In the German language the verb essen is used to name the eating and dining of human beings. The verb fressen is used to name how animals devour their food. Similarly, in the Greek language, there are two different verbs.
John the evangelist uses the graphic verb meaning to “gnaw” or “munch” for Jesus’ words: “Unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you do not have life within you.” It is not meant to suggest that we are cannibals but to emphasize the realism of the Eucharist. The bread and wine are not just symbols of the Body and Blood of Christ but the bread and wine become the Body and Blood of Christ. We must be physically present at the Eucharistic celebration and actually experience what Jesus said at the Last Supper — take and eat, take and drink.
The great biblical scholar, Fr. Raymond Brown, suggested the term “feeding on” as a better way of understanding the meaning of the verb in the text. To have eternal life, to remain in Christ and for Christ to remain in us, we need to feed on every Word that comes from the mouth of God. We also need to continually feed on the Eucharistic presence of Christ to know the life that lasts. This “feeding on” is a deliberate, conscious, repeatable action on our part.
Take some time this week to reflect on what it means for you to feed on Christ. How do you feel nourished by the Eucharist? How does feeding on Christ help you to become more Christ-like?