Reading a student’s paper on the Gospel of John has prompted a string of thoughts that, similar to another student’s remarks on Anselm, stems primarily from a slight shift in emphasis. The string of thought is this: perhaps in the infamous passage on eating Christ’s flesh and drinking his blood, we need to emphasize the metaphor of eating. What do we do when we eat something? In a certain way, don’t we destroy it in order to get at what’s important to us, i.e., the nutrition it contains? And don’t we then excrete the useless leftovers?
Christ may be asking us in John 6 to digest his flesh — to use it as a path toward the “eternal” nutrition it provides, and then cast it aside. In this sense, the Eucharistic reading of the passage, particularly in its Roman Catholic variant, would be exactly wrong. Indeed, it might explain why the evangelist doesn’t include a “normal” Last Supper passage: chapter 6 isn’t his “idiosyncratic version” of such a passage, but rather a rejection of the sacramental order that grew out of the other Last Supper accounts.