Christ spoke words. He did not send Twitter messages. He Himself is the undeletable Word. We note from the Sunday Gospel (John 6:60-69), that many of Jesus’ followers and disciples turned away from Him, abandoned Him, not because they misunderstood his language – they understood Him perfectly. Instead, they could not accept his words when He told them that his flesh and blood were real food and drink that they must actually consume if they were to have eternal life.
If they understood Jesus' words symbolically, figuratively, they would not have left Him in such great numbers, numbers so great that Jesus reacted strongly, turning to Peter and the apostles asking them if they too wanted to stop following Him.
St. Peter may not have had the intellectual “smarts” to explain how bread would be turned into the sacramental heavenly Body of Christ. Instead, in his wonderful peasant faith, infused with God's grace, He knew to trust in the standard of heaven, not earth - that for God all things are possible and that the words of Jesus were not the words of a mere holy man talking about holy bread. These were the words of God Himself, providing the means for his disciples to be fed by his very life giving body and blood.
What is to become of the bread and wine during our celebration of the Mass is one of the truly unique, and indeed, astonishing teachings of our Catholic faith, passed down to us from Christ and the apostles. That the bread and wine of the Mass can truly become the substance of Christ’s heavenly body and blood is so astonishingly a part of our faith that we could not even make something like this up, even if we tried!
Is this teaching hard? Yes it is! But this is the language of Jesus, the embodiment of God - these are divine words, not mine or yours. He has the words of eternal life - I don't. We do not write the text book! We can reflect upon his words, we can use adjectives to explain them. And sometimes, we just can't!
Christ speaks to us in terms of the standard of heaven, not earth. Our Faith is never on our own terms. It is always on His terms. That's what we mean when we talk about the scandal of the cross! St. Paul understood this when He said, "We preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles" (1 Cor. 1.23) Sometimes we just can't get our head around it. We need the peasant faith of the fisherman, open to God's grace.
As St. Peter reminds us, all we have is Jesus; there is no one else we can turn to for eternal life. We do not turn to philosophers for eternal life, nor to theologians, celebrities or even bloggers! Only Christ. Let us listen to his words and be prompted by his Spirit to believe what He says is true and life-giving.
Again, this is a message of hope - God’s love and mercy is always greater than our own highest expectations, more than we can ever imagine or ever dream off - and for us on this side of heaven, God's love and mercy for the sinner who He wants to feed with his very own life, is surely the most hardest teaching for us to truly comprehend.
21st Sunday in Ordinary Time