From the Pastor – August 16, 2009

As I mentioned over the last three weekends, the Gospel this Sunday is a continuation of the 6th Chapter of John’s Gospel. Three weeks ago we heard about the multiplication of the loaves and the fishes. Two weeks ago we heard Jesus raise the bar and describe Himself as the “bread from Heaven,” calling to mind the manna from heaven of the Exodus. Last Sunday Jesus starts facing detractors, people who rejected his audacious claims, and He “upped the ante” by describing Himself as the means by which we have access to the Father. This week, things get even more challenging. Verses 51-58 connect the “bread from Heaven,” and the “means” by which we have access to the Father” to the actual flesh of Jesus.

All of a sudden, it becomes abundantly clear to the listeners of Jesus that He’s not speaking metaphorically. And they start challenging Jesus, arguing among themselves: “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?” (Jn 6:52). At other times in Sacred Scripture, Jesus had described Himself as the “vine” or the “sheepgate” or the “good shepherd,” and no one had protested. No one said, “how can this man be a vine?” or “how can this man be a sheepgate?” or “isn’t Jesus a carpenter, not a shepherd?” At those times, it was clear to the listeners that Jesus was speaking metaphorically. But when Jesus calls Himself the “bread of life,” and then adds “the bread that I will give is my flesh for the life of the world,” there’s a storm of protest. And Jesus does not correct them. Because He’s not speaking metaphorically. He’s telling them His plan in plain and simple language. But these are words that call to mind murder and cannibalism. They’re very very difficult words. Imagine if we had been there at that time. Imagine we’ve seen Jesus perform miraculous cures, and we were in awe. Imagine we’ve been fed by a miraculous multiplication of loaves and fishes. Imagine we’ve heard Jesus call to mind the manna that had fed our ancestors in their Exodus out of slavery into the Promised Land. And imagine that now Jesus is telling us that He will give us His flesh as food. I don’t know about you, but I think I would have been a little shocked – and maybe a little disgusted. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a huge carnivore, but I limit myself to meats like beef, pork and venison. Human flesh is not “what’s for dinner”! And Jesus goes on: “Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life” (Jn 6:54).  What a dilemma! I can have eternal life, but I have to eat the flesh of Jesus! How am I going to do that?
Rev. Msgr. Christopher H. Nalty