Those are the words of Jesus, as he commands those who follow him to continue to do what he just did: take part in the Eucharist, the spiritual food of his body and blood. This was a severe stumbling point for the Jews (see John 6:52).
However, I am more interested in the word translated remembrance, which is significant in the context Jesus used it. The word is significant in that Jesus as God the Son, speaks it with the authority of God, not that of men. He is not a man calling something to mind, but God and when God speaks of remembrance, He speaks in the context of his eternal presence, linking the event with himself, giving it shape, meaning, and making it covenantal in nature.
In essence, Jesus was making a covenant with those at the table and all who would follow in their footsteps, who would do this (eucharist) in remembrance. That covenant has a definition and is delineated by his words in John 6:22-71, where he says “For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink. Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him.” (55-56)
What he is speaking about is no memorial, like we think of today when considering 9-11 and those who died that day. This is a deep covenantal mystery that was extremely difficult for the Jews of his day and even many of his disciples, who deserted him after this proclamation. It has also been a scandal for the Church over the centuries, so much so that during the Reformation many who split from Rome sought to reduce its significance and turn it into a memorial, a spiritual commemoration of Christ’s sacrifice on the cross. They shrank back from Jesus’ words recorded in John, in ways similar to those original hearers.
But that does not fit the context, the hardness of his words (“This is a hard saying; who can listen to it?”). A memorial is not a hard word. True spiritual food and drink that are the stuff of eternal life, taken from the body and blood of the Messiah of Israel, now that is a hard word.
I never cease to be amazed at how Christians see what they want to see in the Scriptures. That in studying to show themselves approved, they instead tend toward studying to show what they approve of and how they can justify their position. The Word is a rock upon which we are broken, “And the one who falls on this stone will be broken to pieces; and when it falls on anyone, it will crush him.” Matthew 21:44. It breaks our opinions and our errors.
Today, as I remember the events of 9-11 and the many who sacrificed themselves on that day, I also remember Jesus Christ, who sacrificed himself. While their offerings were noble and great, his was unique and everlasting. With covenantal purpose I remember his call to remembrance and I accept that call, moving past the scandal of the Eucharist, past that which drove the Jews and many of his disciples away, and I embrace this true food and true drink, becoming one with, yes, abiding with the one who offers it.
Grace and peace.