are spirit and life.

John 6:62-63

In the protohistory of Genesis, human lifespans were curtailed when the LORD withdrew his spirit from flesh after a limited duration. 

Then the Lord said: My spirit shall not remain in human beings forever, because they are only flesh. Their days shall comprise one hundred and twenty years.

Genesis 6:3

After the rise and fall of multiple civilizations from the time of the Flood, the complexification of human cultures made the divine simplicity of “spirit and life” seem very remote.

But there are some of you who do not believe.” Jesus knew from the beginning the ones who would not believe and the one who would betray him.

John 6:64

No amount of theologizing will produce a satisfactory theory of human freedom in the face of divine love. Much of what Jesus claims does not fall into neat, rational categories. Jesus presents himself as he is, granting everyone the freedom to follow or depart. 

And he said, “For this reason I have told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted him by my Father.”

John 6:65

This statement may vex those accustomed to striving and achieving goals by human effort. Following Jesus, however, is not an achievement, but a gift of faith from the Father. But if faith is wanting, is the Father to be blamed? Such a conclusion is inadmissible. 

The Cross is evidence that Jesus values our freedom even more than his own life. He is the polar opposite of a tyrant. Freedom and love are inseparable.

As a result of this, many of his disciples returned to their former way of life and no longer accompanied him.

John 6:66

More literally, these disciples no longer “walked” (peripateó) with him. “Walking” (halak) with God is a central idea of Jewish faith and religion (Deuternomy 8:6; 26:17).

Jesus then said to the Twelve, “Do you also want to leave?”

John 6:67

Like a perfect host, Jesus left the door open for his guests to come and go as they wished. 

Simon Peter answered him, “Master, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe and are convinced that you are the Holy One of God.”

John 6:68

Peter’s question expressed his realization that, even though it was tempting to search for a more palatable teaching, none were on the horizon. Jesus was here and he had “the words of eternal life.”

We have come to believe and are convinced that you are the Holy One of God.”

John 6:69

These words of faith came wholly from Peter’s own heart, in synergy with the Spirit, without force or indoctrination. Jesus was a rabbi like no other.

-GMC

Eating Christ

Icon of the Eucharist

Friday of the Third Week of Easter

John 6:52-59

Just as the living Father sent me and I live because of the Father, so also the one who eats me will live because of me.

John 6:57; NABRE

The Father gives life (zóé) to the Son without beginning or end. All things come from and return to the Father, the fountainhead of life. Eating the flesh and drinking the blood of the Son of Man are compared to receiving life from the Father. The phrase “flesh and blood” is a familial one:

Now since the children share in blood and flesh, he likewise shared in them, that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death…

Hebrews 2:14

Applying earthly terms to divinity, the Son of God shares in the “flesh and blood” (life) of the Father, and thus “lives because of the Father.” In turn, the children of Adam share in the “flesh and blood” of the Son of God, and live because of the Son. 

By coming from the Father into the world and uniting flesh (sarx) to divinity (John 1:14), Jesus raised all of humanity and the cosmos to the Father. 

Many walked away from Jesus when he emphatically stated that eating and drinking his flesh and blood were necessary for eternal life.

The Jews quarreled among themselves, saying, “How can this man give us [his] flesh to eat?” Jesus said to them, “Amen, amen, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you do not have life within you. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him on the last day. For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink.

John 6:52-55

Followers of Christ outside of the Catholic and Orthodox Churches interpret these texts metaphorically (e.g., that eating is believing), but Christian tradition from the beginning testifies to the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist. 

Cannibalism it is not, however, though early Christians were accused of it. In the speculations of St. Thomas Aquinas, the flesh and blood of Christ were never separated from the Godhead, even on the Cross and in the tomb.1 Thus, to eat and drink Christ means to eat and drink God Incarnate in the wholeness of his personal union of divinity and humanity. 

Those who left Jesus may have been repulsed by images of manslaughter and the consumption of blood, which were forbidden in Jewish law (Leviticus 7:26-27). Those who remained believed without comprehending. 

Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me and I in him.

John 6:56

For the believing disciples, remaining with Jesus at all cost took precedence over unanswered questions and incomprehension.

This is the bread that came down from heaven. Unlike your ancestors who ate and still died, whoever eats this bread will live forever.”

John 6:58

The authenticity of the person of Christ, stamped with the Father’s seal (John 6:27), bonded his disciples to him. “To whom shall we go?” Peter asked (John 6:68). Outside of Christ, what hope was there for eternal life?

-GMC

1 St. Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologiae III, q. 50, a. 2.

Forty Days of Flood and Feud

Christ’s Temptation (Monreale Cathedral mosaic)

First Sunday of Lent

Genesis 9:8-15; 1 Peter 3:18-22; Mark 1:12-15

Lent recalls the forty days of Jesus’ temptation in the wilderness, and the forty days of cosmic cleansing in the time of Noah’s Flood. 

As Noah’s Ark, containing all “flesh” (basar, Genesis 6:19) floated atop the deluge, Christ, the saving Ark, plunged into the Jordan river and cleansed all “flesh” which he assumed (basar, sarx, John 1:14).

…God patiently waited in the days of Noah during the building of the ark, in which a few persons, eight in all, were saved through water. This prefigured baptism, which saves you now.

1 Peter 3:20-21

Humanity’s capitulation to the serpent in the garden of Eden was recapitulated and reversed by Jesus’ conquest of the tempter in the desert.

At once the Spirit drove him out into the desert, and he remained in the desert for forty days, tempted by Satan. He was among wild beasts, and the angels ministered to him.

Mark 1:12-13

Forty Days in Forty Syllables:

Life was spoken out of chaos and void;
Evil was flushed in the Flood and destroyed.
Noah’s Ark saved all flesh and humankind;
The Christ conquered the serpent mastermind.

-GMC

Through the Veil

Icon of Holy Communion

Thursday of the Third Week in Ordinary Time (Year I)

Hebrews 10:19-25

Therefore, brothers, since through the blood of Jesus we have confidence of entrance into the sanctuary by the new and living way he opened for us through the veil, that is, his flesh, and since we have “a great priest over the house of God,” let us approach with a sincere heart and in absolute trust, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed in pure water.

Hebrews 10:19-22

In Jesus Christ, “flesh” and “blood” have triumphed over sin, death, and the devil, and live and reign forever and ever.

Flesh (sarx) encompasses all of humanity and the cosmos, from the smallest atom to the farthest star and every living being.

And the Word became flesh (sarx) and made his dwelling among us, and we saw his glory, the glory as of the Father’s only Son, full of grace and truth.

John 1:14

Unlike the sacrificial blood of animals which did not regenerate spirits dead in sin, the blood of Jesus opened a “new and living way” through the sanctuary veil to the presence of God.

In Christ, the blood of the slain Abel that cried out to God from the ground (Genesis 4:10) was assumed by the Son of God together with the earth and deified.

Every drop of blood of the risen Christ contains the whole Christ. Every particle of his body contains the whole Christ—divinity and humanity, heaven and earth, and communion with the Father, Son, Holy Spirit, angels and saints.

Let us hold unwaveringly to our confession that gives us hope, for he who made the promise is trustworthy. We must consider how to rouse one another to love and good works. We should not stay away from our assembly, as is the custom of some, but encourage one another, and this all the more as you see the day drawing near.

Hebrews 10:23-25

Eucharist means “thanksgiving.”

Thank you, Father, for your Son.
Thank you, Jesus, for your Body and Blood.
Thank you, Spirit, for making us one.

-GMC