The talk Jesus gave at Capharnaum (John 6:48-66) concerning the sacrament of his body and blood was not only philosophically problematic; it was, quite literally, revolting…. Even the most sympathetic of contemporary listeners is likely to react the same way many in Jesus’ original audience did.
When Jesus says, “the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh,” he is implying something as nauseating and religiously objectionable as possible. What does Jesus do when confronted with this objection?… He does not take the opportunity to offer a metaphorical or symbolic interpretation of his words. Instead, he intensifies what he had said. The Greek term translated as “eat” is not the usual phagein but rather trogein, a word customarily used to describe the way animals devour their food.
How do we appropriate this shocking talk? If we stand In the great Catholic tradition, we honor these unnerving words of Jesus, resisting all attempts to soften them or explain them away. We affirm what the Church has come to call the doctrine of the “real presence.”… Though Jesus is present to us in any number of ways… in the consecrated elements, he is “really, truly, and substantially” present to us, his very self—body and blood, humanity and divinity—is offered to us under the form of bread and wine. Thomas Aquinas expressed this difference as follows: though in all of the other sacraments the power of Christ is present, in the Eucharist ipse Christus, Christ himself is present. And this is why, for Catholics, the Eucharist is not one sign among many. It is the very soul and life of the Church.
©Robert Barron, Real Presence, in Word on Fire, (2008)
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