In John 6, we encounter Jesus’ direct teaching on the Eucharist. If anyone would question whether the Church’s teaching accurately represents Jesus’ own teaching, look no further than this chapter where Jesus says:
“I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats this bread, he will live forever. And the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh…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. Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day. For my flesh is true food and my blood is true drink.”
Jn 6:51, 53-56
Jesus is emphatic in his teaching and consistent in his claims. It is difficult to understand how a believer reading this passage could come away with a different understanding of the Eucharist than what the Church teaches. If they did, their conclusions must be drawn from a flat experience of the sacrament or a lack of belief that God is faithful to his word. Jesus states clearly, “The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life. But there are some of you who do not believe” (Jn 6:63b-64).
Today we are witnessing a very beautiful and public questioning and reflecting on John 6 by several courageous and deeply faithful non-Catholic Christian pastors. Most notably, Francis Chan, an evangelical pastor, has been very open about his journey with the Lord and his growing understanding of John 6. The most beautiful part of the story is that it is Jesus’ own teaching in the Gospel which moves Chan’s heart and inspires him to press deeper into the mystery Jesus is revealing.
It is this same disposition that I hope we can bring to the Word of God, one that is able to take Jesus’ words at face value and not dismiss them as if full assent to them is optional. This is the truth which Jesus places before us: He gave us his flesh to eat and his blood to drink so that we might have eternal life. The Eucharist appears as bread and wine, and it is truly the Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of Jesus Christ. The second Person of the Trinity, our Risen Lord, is truly present, which leads me to Emmaus.