“I am weak and frail, my dearest Margaret, but I will not distrust God’s goodness. If I become so terrified that I am in danger of defecting, I shall remember Peter beginning to sink because his faith was weak, and I shall cry out to Christ as he did, ‘Lord, save me.’ I hope that he will stretch out his hand and take hold of me and not let me sink. But even if he lets me play Peter’s part to the full and reject him, I hope that he will look on me with mercy as he did on Peter and raise me up to profess the truth.” – (These words come from a letter that St. Thomas More wrote to his daughter as he reflected on his likely execution by order of England’s King Henry VIII.)
Gospel Text: (JN 6:60-69)
Many of the disciples of Jesus 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 walked with 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.”
This saying is hard, who can accept it?” In my opinion, there is an equivalent of the saying in today’s gospel reading in today’s society. Life is hard. There really is no denying it (and if you do deny it, we need to have a chat because I’d like to know your secret). Unexpected things come at us from every imaginable angle and we have to find a way to decipher them and keep moving.
St John writes, “The Jews quarreled among themselves, saying ‘How can this man give us his flesh to eat” (John 6:52-62)? Like the Samaritan woman at the well, they take him literally, thinking that he is referring to some kind of cannibalism. But then Jesus continues to use challenging language and that leaves many of his disciples just as confused as our Jewish brothers. Finally, Jesus offers some help in understanding that language that at first sounds like cannibalism: “Does this shock you? What if you were to see the Son Man ascending to where he was before. It is the spirit that gives life, while the flesh is of no avail.” The mention of the ascension evokes the reality of the transformed, risen Christ. So the participation in the physical meal of the Eucharist, is also the appropriation of the transformed reality of the risen Christ, in which we become what we consume, part of his risen body, the believing community.
In the light of this Gospel we may wonder: where have I placed my love? what faith and what obedience have I to the Lord and to what the Church teaches? What kind of docility, simplicity and trust do I live with regards to God's things?