“Take, eat; this is my body. … Drink from it, all of you; for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.” –Matthew 26:26-28
Dear members and friends,
During the first and second centuries, there were some rumors that Christians practiced cannibalism. The rumor was caused by two things: 1. The teachings of Jesus in Gospels to eat his flesh and drink hid blood; 2. Christians celebrated the Holy Supper in a closed room where only baptized Christians were allowed to join. This particular teaching of eating the flesh of Jesus and drinking his blood has never been an easy teaching to read and discuss for Christians and non-Christians. I still remember the first time I read this particular story in Matthew during a youth Bible study. The first and only thing I could do was ask, “What does this mean?” I was sure that Jesus did not means to eat the actual flesh and drink the actual blood, but was unclear why he had to emphasize it this way. Then, I found another teaching in John, “Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood have eternal life, and I will raise them up on the last day; for my flesh is true food and my blood is true drink.” (John 6:54-55) I was not able to fully understand the whole meaning, but was comforted that we do not need to eat actual flesh and drink actual blood to have eternal life, because it is clear in John that this particular teaching of Jesus must be understood allegorically.
Eating and drinking are two activities we must do to sustain the health of our physical body. Everything that we eat or drink essentially become part of our body. Noting that we eat or drink stays the same after it entered into our body. Our stomach and intestines make sure to break down the food we intake into particles so that they can be absorbed and used as needed by our body. Therefore, it would be impossible to separate a piece of bread from our body after eating it. As there are material nutrients to nourish our physical body, there are spiritual nutrients to nourish our mind. As there is food and drink, there are two different kinds of spiritual nutrients: goodness and truth. Essentially, goodness and truth comes from God, because humans cannot engineer it. However, when it enters our mind, it needs to be fully absorbed into our spirit. This spiritual absorption means to live out and enact the received goodness in our daily life and/or to implement truth in the process of our thoughts. According to Swedenborg, goodness is life itself because it is the essence of the Divine, while truth is a manifestation of such life that enlightens our minds. Thus, when Jesus said, “Take, eat; this is my body … Drink from it, all of you,” what he meant is that we should accept goodness and truth from Jesus, and must implement it in our daily lives. Goodness and truth must be fully absorbed into our mind, and thus become an inseparable part of our very self.
Blessings, Rev. Junchol Lee