A big Gospel for a Friday, don’t you think? This is where Jesus separates the men from the boys, so to speak. We’ve read The Book and we know how it ends. But for Jesus’ audience this was a bizarre statement. Remember, this was a Jewish crowd and Jews had (and still have) very strict rules about what they put into their mouths. “Eat His Flesh!? Drink His Blood!? He must be crazy!”
If you read on in John’s Gospel, beyond the part that we read at mass this morning we see that
“Many of his disciples returned to their former way of life and no longer accompanied Him.”
Let’s think about that for a minute. Here’s Jesus, sent by His Heavenly Father to establish a new church. He’s gaining a decent number of followers. His Father is “well pleased”. Then He makes the statements we read today and many of his disciples turn away.
If Jesus was speaking metaphorically, as many of our non-Catholic brothers and sisters believe (and too many Catholics, too) wouldn’t He have said, “No! Wait! I wasn’t speaking literally. I was only talking about bread and wine.” But He didn’t say that. He let them go. If they didn’t have enough faith in Him to take His words seriously, they were on their own.
Of course we know that He wasn’t expecting anyone to take a bite out of His arm. He explained it all at the Last Supper. “This is my Body. This is my Blood.” The Eucharist is His body and blood.
I find it odd that so many people insist that the Bible must be taken literally, word-for-word, yet won’t accept this vital teaching. Jesus loves us so much He wants to be part of us. He accomplishes this by making Himself present in the bread and wine transformed by the priest into His Precious Body and Blood.
Yes, it’s a “hard saying”. Yes, it’s impossible to prove. Yes, it defies our human common sense. But we have faith. We believe Jesus can’t lie. If we don’t except everything He said, then we can’t count on anything He said.
Saddest of all are those who have been brought up in the faith yet choose not to practice it. “Former Catholics” are the second largest religious group in the United States. (Practicing Catholics are first.) They should know better.
So, as we approach the half-way point in the season of Easter, we should pray for those whose faith isn’t strong enough to believe Jesus’ words.
Some things can’t be proven. Some things just are.