Part I: Jesus’ Difficult Teaching on the Eucharist

Mgr. Charles Pope posted his homily notes for today, the Twenty-first Sunday in Ordinary Time. These notes are a gem! There are two key reflections. I am posting his notes in two parts. Part I is one I am titling “Jesus’ Difficult Teaching on the Eucharist”. Part II is one I am titling “Jesus’ Difficult Teaching on the Sacrament of Marriage.

Reflections on the Gospel for today: John 6:60-69

Part I. Real Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist

EucharistThe first hard saying is Jesus’ insistence that the Eucharist is actually His Body and Blood and that we must eat His true Flesh and drink His true Blood as our true food, as our necessary manna to sustain us on our journey through the desert of this life to the Promised Land of Heaven.

We have examined this teaching extensively in previous weeks and it is clear that the Lord is not speaking merely figuratively or symbolically. His listeners understand Him to be speaking literally; He is insisting that they eat His flesh, really, truly, and substantially. The severe reaction of His listeners can only be explained if they believe that Jesus is speaking literally. The listeners scoff and murmur, but Jesus only doubles down, insisting that unless they gnaw (trogon) on His flesh and devour His blood they have no life in them (cf Jn 6:53-54).

This leads to the crowd’s scoff: This saying is hard; who can accept it? The Greek word translated here as “hard” is Σκληρός (skleros) and does not mean hard in the sense of being difficult to understand. Rather, it means hard in the sense of being violent, harsh, or stern. It describes a position (or person) that is stubborn and unyielding, It describes something (or someone) that won’t bend or submit.

Despite every protest, Jesus will not back down for a moment. He will not qualify what He has said or in any way try to minimize its impact. So essential is the food of His Flesh and Blood that He will not even hint that there is some way out of this “hard saying.”

The upshot is that many of his disciples returned to their former way of life and no longer accompanied him. Knowing this and seeing it, Jesus still remains clear in His teaching. He poses this question to his listeners and to you and me: “Do you also want to leave?” How will you answer Him?

The Eucharist remains a “hard saying” because it goes against our senses. Of the five senses, four are utterly deceived, for the Eucharistic elements still look, taste, smell, and feel like bread and wine. Only the sense of hearing is safely believed: “This is my Body … This is my Blood … The Bread that I will give is my flesh.”

Yes, it is hard; will you leave? Maybe you won’t leave, but will your faith in the Eucharist be tepid, the kind of faith that is un-devoted? Will you drift away from regular reception of the Eucharist? Where do you stand on this “hard saying”?

How consoled the Lord must have been by Peter’s words: Master, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe and are convinced that you are the Holy One of God. And how joyful He must be at your “Amen” each Sunday as you are summoned to faith: “The Body of Christ.” Yes, you stand with Christ.

Sadly, others leave. Only 27% of Catholics today go to Mass. Further, many other Christians reject the dogma of the True Presence in the Holy Eucharist even though Jesus paid so dearly to proclaim it to us.

Is it a hard saying? Yes! But Amen anyhow! I stand with Jesus! 


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