"This saying is hard; who can accept it?" The words of Jesus' disciples in today's Gospel must sound familiar. At some point in our lives, you and I have said it about some article of our faith. Christianity makes firm demands on our ethical behavior and gives no easy answers for suffering. Many disciples were confused and dismayed by Jesus' words in the Bread of Life Discourse. Not all of them, however, had the same reaction.READ MORE
In this Sunday's Gospel, the conflict escalates in the Bread of Life Discourse. Confusion is mounting in the crowd. "How can this man give us his flesh to eat?" Their minds were thinking literally, not mystically. Jesus doesn't seem to help, however, and only drives his point home with more emphasis. "Unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you do not have life within you." Jesus would later institute the Eucharist at the Last Supper. There he would definitively establish the sacramental reality in which bread and wine become substantially his own Body and Blood. We celebrate this sacrament in the Mass.READ MORE
Have you ever approached a hushed group and were certain they were talking about you? It's an uncomfortable feeling to catch people murmuring about what you did, said, or didn't do. It breeds division and exclusion.
In today's Gospel, Jesus invites us to just the opposite. The reading opens with the crowds "murmuring" their doubts about Jesus after he has proclaimed himself the Bread of Life. "Is this not Jesus, the son of Joseph? how can he say 'I have come down from heaven'?" In his response, Jesus brings up the Israelites and the manna God brought them in the desert. If you turn back to the story in Exodus, you'll see another similar word: murmuring. As the going got tough, the Israelites doubted Moses and God's plan to protect and care for them as a chosen people. Here, Jesus proposes a difficult theological concept. Jesus himself is "the living bread" and "flesh for the life of the world."READ MORE
In an on-demand society, it's not always easy to imagine life with less. The crowds of Jesus' day depended on the weather and successful growing seasons for their livelihood. For many of Jesus' listeners, even "food that perishes" would have been a welcome relief. Jesus acknowledges this but tries to draw them deeper. "You are looking for me not because you saw signs but because you ate the loaves and were filled." For people who have just witnessed a miracle, the response is strangely marked by ingratitude. "What can you do? Our ancestors ate manna in the desert." Jesus fed them for one day, but Moses interceded with God for 40 years of bread. "Jesus," they seem to say, "can't you just give us more?"READ MORE