In the Holy Name of Jesus. Amen.
It’s time for us to enter into Act Four of St. John’s five act drama concerning bread, Jesus, and us. Some of the past action has included the people wanting take Jesus by force – to seize him so that they could make him be their Bread King – you know, cage him up and get him to keep on multiplying those loaves and fishes. However, Jesus, to their chagrin, escaped their clutches, and then adding insult to injury told them he wasn’t there to fill people’s stomachs (leastways not in the way they were thinking); rather, he was there to give them – as a free gift – bread from heaven. With that, the crowd’s chagrin quickly turned into confusion and indignation. Who the heck did this Jesus think he was anyway? “I AM,” he told told them. “I AM the bread of life come down from heaven, and everyone – everyone who comes to me, who will ever come to me, comes not of the self’s free will, but because the Father has drawn (actually the Greek verb is closer to dragged) – has dragged them to me.” Yes, the Father has dragged us to Jesus, so that trusting Jesus’ revelation of God-the-loving-Parent who wills that nothing be lost – that trusting, we all have life in that very God of the ages. And so, with that terribly abbreviated synopsis of the last three acts, the curtain comes up on Act Four.
And we see Jesus, who always gets the first and the last word begins: “I AM, I AM-BEING, the living, moving, actively churning bread come down from heaven. Whoever eats of this bread will have life in God beyond the ages – and this bread – that I give for the whole world (not just select parts of the world – as some of you people would wish it to be) – and this bread that I freely give is my very own flesh.”
Silence. Dead silence. The good religious people are looking at one another, trying to read one another’s minds. Did this Jesus really just say that we should eat his flesh like we would eat bread? Finally one of the religious experts mutters, “That’s against the rules.” This is too much for his buddy. “Oh Edgar. You’re so literal. That’s not what he meant.” “Oh it is too,” pipes up the guy in front of them. “Is not.” “Is too.” “Is not.” “Is too,” and back in forth it goes until Edgar’s other friend, Horace, pipes up – and being a bit more cerebral than those around him – Horace says, “Hey listen – he did say that he was giving us his flesh to eat, but don’t you see, it’s a metaphor. He wants us to soak up all his loving ideas so we can make this world a better place. He’s saying ‘look at me as an example of how you should live.’” “Well, maybe,” mutter some of the crowd; others are just still being grossed out – religiously, conceptually, viscerally, you name it.
Of course this debate could go on for millennia, so Jesus, not always the most patient type, hollers out, “Basta!! Enough! Listen – I’m saying this in truth – unless you eat the very flesh of the Son of Humanity and drink his blood, you have not life-in-God within you.” And the word Jesus uses for eat at this point – well, it’s not very poetic, and it’s got the crowd really messed up – except for Edgar who’s about to start his I-told-you-so dance, “He was too being literal, so there.” Jesus, not about to let Edgar start chewing up the scenery, reiterates, “Those who scarf down my flesh and drink my blood, have life in God beyond all time And I will raise them up on the last day.”
“Oh for Pete’s sake,” says poetic Horace. “Why can’t he use a more polite word? ‘Those who scarf down my flesh’ – that’s what my kids do. Hands out all the time. Little beggars. You put food in front of them and then they scarf it all up like the little animals they are.” “Hmm,” responds Edgar. “Maybe Aristotle can help us out with this. Hey, Aristotle, come here,” Edgar beckons.
Aristotle, accompanied by his buddy Thomas, and looking all too sure of himself responds, “Well, it’s like this. If he’s being literal, the bread changes into his flesh, but it still looks like bread, but it isn’t really bread, it’s actually his flesh-and-blood body. It’s all a matter of a certain sort of physics. But then there is the possibility of another view, you know: It’s both bread and flesh, but the flesh part is hidden in, with, and under the essentials of bread.” Aristotle’s buddy Thomas, sticking his tongue out at Horace, jumps up and down in joyful assent.
Then Martin, another person in the crowd, upon hearing all of this, groans – loudly – as if his bowels were tangled in a knot. “Aristotle,” Martin barks, “you and your reason – you’re such a whore. And you Thomas, you’re just his lackey pimp. Jesus says, ‘eat my body, drink my blood, and I will raise you up.’ This is not philosophy, and it’s not physics. It’s, ‘whoever trusts this, not reasons-through this, but trusts this has life in God beyond all time.’ Jesus says, ‘this is my body, this is my blood.’ Is means is. Forget any and every sort of substantiation talk – con or trans. Stick with is.”
…Jesus, here truly living, that you may eat and drink of him just like the littlest ones do; and the one whom you eat and drink, this one will raise up your wounded bodies, this very day and every day until when your bodies, at the last fully alive in a resurrected body like His, shall shine like the sun in the realm of the Father…
Meanwhile at stage left, Ulrich and his buddy Cal are huddling in a corner and can be seen pointing to some bread and then to Jesus, “Ahem,” Ulrich clears his throat. “Obviously, this is all symbolic. How could Jesus be both wherever he is – let’s say, for the sake of argument, that Jesus is at the right hand of God – how can he be both there and in bread somewhere else at the same time? One place or the other, but not both.” “Right,” says Cal. “And furthermore, Jesus just wants this to just be a memorial sort of thing, and just do it once or twice a year so that it doesn’t get out of control.”
Martin, at this, and turning purple, doubles over, lifts his robe, and . . . well, let’s just say that the adolescents in the crowd, with their penchant for toilet humor, are having giggle fits while Jesus just shakes his head, rolls his eyes, and mutters, “Oy, and for this I came into the world . . . . ?”
But then Jesus picks up some bread, blesses it, and starts tearing off chunks. The little kids in the crowd, having grown incredibly restless at all the tsimissing of the adults over something that makes no sense to them whatsoever come running toward Jesus – just like the little beggars they are, their hands open and saying, gimme, gimme. “I want some Jesus,” Tommy says pulling on one of his mother’s arms, while Joey, pulling on the other, says to Jesus, “I want a really big piece of you, Jesus!” And they, receiving this bread, like the children they are, trusting that they really are scarfing down Jesus, and chewing quite obviously and noisily, and ignoring their mother’s plea not to talk with their mouths full, they point at Briana, who’s drinking out of a cup, and they yell out, “Let’s go over there where she is. She’s drinking some Jesus!” Oh, and indeed she is drinking – actually more like guzzling. And after having almost drained the cup, she wipes her mouth with the back of her hand and says, “Boy, I needed that. I was really thirsty.” And apparently Tommy and Joey are too and so they as well drink deeply. And as they drag their mother toward some shade, we hear them ask, “Mommy, when can we eat and drink some more Jesus?” And Mommy, who has eaten and drunk some Jesus too, smiles, and says, “Whenever you’re hungry and thirsty,” she assures them. “Every day?” they ask. “Every day,” says Mommy.
And Martin, having watched all of this – and being followed by a bunch of adolescents who on account of his toilet talk have been attracted to him – Martin starts running toward Jesus, he and the whole bunch of them with begging hands and hungering and thirsting mouths. They all want to eat and drink Jesus too, just like the little kids. Like the little kids – now resting in the shade, their sleep for the moment untroubled, Jesus now coursing through their veins, and the unending holidays already beginning in their very bodies, the holidays, when every tear will be wiped away, their own as well as the tears they will bring to the eyes of others. And with that the curtain falls on Act Four.
And so now for you dear people, now: Jesus – Jesus, here truly living, that you may eat and drink of him just like the littlest ones do; and the one whom you eat and drink, this one will raise up your wounded bodies, this very day and every day until when your bodies, at the last fully alive in a resurrected body like His, shall shine like the sun in the realm of the Father, that realm beyond our every laughable notion of time and space, that realm which not death nor darkness nor reason shall ever, ever comprehend.
In the Name of Jesus, who will raise you up on the last day! Amen.