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Bread Of Life Discourse in John 6: Literal of figurative?

Sunday, August 23rd, 2015
by Fr. Jeff Lucas

The context in Jn 6 makes clear that every act of Jesus and device that John (Jn) uses affirm that Jesus means His flesh and blood.

The discourse of Jesus in Jn 6 has two parts.  Both are important:

(A) vv 35-50 — Jesus, the bread of life, nourishing us in His TEACHING and in our personal RELATIONSHIP with Him. –a transition in v 51 – “and the bread that I will give is my flesh for the life of the world.”
(B) vv 52-58 — Jesus, the bread of life, nourishing us as the true Passover Lamb, who gives His slain body and spilled blood for the life of the world.

**In both (A) and (B) as elsewhere in his gospel John uses the protests of “the Jews” as foils to stress Jesus affirmative, literal meaning and intensify it.**

In the case of (A), in 6:41 he narrates that “the Jews” challenge how Jesus can have come down from heaven; and John also recounts Jesus’ affirmative, literal answer (6:43-50, esp. v 46) which comports with His same teaching elsewhere (e.g., Jn 1:18; 3:13,31).

We than transition in 6:51 from the first part to the second part.

Again in (B) the pointed protestations of “the Jews” (6:52) serve as a foil for Jesus’ affirmative, literal answer (6:52-58) that is nothing short of in your face as to its meaning. He says it 4 times in 4 consecutive verses (53-56) that we must eat his body and drink his blood, followed by 2 verses (57-58) that reaffirm what He just said.

This use of “the Jews” by Jn can be seen in that they also protest Jesus’ statement that Abraham saw His day and was glad (8:56). The author again narrates Jesus’ affirmative, literal response (8:58-59), where Jesus said to them, “Amen, amen, I say to you, before Abraham came to be, I AM.”  Later these are “the Jews” who also want to stone Jesus in protest for saying He and the Father are one (10:30-31).  He again goes on to give a literal, affirmative response (10:32-39)–He reaffirms He is the Son of God and says: “Father is in me and I am in the Father.”  In all these cases (including 6:41,52) “the Jews” understood exactly what Jesus meant.

Back to Jn 6, next the evangelist notes that even some of Jesus’ “disciples” were perplexed (6:60) and He responds by asking if this teaching “shocks” them, and then says something else that He will literally do: ascend into heaven.  And then the gospel writer comments that because of this teaching many of Jesus’ disciples left (v 66).  Even this did not cause Jesus or the evangelist to allegorize or apologize.

Some argue that when Jesus says His words are “spirit and life” (6:63) He means the teaching that we must eat His flesh and blood is metaphorical or figurative or symbolic. This argument does not hold up for at least three reasons:

(1) The word “spirit” is not used to characterize a statement as figurative in Jn.  Instead the theme runs through Jn of the powerlessness of humanity of itself (“flesh”) to produce new birth and salvation and that these can only be the work of the Spirit.  We see this in Jn 1:13–“flesh” versus “God” who is spirit; 3:6–“flesh” versus “spirit.” This is its meaning in Jn 6:63.

(2) “Flesh” is not used figuratively in John. “Temple” is a metaphor for His “body” (2:21): it “refers (figuratively) to His body.” “Bread” is a metaphor for Jesus and His teaching (Jn 6:24-50), “Water” for the Holy Spirit (4:14; 7:38-39), as “Leaven” is for the teaching of the Pharisees and Sadducees (Mt 16:12). In John “flesh”, however, sometimes refers to Jesus’ body as in v 51 and vv 53-58, but literally not figuratively. Mostly, though, “flesh” in Jn denotes literally “humanity of itself” i.e., the human in man and women as distinct from the work of God (1:13; 3:6; 8:15; 17:2), OR the humanity or “body” of Jesus (1:14; 6:51, 53-58).

(3) Both Jesus and Jn characterize statements as figurative quite clearly when they want to (6:32-35; 11:11-14) even explicitly (re the temple in 2:21, the gate in 10:6, and a woman in labor in 16:25, 29). Yet there is no mention of metaphor, symbol, parable, figure or any such clarification in 6:63.

11:11-14 – “He said this, and then told them, ‘Our friend Lazarus is asleep, but I am going to awaken him.’ So the disciples said to him, ‘Master, if he is asleep, he will be saved.’ But Jesus was talking about his death, while they thought that he meant ordinary sleep. So then Jesus said to them clearly, ‘Lazarus has died.’

re the temple in 2:19-21 – “Jesus answered and said to them, ‘Destroy this temple and in three days I will raise it up.’ The Jews said, ‘This temple has been under construction for forty-six years, and you will raise it up in three days?’ But he was speaking about the temple of his body.”

the gate in 10:6-7 – “Although Jesus used this figure of speech, they did not realize what he was trying to tell them. So Jesus said again, ‘Amen, amen, I say to you, I am the gate for the sheep.’”

and a woman in labor in 16:25, 29 – “I have told you this in figures of speech. The hour is coming when I will no longer speak to you in figures but I will tell you clearly about the Father. . . . His disciples said, ‘Now you are talking plainly, and not in any figure of speech.’”

Altar Rosary Society Annual Card Party

Sunday, April 19th, 2015
by Pat Kaider

It has been said that April showers bring May flowers. May also brings the annual Our Lady Queen of the Americas Altar Rosary Society’s card party. For those who attend, the card party is as welcome an event as the blooming of the May flowers. This year the event will take place on Tuesday, May 12th. Everyone who comes will have a great dinner and the chance to won a sizable amount in the 50/50 raffle (the last several years, over $500 was won in the drawing). There will also be many lovely theme baskets in our Chinese auction. Tickets are $8.00 which includes dinner and one Chinese Auction ticket. Doors open at 5:00 with dinner to follow at 6:15. We hope to see you there.

He is Risen! Happy Easter!

Sunday, April 5th, 2015
by Fr. Jeff Lucas

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Good Friday! Behold the wood of the Cross.

Friday, April 3rd, 2015
by Fr. Jeff Lucas

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Mass of the Lord’s Supper followed by Adoration. Tonight 7-10 PM. Fill our seats!

Thursday, April 2nd, 2015
by Fr. Jeff Lucas

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Have a Blessed Holy Week!

Sunday, March 29th, 2015
by Fr. Jeff Lucas
Palm Sunday

Palm Sunday

Have a blessed and fruitful Lent!

Friday, March 6th, 2015
by Fr. Jeff Lucas

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-2 °F on March 6, 2015

Friday, March 6th, 2015
by Fr. Jeff Lucas
sign of the times

window in side foyer of church


The Crusades and ISIS morally equivalent?

Monday, February 9th, 2015
by Fr. Jeff Lucas

In the light of President Obama’s recent equation of ISIS and the Crusades (at the National Prayer Breakfast!) I thought this article from world-class scholar of the Crusades might clear the air a bit.  Also check out this video for a political/military comparison.

12 Reasons Why I am Catholic

Tuesday, January 27th, 2015
by Fr. Jeff Lucas

“The difficulty of explaining ‘why I am a Catholic’ is that there are ten thousand reasons all amounting to one reason: that Catholicism is true.”
[G.K. Chesterton, “Why I Am Catholic” in Collected Works, vol. III, San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1990, p. 127]

I am a Catholic because (of):

  1. Catholicism offers the full truth about God and human life given to us by God Himself.
  2. Catholicism’s continuity with the Church of the Apostles at Pentecost and the word that they preached.
  3. Catholicism’s continuity with the natural religious experience of man from time immemorial, when that experience is true and good. Just as Jesus says “I have not come to abolish but to fulfill the Law”, He also builds upon and fulfills what is true and good in earlier natural religions.“The Church from the beginning down to our own time has always followed this wise practice: let not the Gospel on being introduced into any new land destroy or extinguish whatever its people possess that is naturally good, just or beautiful. For the Church, when she calls people to a higher culture and a better way of life, under the inspiration of the Christian religion, does not act like one who recklessly cuts down and uproots a thriving forest. No, she grafts a good scion upon the wild stock that it may bear a crop of more delicious fruit. 57. Although owing to Adam’s fall, human nature is tainted with original sin, yet it has in itself something that is naturally Christian.” [Pius XII, Evangelii Praecones, 1951, #s 56-57]Looked at another way, as Newman said: “I am a Catholic by virtue of my believing in a God.” [Apologia Pro Vita Sua, Chap VI, 2, 5]
  4. The Catholic principle of building on, elevating, and transforming nature, the given stuff of human life, by grace. Grace builds on nature.
    This includes the artistic and intellectual endeavors of pagan cultures. But the implications of enthusiasm [religious extremism/fundamentalism] go deeper than this; at the root of it lies a different theology of grace. Our traditional doctrine is that grace perfects nature, elevates it to higher pitch, so that it can bear its part in the music of eternity, but leaves it nature still. The assumption of the enthusiast is bolder and simpler; for him, grace has destroyed nature and replaced it. [Ronald A. Knox, Enthusiasm: A Chapter in the History of Religion, 1950, Chapter 1]
  5. Catholicism’s cultural, artistic, and intellectual heritage. Intimately connected with Europe and the Eastern Churches. – a set of cultures that Catholicism has been instrumental in creating. Europe is an example of inculturation. For me personally “Europe” could almost be one of its own.
  6. Catholicism offers a unique path to do justice to the infinite and inconceivable love of God for us: religious orders, especially contemplative orders; and so it reminds us that Love is the foundation of our lives.
  7. The collection of heroes, examples, teachers, and intercessors from every time, place, age, gender, occupation, social standing:–the saints.
  8. Catholicism is realistic regarding the nature of human sinfulness and that it possesses the power to change it from the inside by the grace of God.
  9. Catholicism’s challenging but ultimately humanizing and life-giving moral and social teaching. As Chesterton once wrote: “The Christian ideal has not been tried and found wanting. It has been found difficult; and left untried.” [G.K. Chesterton, What’s Wrong with the World, Part One, Chap V]
  10. The Liturgy and sacramental life of the Church, especially the Eucharist.
  11. Catholicism contains a spiritual, mystical, and devotional tradition giving us multiple paths to union with God and our fellow human beings that are as diverse as people themselves are.
  12. Devotion to Mary properly understood and how it encourages doing true justice to womanhood.