The Gospel today brings us to the end of chapter 6 of John’s Gospel. Jesus had fed the multitude of five thousand, walked on the sea and preached his “Bread of Life” sermon which makes up the bulk of the chapter. In his “Bread of Life” sermon Jesus speaks of himself as the bread come down from heaven. Like the manna in the desert his presence is a gift from the Father. “I am the Bread of Life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst.” Jesus also spoke of his Words as bread from heaven. The words that he preaches and teaches are bread to be consumed that give us sustenance and life.
However, he also spoke of his flesh as the bread that he would give for the life of the world. “Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life and I will raise them up on the last day.” This was a hard saying for many of his disciples and the gospel says, as a result “many of his disciples returned to their former way of life and no longer walked with him.” They thought he was crazy.
Jesus, tells the disciples “the words I have spoken to you are Spirit and life.” Without the light of faith given by the Spirit they couldn’t grasp this hard truth. The twelve were shocked as well, and when Jesus asks, “Do you also want to leave?” Peter responds, “Master, to who shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe and are convinced you are the Holy One of God.” The twelve were convinced of who Jesus was unlike the others who walked away because of their weak faith. The twelve remained and lived with the mystery.
We know this chapter is about Eucharist. Also, we have the benefit of Jesus’ death and resurrection as well as the Last Supper stories plus two thousand years of sacramental theology and celebration to fortify our faith. But there are times when we don’t understand everything about our faith or what and why the church teaches something. Sometimes there are hard truths that we don’t want to accept, but like the twelve we have to live with the mystery. Lord where can we go,” you have the words of eternal life.”
Fr. Patrick Daugherty, C.P.