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A Practical Commentary On Holy Scripture by Frederick Justus Knecht D.D.

[John 6:24–72]

MANY of those who had been miraculously fed by our Lord returned next morning to Capharnaum, where they sought and found Him in the synagogue. Here Jesus addressed them, saying: “Amen, amen, I say to you: You seek me, not because you have seen miracles, but because you did eat of the loaves and were filled. Labour not for the meat which perisheth, but for that which endureth unto everlasting life, which the Son of Man will give you.”

Then they said to Him: “Lord, give us always this bread.” But He answered: “I am the living bread which came down from heaven. If any man eat of this bread, he shall live for ever. The bread which I will give is my flesh for the life of the world.”

Hearing this, the Jews who were in the synagogue began to dispute among themselves, saying: “How can this man give us His flesh to eat?” Jesus, far from putting an end to their dispute, by applying a figurative meaning to His words, repeated with even greater earnestness and solemnity what He had spoken: “Amen, amen, I say unto you, unless you eat the Flesh of the Son of Man, and drink His Blood, you shall not have life in you. He that eateth My Flesh and drinketh My Blood, hath everlasting life, and I will raise him up at the last day. For My Flesh is meat indeed, and My Blood is drink indeed. As the living Father hath sent Me, and I live by the Father, so he that eateth Me, the same shall also live by Me. This is the bread that came down from heaven. Not as your fathers did eat manna, and died. He that eateth this bread, shall live for ever.”

Many of the disciples, hearing these words, did not believe it possible that He could do what He promised; they, therefore, went away, saying: “This word is hard, and who can hear it?” But Jesus, knowing that they murmured at His teaching, asketh: “Doth this scandalize you? If then you shall see the Son of Man ascend up where He was before? It is the spirit that quickeneth, the flesh profiteth nothing. The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life. But there are some of you that believe not.” But they were scandalized, and many of them walked no more with Him.

Jesus, seeing this, addressed His apostles: “Will you also go away?” Peter answered in the name of all: “Lord, to whom shall we go? Thou hast the words of eternal life. We have believed and have known that Thou art the Christ, the Son of God.”

The promises made by our Lord in this discourse. He promised to give us a food, the effects of which would not be passing, but would endure for ever. This Food is Himself: He is the living and life-giving Food which came down from heaven. He promised to give His Flesh for the life of the world, and to offer this His Flesh to be our Food. When the Jews were scandalized at the idea of His giving His Flesh to be eaten, He did not say to them: “You have misunderstood Me.” On the contrary, He re-affirmed the very thing which had scandalized them, and asserted repeatedly that His Flesh was meat indeed and His Blood drink indeed, and that those only will have life who eat His Flesh and drink His Blood; though, at the same time, He signified that the Flesh which He would give to be our Food was His glorified Body. When many of His disciples were still offended at the idea of His giving His Flesh to eat, and refused to believe His words, our Lord preferred to let them go, rather than retract or explain away one syllable of the words He had spoken. It is therefore undeniably true that our Lord promised to give His Body, His Flesh and Blood, to be the Food of His servants. Our Lord gave this promise at the time of the third Pasch, kept during His public life, and He fulfilled it a year later when, at the Last Supper, He instituted the most holy Sacrament of the Altar.

Our Lord is entirely present in the most holy Sacrament, under the form of bread, for He says: 1. “I (Myself) am the living bread”; 2. “he that eateth Me”, and therefore he who eats His Flesh eats Him; 3. “I abide in him” (namely in him who eats My Flesh); 4. “the flesh profiteth nothing, it is the spirit that quickeneth.” His Flesh, therefore, is penetrated by the Spirit, and united to His soul and divinity.

Communion under one kind. It is evident from our Lord’s words: “He that eateth this Bread (My Body under the form of bread) will live for ever”, that he who receives Holy Communion under one kind, does not receive less than he who receives under both kinds.

The necessity of Communion [the fourth commandment of the Church]. Our Lord makes the attainment of eternal life dependent on the receiving of His Body and Blood. “Except you eat the Flesh of the Son of Man, and drink His Blood, you shall not have life in you.”—“He that eateth My Flesh &c., shall live for ever.” Since it is the duty of every man to try to save his soul, and Holy Communion is necessary, as of precept, it is the duty of every man to receive Holy Communion, as soon as he is capable of understanding this divine mystery, and as soon as his will is sufficiently formed and enlightened to decide whether or no he desires to partake of this heavenly Food. The Church, therefore, is fulfilling our Lord’s command, and providing for the salvation of souls, when she commands all the faithful to receive Holy Communion.

The effects of Holy Communion are rich in blessings. He who receives the Body of our Lord Jesus Christ worthily has, in His own words, everlasting life, and will be raised up by Him at the last day. “He abides in Me, and I in him. He will live in Me!” says our Lord. The Body of Christ is a living bread, which gives us supernatural and everlasting life, and is a pledge to our bodies of a glorious resurrection. Even-after the sacred species have disappeared, a nourishing and vivifying strength is left in our souls, which is none other than the divine strength of the Son of God (Grimm). St. Cyril expounds the interior union which exists between our Lord and him who receives Holy Communion by the following simile: “Even as melted wax unites itself to wax, mingling with it, and becoming one with it, so does he who receives the Body of the Redeemer become one with Him, so completely is he united to Him.”

The Blessed Sacrament the touch-stone of faith. He who does not believe in the Real Presence of our Lord in the Holy Eucharist, has no part in Him, because he has no firm belief in the Divinity of Christ. The true believer does not ask, as did the Jews: “How can this be?” but believes the words of Christ unconditionally, because he knows that Christ is the Son of God, and that with God all things are possible.

Our Lord’s prophecy. In His discourse on the Blessed Sacrament, our Lord, distinctly and without using any figure, foretold the atoning Sacrifice of His death, telling those present that He would give His Flesh for the life of the world. He foretold with equal clearness His Ascension, when He said that the Son of Man (the Incarnate Son of God who came down from heaven) would (as the Son of Man, and therefore with His human nature) return to where He was before His Incarnation.

APPLICATION. These words of our Blessed Lord ought to move all of you who are going to make your First Communion, to prepare yourselves with the utmost care for receiving this Divine Food.

Each time you enter a church where the Blessed Sacrament is preserved, excite in your hearts an act of firm and lively faith in the Real Presence of our Lord Jesus Christ.








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