August 22, 2021 Homily not delivered. This weekend I am with the Maronite Parish in Tequesta, FL
Josiah 24, 1-2, 15-18 + Psalm 34 + Ephesians 5, 21-32 + John 6, 60-69
Our “summer vacation” from Mark’s Gospel comes to an end this weekend, and by now we recognize that our reflection on the sixth chapter of John has not exactly been a time to rest. Every three years as this sixth chapter is put before us, we feast on the Word of God and, if we so desire, we are drawn more deeply into the meaning of the Bread of Life and confirmed more firmly in the faith we have in Jesus Christ who is now, once and for all, by the words of Peter, the Holy One, the Son of God who has come down from heaven.
The chapter, as John puts it before us, ends with a crisis. Two groups reject what Jesus has to say; the “Jews” as John calls one group and the others he calls, “Disciples”. No doubt the first group was simply put off by the language, “eat my flesh and drink my blood.” There is also the refusal of Jesus to accept their idea of what and how the Messiah should behave was also part of their trouble. They shook their heads and walked away.
Then there is the crisis of Discipleship. Some of the disciples found his teaching to be hard and difficult to accept. Probably what was hard had its roots much earlier, before this controversy over Bread and Flesh. It probably had to do with the Incarnation itself. The whole idea that Jesus had come down from heaven, like the manna in the desert with which he compares himself. Is refused. They think they know where he comes from. They would not accept that God would come to them, that God’s own Son could and would die on a cross revealing the extent of God’s love was more than they could take. They turn away and leave Jesus. When Jesus compares his coming from the Father to the Manna in the desert which came down from heaven and reminds them that they ate what came down from heaven (Manna), things begin to come apart not because they don’t believe in the eucharist, but because they don’t believe in Jesus as the Son of God come down from heaven.
Peter’s words clarify the crisis and resolve the matter as he makes a profound profession of faith in Jesus as the “Holy One Come down from heaven”. What makes faith reliable does not concern what is believed, but rather it concerns the trustworthiness of the one who is believed. When a trusted friend tells me about something I have no firsthand knowledge of, I believe it is true, because of the experience I have in the personal integrity of my friend. That is the first step into faith.
We see in our time that the crisis continues. People still walk away from lives of faith. We are all confounded by the reality that so many of our family, our friends are untouched by the words of Christ. At family gatherings, faith rarely if ever enters into the conversations. This experience of so many around us simply no longer practicing any form of faith is as hard for us as it was for Peter and his companions. It becomes a real test of faith for us today. The failure of so many to believe that the consecrated Eucharistic Bread and Wine is really and truly the Body and Blood of Christ is more a failure to believe the one who is the Truth than it is to believe that Bread can become Flesh. “Flesh” for Jesus is not meat. It is life. The Eucharist is our weekly call to an intimate encounter with Jesus Christ. Th Eucharist invites us to open ourselves to the person of Christ as he teaches us in Word and offers us his life, Divine Life, in Communion, in Sacrament. The Eucharist is a call to faith and the personal renewal of our faith in Jesus Christ, who we have come to believe and are convinced is “the Holy One of God.”