Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him on the last day.
For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink.
56Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me and I in him.
Just as the living Father sent me and I have life because of the Father, so also the one who feeds on me will have life because of me.
We read, often with shock and awe, that only thirty percent of Catholics believe that the simple white wafer we receive during Mass is His Body and Blood. With a few strokes of the keyboard, we can access the surveys to back up the fact.
But this past Sunday, while pondering the words of the Lord to his remnant, “Do you want to leave too?,” I realized that these results should not shock, amaze or surprise any of us. Because most of His followers did not believe.
Think of it.
These were his disciples! They had been following, listening, and loving this Nazarene for weeks, months, maybe even years. But finally said, “This saying is too hard… And many returned to their former way of life.”
This past Sunday’s Gospel completes the “Bread of Life” discourse of the sixth chapter of John. The Apostle John begins this chapter with the multiplication of loaves. And he carefully records the precise numbers of fish and loaves that fed thousands along with the disbelief of the Apostles upon seeing the miraculous event. Thus, for each of the last several Sundays, we’ve heard the Lord describe Himself as the Bread of Life. To the point that almost everyone leaves.
The Gospel reading for Sunday, August 22nd was:
Many of Jesus’ disciples who were listening said,
“This saying is hard; who can accept it?”
Since Jesus knew that his disciples were murmuring about this,
he said to them, “Does this shock you?
What if you were to see the Son of Man ascending
to where he was before?
It is the spirit that gives life,
while the flesh is of no avail.
The words I have spoken to you are Spirit and life.
But there are some of you who do not believe.”
Jesus knew from the beginning the ones who would not believe
and the one who would betray him.
And he said,
“For this reason I have told you that no one can come to me
unless it is granted him by my Father.”
As a result of this,
many of his disciples returned to their former way of life
and no longer accompanied him.
Jesus then said to the Twelve, “Do you also want to leave?”
Simon Peter answered him, “Master, to whom shall we go?
You have the words of eternal life.
We have come to believe
and are convinced that you are the Holy One of God.”
In his excellent Sunday sermon, Time To Test Your Faith, Bishop Barron explains precisely why” many of his disciples returned to their former way of life.” Despite opportunities to mitigate his disturbing language, Jesus does nothing of the kind. Instead, Bishop Barron explains, the Lord “turns up the heat.” The Greek word Jesus has been using does not mean merely “eat like a human eats” but rather “gnaw on the flesh of the Son of Man,” like an animal. They were balking not only at the Mosaic prohibition of drinking blood but at what sounded just like cannabilism.
To their cries of “This saying is hard….” The Lord could have explained—could have softened the language. Just as He has done many times, referring to Himself as a vine, a shepherd.But, instead, He asks rhetorically, “Does this shock you?” He knew, of course, that that there were some of them that did not believe.
It is this upon which our Catholic faith rests. For the Lord chooses to look at the greatly diminished group of followers and asks the now small group of twelve, “Do you also want to leave?”
And it is Peter who replies, “Master, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.”
Do we stand with Peter?