ACTS 8:26-40 ; JOHN 6:44-51

"ALL SHALL BE TAUGHT BY GOD" (Isaiah 54:13)   This citation from Isaiah, Israel's most prestigious prophet, is followed in the Hebrew text by a phrase that states a consequence of this divine teaching: "great will be the fulfillment of all."  In quoting the prophetic words, Jesus, rather than including this prediction of fulfillment, spells out what this fulfillment consists in concretely by his further comments.  First, he points out that the God who is the teacher Isaiah names is the Father of Jesus himself.  Having thus declared his credentials, he proclaims that attaining to the fulfillment of which the prophet spoke depends upon believing his bold claim that he comes from God and has seen the Father.  Only after stressing the need for such a faith does the Lord elaborate on the nature and consequence of his identity as the one sent by the Father.  The astonishing fruit of this faith in him as God's emissary is nothing less than eternal life.

Having introduced this subject of life without end, Jesus proceeds to assert further that he not only witnesses to his Father's gift of life eternal, he himself embodies it and makes it available to those who approach him through trusting faith.  "I am the living bread that came down from heaven; whoever eats this bread will live forever.  And the bread that I give is my flesh for the life of the world."  Shortly after these remarkable words, the Jews to whom they were addressed reacted with passionate feeling, John informs us.  Our text in this liturgy ends at this point, leaving us to reflect on the response to Jesus' challenging assertion.  If we turn to the context in the fourth Gospel, we find that the next sentence tells us "There arose a fight among the Jews who said 'how can this man give us his flesh o eat?'"Such a strong response is understandable and could hardly have surprised our Lord.  He fully realized how provocative his claims were. To underline his point he repeated his teaching in even clearer terms: "The one who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day."

The response of many whom he addressed, we are told, was to be rejection of this teaching Realizing this our Lord only insisted on its literal truth, saying: "the words I have spoken to you are spirit and life. . . . . that is why I told you 'no one can come to me unless it be given him by the Father'".

In this exchange the real presence of the body and blood of Christ in the Eucharistic bread and wine is asserted with all desirable clarity.  This truth is brought before us today as we continue to celebrate the reality of the resurrection.  We are given strong assurance by the Savior himself that he who lives even now in the glory remains with us under the outward form or the Eucharistic bread and wine, to be consecrated at this altar.

Abbot John Eudes Bamberger