Dispatch Two Hundred Thirty-Seven

Posted: November 17, 2016 in Forty-Seventh Bundle
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JOHN 6:51-58

51 I am the living bread which came down from heaven; if any one eats of this bread, he will live for ever; and the bread which I shall give for the life of the world is my flesh.”

52 The Jews then disputed among themselves, saying, “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?” 53 So Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of man and drink his blood, you have no life in you; 54 he who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day. 55 For my flesh is food indeed, and my blood is drink indeed. 56 He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him. 57 As the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so he who eats me will live because of me.58 This is the bread which came down from heaven, not such as the fathers ate and died; he who eats this bread will live for ever.”

The psychologist Sigmund Freud proposed the theory that primitive religion was inspired out of the Oedipal urges of boys for their mothers, the satisfaction of which urges was frustrated initially by the presence of the father. When at last the frenzy of their lust overtook them, the gang of young males conspired to kill their father, and, if that’s not reaching far enough, consumed him in what later became modified into the ritual meal of our Christian Eucharist.

While the theory has not solid evidence to support it, we can see in it an imaginative attempt to explain certain rituals that were found among the so-called mystery religions that flourished just before and during the rise of Christianity. Texts have been found of litanies speaking about group members ‘eating the flesh and drinking the blood’ of their cult founder, thereby assimilating his very essence into themselves. Again, there is no evidence that actual cannibalistic consumption was performed, and the strong suggestion is that this language was symbolic of something intended to occur within the hearts and minds of the disciple community.

If we can allow for the possibility that early Christianity incorporated and reflected some of what was going on in the surrounding culture, then the invitation of Jesus in the Fourth Gospel to ‘eat my flesh and drink my blood’ may (if we look through the literal image) carry a profound meaning. What Jesus is saying is that eternal life – liberated, abundant, authentic life – is on offer for anyone who is willing to receive completely and with full commitment all that he is and stands for.

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