Gospel of John - Chapter 6 – verses 51-58
ª “… unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you do not have life within you."
ª “… Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life,”
These statements are dramatic to say the least. Think what it must have been like to be there that day and hear them. The day that Jesus made these shocking statements, the Gospel tells us that the Jews started arguing saying: "How can this man give us his flesh to eat?"
This teaching rocked his followers!
Regrettably, we don’t hear the conclusion of this story from John’s Gospel. The story goes on and it says: “Many of his followers heard this and said, ‘This teaching is too hard. Who can listen to it?’” And it tells us that because of this teaching many of Jesus' followers turned away, and would not go with him anymore. This moment was actually so bad that he turned to the twelve Apostles and the passage says: “… he asked the twelve disciples, ‘And you—would you also like to leave?’”
Think about that … His whole mission hung on this moment.
He looked at his closest followers – the 12 apostles – and said: Do you want to leave too? You have to wonder what history would look like if they too rejected this teaching.
Eating his flesh drinking his blood – who wouldn’t be confused?!
It’s interesting that even though it looked like this teaching might cause him to lose all his followers, Jesus didn’t retract these statements. He didn’t say he was only speaking symbolically. He stood there that day and basically said, believe this teaching or walk away.
Did his closest apostles stop being confused by this teaching?
Of course not, but they trusted him. They had enough faith in Him to continue on. I am sure they thought, at some point, it would all make sense. And it did! It made sense the night before He died. As Jesus sat with his disciples at the Last Supper, he picked up a loaf of bread. He broke it; prayed over it and said: THIS is my body. Then he picked up the cup and said: THIS is my blood.
That night was an A-ha moment for the Apostles, a moment of sudden insight about this whole incredible teaching. Finally it made sense for them – in the Eucharist.
Scott Hahn had that same A-ha moment when he went to daily Mass one day. Scott Hahn is a theologian and one of the most prolific writers in the Catholic Church today. Scott’s books are some of the best read Catholic books ever written. But when Scott was young he was militantly anti-Catholic. For example, he gave out anti-Catholic literature in front of Churches. He ripped apart a rosary in anger, and tore up a Catholic prayer book. So what changed this man from a Catholic hater to one of the most important Catholic authors of all time?
As a young man, after his seminary training, Scott became pastor of Trinity Presbyterian Church in Fairfax, Virginia. He also became a part-time instructor at a local Presbyterian seminary. The first course he was assigned to teach was the “Gospel According to John.” While preparing for chapter 6 from which we just read something happened to him. He began to question what he’d been taught, and was now teaching others, about the Eucharist – that it was only a symbol of Christ’s body, not the real body of Christ.
This questioning started a journey that led him into the Catholic Church. He began studying Catholic teaching. And the more he learned, the more convinced he became that Christ was present in the Eucharist – body and blood, humanity and divinity. Then one weekday he decided to do something that he never dreamed he would ever do. He decided to attend a daily Mass. He writes in his book which is called Rome Sweet Home, “All of a sudden I realized this was the setting in which the Bible was meant to be read – in the Mass. Then came the Liturgy of the Eucharist.” Hahn said that when the priest held up the Host, after the words of consecration, all doubt about the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist vanished.
He wrote: “With all my heart I whispered 'My Lord and my God.'”
He concludes saying: “I left the chapel not telling a soul where I had been or what I had done. But the next day I was back, and the next, and the next. I don’t know how to say it other than to say, I had fallen in love with our Lord in the Eucharist!”
Like so many converts Scott gained an enthusiastic love of for the Eucharist. This reminds us of the tragic fact that we who are cradle Catholics tend to take the Eucharist for granted. This is not due to irreverence on our part, or a lack of faith in Christ’s presence in the Eucharist. It is simply due to something that happens to every human being with the passage of time, namely we tend to take things and people for granted.
This is exactly why the Church sets aside this Sunday, to remind us of the great gift we have in the Eucharist. Today as you walk down the aisle to receive Communion in a few minutes, focus your thoughts in a special way on who it is you will receive – the Body of Christ.
ª You will receive the Body of the same Christ who was born in a stable.
ª You will receive the Body of the same Christ who died on the cross.
ª You will receive the Body of the same Christ who rose on Easter.
This is the message of today’s readings.
This is the mystery we celebrate in this liturgy.
My friends this is what unites us !
This is what makes us the Body of Christ alive in the world.