This week’s gospel lesson contains one of the “hard sayings” of Jesus, both for his original audience and for today’s Christians, “Very truly I tell you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you.”
It was harder for Jesus’ original audience to hear, of course. When present day believers hear this statement, we hear it within the context of the bloodless eucharistic celebration, and that is a great comfort. It is also, however, a great temptation in the direction of spiritualization. Because God, in the divine mercy, has allowed us to perceive the clean food of bread and wine when we eat and drink the flesh and blood of Christ, we often shy our minds away from the intimacy and carnality of the relationship into which we are being invited.
In 2009, Neal D. Presa invited readers of Homily Service to reflect upon that intimacy and carnality when he suggested marriage as an alternate metaphor to holy cannibalism.
My wife and I have been married for almost seven years. Couples whom we know who have been married for over thirty years are still learning from each other. That is the great and marvelous mystery of the marriage relationship - there is built-in mystery about the other, so much to know, so much to share, so much to experience together. Even when you think you have seen it all, you haven’t. The dynamism of any relationship when attended t and nurtured is that it never becomes boring unless you let it. There are surprises at every turn that will keep you laughing, crying, smiling and frowning. You are bone of my bone, and flesh of my flesh.
Far from speaking about a holy cannibalism, as he knows the Jewish custom against ingesting the soul essence in human blood, Jesus is speaking in today’s text about becoming married. He, like the Father with him, is desirous for deep, intimate, abiding relationship with us and us with him. Just as he and the Father have a covenantal relationship, so Jesus desires for his own heart, soul, and spirit to be with us and in us.
In your preaching about the eucharist, how do you attempt to communicate the intimacy and carnality of the sacrament?
Neal D. Presa. Homily Service 42:3, 123-124.
Neal D. Presa, pastor of Middlesex Presbyterian Church in Middlesex, New Jersey was elected moderator of the 220th General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) Saturday evening, June 30th, 2012.