In the Gospel this weekend, Jesus continues his teaching on him being the bread that gives life to the world. His teaching that day in the synagogue at Capernaum was not received well. In fact, Jesus practically lost his entire following: ‘When many of his disciples heard it, they said ‘this teaching is difficult; who can accept it?’ (John 6:60). But if Jesus was only talking at the symbolic level, then why would his teaching be controversial? Many of the Reformed Churches think that Jesus was talking merely symbolically about the Eucharist and that it is a merely symbol of his presence.
The 20th century American writer Flannery-O’Connor was in conversation with others one day when the topic of the Eucharist came up. A friend commented that it was a very powerful symbol. To which Flannery-O’Connor replied: ‘Well if it’s only a symbol, then to hell with it!’. She knew in her bones, as do we, that the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist is more than a symbol. It is the real, living presence of Jesus Christ glorified and risen truly present in the Eucharist.