John 6:41-54 | 19th Sunday of Ordinary Time, Year B
Anyone with a close relationship with anyone knows the cliché that love is not a feeling, it’s a verb. Relationships must be fed or they die. God is no different. He desires a relationship with us more than anything. If our relationship with Him is not fed, it too will die. With continued care, though, we can access the “peace that surpasses all understanding” (Phil. 4:7).
Because God is Who He is, omnipotent and omnipresent, He could demand our presence. But forced to be there, we would take off at the first opportunity. Because that’s not real relationship, that’s not what God wants. So He gave us free will. We get to choose whether we are in relationship with Him. He is always there waiting. If He is our choice, then we trust Him, and at the first sign of trouble, we won’t flee.
Jesus hammered this concept in repeatedly when He taught. God doesn’t want blind faith—He doesn’t want slaves. Jesus came to bring us freedom, active relationship. He wants His people to willingly take responsibility to choose God.
In this section of the Bread of Life Discourse, Jesus repeats the word eat multiple times. To eat is an active choice. We can choose to eat of the Bread of Life, but He’s not going to force it down our throats. Neither the Father nor the Son want to be a feeding tube, a passive mode of giving us something good. They want us to want to come because we choose the good stuff.
But it’s not always the palatable choice. What they offer isn’t all creamy chocolate mousse. Sometimes what’s on offer appears to be soggy and oversalted green beans. But God knows we need the nutrients those beans provide, and He knows we can’t get the vitamins from any other source. So there are times He asks us to choke them down. Because we are in a relationship with God, because we have chosen to be committed to Him, we trust the Giver and swallow the beans. But if we choose to “eat of my flesh and drink of my blood” (v. 54), now—even when the body and blood are beans and not mousse— then we “shall have eternal life” and be “raised on the last day” (v. 54).
Seemingly perfect relationships may be enviable, but they are hard-won and never instant. Along the way to that perfect moment, there were plenty of disagreements, fights, compromises, and probably threats to quit. Relationship with God is no different. To get to the “peace that surpasses all understanding,” we have to be willing to go through the same struggles and stick through them. God will never threaten to quit, though we might. But He understands if we need to rail against Him. That’s real relationship. It’s trust and love, and God wants nothing more from us. He loves us, and His love is active and always moving, and His arms are always open.