3rd Week of Easter (S): Acts 9.31-42 and John 6.60-69
Fr. Philip N. Powell, OP
Church of the Incarnation and
My flesh is true food. My blood is true drink.
This is a hard saying. Who can accept it? Only those brought to the banquet table by the Father. Does this shock you? It should. And perhaps many of you will walk away from Christ unable to find a way through or a way around. Perhaps some of you will return to your former way of life, abandoning the Way for an easier road, one with little danger of failure and no promise of reward. But why would you do this? Why would anyone who has heard the Word Himself speak the words of Spirit and life turn away and walk apart? Why would anyone who has seen the Word Himself heal the sick, raise the dead, and feed the crowds choose a life without him? Jesus answers, “…there are some of you who do not believe.”
My flesh is true food. My blood is true drink. What’s not to believe? What’s not to believe in Jesus’ claim that his flesh and blood, once consumed, provides eternal life? What’s so bizarre about the notion that eating—literally “gnawing”—on the meat of a man and drinking down his blood will infuse one with life eternal? I can’t imagine why anyone then or now would be shocked by this claim! But some were and some are. And they left Jesus and his believing disciples to their weird rites.
Jesus said to his remaining friends: “Do you also want to leave?” Can you see that moment? Can you just imagine the speedy mental and emotional calculations, the frantic grasping at belief and assent that was going on at that half-heartbeat of decision? Jesus isn’t asking them to stay. He’s not asking them to leave. He’s asking them to take hold of the Father’s grant, the Father’s gift of trust, and to commit themselves in a single act of faith, just one fiat, to the preposterous notion that Jesus is the Holy One of God and that they must eat his body and drink his blood in order to have eternal life. And instead of running, screaming into the desert like a normal person probably would, Simon Peter pipes up and answers, “Master, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.”
To whom shall we go? We’re here. So, let’s ask the question this way: to whom have we come? And why? Have we come to hear the words of a wise rabbi? Are we here to hear what he has to say about how to improve our lives using ancient Jewish wisdom? Have we come to hear the rousing rhetoric of revolution? To see stirring images of tyranny’s overthrow? Jesus as war protester, labor organizer, the people’s revolutionary! Have we come to feel the comforting presence of the Lamb, the consoling numbness of mere piety. Or maybe we are here to be affirmed in our uniqueness, our oddity and weirdness; to be confirmed as freakish countercultural misfits whose devotion to religious aracania will revive a love of the transcendental. Maybe. Perhaps.
My flesh is true food. My blood is true drink. To whom have we come? And why? We are not here this morning to revolutionize the Church or to be soothed in our fuzzy devotions or to be enlightened by secret Jewish wisdom. We’re here to eat. We’re here to say to Jesus in word and deed, plainly and without hesitation: “You not only have the words of eternal life—you are the Word of eternal life. Not only do we not want to leave, we want to live with you forever!” And how do we say all of this? Easy. When you come forward for communion, you will be confronted by an astonishing declaration: “The Body of Christ. The Blood of Christ.” Does this shock you? Do you want to leave? No? Alright. Then answer, “Amen.” And not a puny little “amen”! Say AMEN b/c you have been granted the seed of trust by the Father and you have come to believe and to be convinced that Jesus is the Holy One of God and that you are being offered not bread and wine but the Word Made Flesh—his body and blood—offered and given freely for your salvation!
My flesh is true food. My blood is true drink. These are the words of Spirit and life: take and eat.