daily biblical sermons


AS I LIVE BECAUSE OF THE FATHER, SO HE WHO EATS ME WILL LIVE BECAUSE OF ME
Fr. Steven Scherrer, MM, Th.D.
Homily of Friday, Third Week of Easter, April 20, 2018
Acts 9:1-20, Psalm 116, John 6:52-59


Scripture quotations are from the Revised Standard Version unless otherwise noted.

 

"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; he who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day. For my flesh is food indeed, and my blood is drink indeed. He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him. As the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so he who eats me will live because of me" (John 6:53-57).


Jesus gave his life to save us, to ransom us. "For the Son of Man also came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many" (Mark 10:45). "For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life" (John 3:16).


Christ's death was a sacrificial offering made to the Father for the forgiveness of our sins. It was a sin offering, the fulfillment of all the Old Testament sin offerings. "Christ died for our sins" (1 Corinthians 15:3). Christ poured out his lifeblood unto death on the cross for the forgiveness of our sins. "And he took the cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, saying, ‘Drink of it, all of you; for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins" (Matthew 26:27-28).


Christ atoned for our sins by his death by crucifixion. Our sins were placed upon him by God, and he poured out his lifeblood on the cross to suffer in our place and for us the penalty due for our sins, which for us would have been eternity in hell - "Then he will say to those at his left hand, ‘Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels'" (Matthew 25:41). But since Jesus Christ was the divine Son of God, the Father regarded his few hours of terrible suffering and death on the cross as the equivalent of our spending eternity in hell for our sins.


Christ, the Son of God, is the vicarious victim given to the world by the Father to atone for all human sins, and this atonement is counted by God as effective for all who repent and place their faith in Christ.


On the night before he was crucified for the salvation of the world, Jesus instituted a ritual enactment of his saving death that his followers were to continually repeat so that the eternal life that he gained for us by his vicarious death on the cross for our sins might be communicated to us and continually renewed within us. This ritual is the Eucharist, in which his body and blood are offered to the Father in loving worship and as payment of our debt of suffering that we owed God for our sins.


After the sacrifice is offered, we partake of it in Holy Communion, where we eat Christ's flesh and drink his blood so that his divine life might flow into us and be continually renewed within us. We are thus given eternal life by our regular - even daily - participation in the Eucharist. This is the means that God has given to his Church by which we might be daily renewed in the divine life, the eternal life that the Son of God won for us by his atoning death on the cross for our sins.


When we believe in Christ, this eternal life is given to us. "For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life" (John 3:16). When we believe in Christ, our sins are forgiven and the effects of Christ's atoning, reparation-making death are reckoned to us; that is to say, our faith is reckoned to us by God as righteousness, or we are reckoned righteous by God through our faith in Christ, who atoned for our sins by his death.


Our faith connects us to Christ's atoning death so that God considers it as paying our debt with him for our sins. God therefore declares us righteous and holy and gives us his own life, eternal life, which begins now in this life as a new quality of life, a life filled with God's own righteousness, a life of new intimacy with God. This eternal life will then carry us over death into life with God forever in heaven. This eternal life is what comes to us by our faith, when we are genuinely repentant for our sins and abandon them.


But then, in addition to our act of faith, God also gives us the Eucharist as another means of growing in divine life. To live we must be nourished. The Eucharist is the daily nourishment of our soul, that we may grow in God, dead to the ways of sin, and alive to God.


In the Eucharist, Christ, the divine Son of God, actually gives us his own flesh and blood to eat and drink. In the Eucharist, bread and wine become Christ's flesh and blood that we offer to the Father in loving and worshipful sacrifice together with Christ. Christ sacrificed himself to atone for our sins and to redeem us from them. His body and blood is the redemption price or the ransom price that he paid to the Father to set us free from our sins, guilt, and eternal punishment. The Father, who sent him to do this for us, accepts his suffering as just reparation for our sins, when we genuinely repent of them and put our faith in him and in his sacrifice.


As a communion meal followed some of the Jewish sacrifices, so Holy Communion - eating the victim offered - follows the Eucharistic sacrifice. And our partaking of Christ's body and blood, which contain his divine person with his divine nature, gives us a participation in his divinity and divine nature (2 Peter 1:4).


This is the second way that God pumps his divine life into us. The first way was through our faith in Jesus. It is this second way of daily spiritual nourishment that Jesus is talking about in today's gospel reading.


So Jesus says today: "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" (John 6:53). The Eucharist is the way par excellence to have God's life in us. "He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day" (John 6:54). This is the greatest way in which the people of faith in Jesus receive eternal life, which unites us to God now and will last forever, ensuring us that when we die, we will continue to live with Christ in God in heaven.


Jesus says today, "He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him" (John 6:56). Holy Communion unites us deeply to Christ.


He also says, "As the living Father sent me, and as I live because of the Father, so he who eats me will live because of me" (John 6:57). The Eucharist enables us to live because of Christ, as Christ lives because of the Father. The Eucharist will enable us to live because of Christ as the reason and cause of our life. Christ will be the meaning of our life, the love of our life, the one for whom and because of whom we live, the one by whose strength we live.


This is why "God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him" (1 John 4:9). Christ is the reason for our living. We live through him and for him, and the Eucharist enables this to happen. It fills us with Christ.


Even though the world doesn't see him, we see him within us in a spiritual way, and he is the one we live for. "Yet a little while, and the world will see me no more, but you will see me; because I live, you will live also" (John 14:19).


So Jesus says today, "As the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so he who eats me will live because of me" (John 6:57).

 

 

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