We handled Candy's view of the Eucharist and the Bible: John Chapter 6 back on October 5, 2007. This week Candy writes:
My Notes: I referenced John 6:63 here, because it is made clear that when Jesus was speaking about eating his flesh and drinking His blood in John 6, that many people left Him, because they thought He literally meant that they should cannibalize and vampirize Him. Jesus clarified that He wasn't speaking literally, when he said "It is the spirit that quickeneth' the flesh pofiteth nothing: the words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life."
Candy makes the classic Fundamentalist error:
For Fundamentalist writers, the scriptural argument is capped by an appeal to John 6:63: "It is the spirit that gives life, the flesh is of no avail; the words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life." They say this means that eating real flesh is a waste. But does this make sense?
Are we to understand that Christ had just commanded his disciples to eat his flesh, then said their doing so would be pointless? Is that what "the flesh is of no avail" means? "Eat my flesh, but you’ll find it’s a waste of time"—is that what he was saying? Hardly.
The fact is that Christ’s flesh avails much! If it were of no avail, then the Son of God incarnated for no reason, he died for no reason, and he rose from the dead for no reason. Christ’s flesh profits us more than anyone else’s in the world. If it profits us nothing, so that the incarnation, death, and resurrection of Christ are of no avail, then "your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished" (1 Cor. 15:17b–18).
In John 6:63 "flesh profits nothing" refers to mankind’s inclination to think using only what their natural human reason would tell them rather than what God would tell them. Thus in John 8:15–16 Jesus tells his opponents: "You judge according to the flesh, I judge no one. Yet even if I do judge, my judgment is true, for it is not I alone that judge, but I and he who sent me." So natural human judgment, unaided by God’s grace, is unreliable; but God’s judgment is always true.
And were the disciples to understand the line "The words I have spoken to you are spirit and life" as nothing but a circumlocution (and a very clumsy one at that) for "symbolic"? No one can come up with such interpretations unless he first holds to the Fundamentalist position and thinks it necessary to find a rationale, no matter how forced, for evading the Catholic interpretation. In John 6:63 "flesh" does not refer to Christ’s own flesh—the context makes this clear—but to mankind’s inclination to think on a natural, human level. "The words I have spoken to you are spirit" does not mean "What I have just said is symbolic." The word "spirit" is never used that way in the Bible. The line means that what Christ has said will be understood only through faith; only by the power of the Spirit and the drawing of the Father (cf. John 6:37, 44–45, 65).
A final Protestant appeal is also made to St. John 6, 63: "It is the spirit that gives life, the flesh is of no avail; the words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life." We are told that these words mean that the eating of flesh is of no spiritual value, only faith can profit one unto eternal life. That being the case, Christ could not have meant to eat His flesh in order to have life. The Catholic response is that Christ was in reality making an appeal to His listeners to trust Him on faith rather than try and rationalize His words in order to find their true meaning. In the previous verse (v. 62) Christ infers that His listeners would have had no problem accepting His words if they had seen Him as He was before He came down from heaven, that is, as the Son of God equal to the Father, for then His words would obviously be the words of God rather than the words of man - words of "spirit and life."To conclude it is also necessary to examine the words of St. Paul in chapters 10 and 11 of his first epistle to the Corinthians. In these chapters he sternly chastises the Corinthians for their idolatry and their poor attitude towards reception of the Eucharist. His language is remarkably literal and his warnings blunt:
"I want you to know, brethren, that our fathers were all under the cloud, and all passed through the sea, and all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea, and all ate the same supernatural food and all drank the same supernatural drink. For they drank from the supernatural Rock which followed them, and the Rock was Christ (10, 1-4)…Therefore, my beloved, shun the worship of idols…The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not a participation in the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not a participation in the body of Christ? Because there is one bread, we who are many are one body, for we all partake of the one bread (10, 14-17)…You cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons. You cannot partake of the table of the Lord and the table of demons (10, 21-22)…"In verses 1-4 St. Paul is regarding the manna, the water and the rock as types of things to come. This ties in with the words of Christ in St. John outlined earlier, "I am the bread of life. Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died. This is the bread which comes down from heaven, that a man may eat of it and not die" (vv. 48-50). The early Christians undoubtedly saw the Eucharist as a fulfillment of the promised manna, but unlike the manna he who eats the bread of the Eucharist will "live forever" (v. 51).The language of verses 14-17 again is the type that excludes all sense of the figurative or symbolic. St. Paul speaks directly of "participation in the blood and body of Christ." If one is still prepared to argue the matter, St. Paul uses even more striking language in chapter 11:
"…For I received from the Lord what I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it, and said, This is my body which is for you. Do this in remembrance of me. In the same way also the cup, after supper, saying, This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me. For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord's death until he comes. Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of profaning the body and blood of the Lord. Let a man examine himself, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup. For any one who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment upon himself. That is why many of you are weak and ill, and some have died" (vv. 23-31).
According to most scholars this is the first written account of the institution of the Eucharist, predating even the Gospel accounts.2 One ex-Protestant convert to Catholicism comments on vv. 23-31 as follows:"Being guilty of someone’s ‘body and blood’ was to be guilty of murder. How could one be guilty of murder if the body (bread) was only a symbol? The Real Presence of Christ’s Body is necessary for an offense to be committed against it. How could one be guilty of the Body and Blood of Christ by simply eating a little bread and drinking a little wine?…St. Paul’s words are meaningless without the dogma of the Real Presence." 3
John Chapter six.: "Vs 63*, Jesus said, 'It is the spirit that quickens; the flesh profits nothing. The words I speak to you, they are spirit, and they are life.'
Did He say He was speaking figuratively or in parables? This is the second verse detractors use to try to 'prove' that Jesus spoke figuratively for the whole chapter. Did Jesus say 'My' flesh? No, He said 'the' flesh. What Jesus had said was, that we cannot accept this mystery if we accept it in too human a way, by having an earthly view of things. Those who can only think of cannibalism, are they not having an earthly view?
See John 3:6, 'That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.' Verse 63 means that we should not have a carnal human understanding of His words, but a spiritual understanding."