Then Jesus declared, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty. – John 6:35
For the past few weeks, the Catholic church took a break from the allegedly written-on-a-deadline Gospel of St. Mark to hear St. John’s discourse on the bread of life. Our gospel reading concluded at yesterday’s Mass, and I must admit the final part of that section of John’s gospel gives me a great deal of peace.
I’m going out on a limb with today’s blog post because it is not my goal to alienate any of my readers. I respect all of the different ways that people worship God. Still, Catholic Christians are very often belittled by other Christian faiths for our beliefs, and it seems like yesterday’s reading from John’s gospel provides some background on one of our most important teachings.
In his homily our pastor pointed out that Jesus tells his friends “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me will never hunger, and whoever believes in me will never thirst…..Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him on the last day. For my flesh is true food and my blood is true drink.”
In yesterday’s conclusion of the discourse on the bread of life, Jesus asks the people, “Does this shock you? The words I have spoken to you are spirit and life. But there are some of you who do not believe.”
And it was true, because at that point a number of his followers stormed off in disgust. And, as our pastor pointed out, Jesus did nothing to try and dissuade them from leaving. He clearly did not say anything like, “Come back friends. I am not speaking literally. Everything I’ve just said is symbolic.” Instead, he let them leave. He turned to his closest friends and asked them, “Do you also want to leave?” They assured him that they were there until the bitter end because, as Peter said, “You have the words of eternal life.”
As Mylee would say, “Ta da!”
It doesn’t shock me that people have trouble believing that the bread and wine in which we partake every Sunday at Mass is the living body and blood of Christ. That concept is beyond our understanding. In fact, many Catholics, including those partaking in Holy Communion each Sunday, struggle with this idea. What really is surprising when you think about it is that even people like me who believe in our church’s teaching on transubstantiation take it so for granted. If my feeble little brain could really understand this mystery that our church teaches, at each Mass when the priest holds up the host and the wine, I should literally be falling to a prone position as the living God is raised before me. Instead, I pay attention as the priest blesses the bread and wine, and then my mind might wander to what time the Broncos are playing.
No matter what you believe about Holy Communion, it is comforting to know that God cares for us as he did the Israelites in the desert when he fed them with manna.
As an aside, yesterday’s conclusion to St. John’s bread of life discourse was accompanied by that ever-popular letter of St. Paul in which he tells women to submit to their husbands. For the most part, homilists avoid that one like the plague. Oh Paul. The good news is that it was offset by the beautiful words from the Old Testament Book of Joshua in which Joshua tells the Israelites, “If it does not please you to serve the Lord, decide today whom you will serve……As for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.
So, as for me and my family, we will serve the Lord. Amen. Alleluia.