The Word for Sunday: (click on picture at right)
One thing that has always been missing for me in the reading of the Gospel passages is the inability to hear the tone of voice spoken by Jesus, the Apostles, or any who spoke. Lacking video cameras and recorders the reader is left to imagine, based upon the words and context, what the voice of Jesus may have sounded like as he spoke. His emphasis, pace, volume, facial expressions are simply not recorded. Yet, we can be assured that his reactions were as human as you and me.
One example that always strikes me from today’s Gospel of John are the words of Jesus spoken to his apostles: “Do you also want to leave?” In the same manner, Peter’s answer: “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.”
What tone was in the voice of Jesus as he spoke: “Do you want to leave me?” Was it fear and sadness that his inner circle would walk away? Was their hesitation and pleading? Was there a bit of sarcasm as if to say, “Well they missed the point, what about you?” Just speculating of course, I would think there was a bit of a challenge to these key men, maybe tinged with disappointment they might. Peter’s response, I would assume, brought a sigh of relief and maybe a grateful smile on the face of our Lord.
The point is to say that Jesus didn’t back down from his direct words. Those who could still remain loyal to him, even in their somewhat confused state at times, would be among the greatest beneficiaries. Peter’s blunt response reveals his inspired insight. Where else can we go to hear and see who you are?
After numerous comparisons by Jesus to the manna eaten by the early Hebrews in the desert, the bread from heaven, last Sunday (Jn 6: 51-58) we heard him specifically state: “Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life . . . For my flesh is true food and my blood is true drink.” If Jesus meant for us to literally eat his flesh and drink his blood I would be the first to leave – and you should too!
However, it is clear from the passage today, despite the misunderstanding of the crowd of disciples around him, that he was not speaking in earthly, material terms. Rather as he says: “The words I have spoken to you are Spirit and life.” (Jn 6: 66). Yet, of all the words Jesus’ spoke, these demanded a decision by his followers. Many could no longer stomach Jesus for they missed the point and thought he may have been encouraging cannibalism. “This saying is hard; who can accept it?” Obviously, judging by their reaction, Jesus spoke in very specific terms and minced no words.
Yet, his words were from of the Spirit which offers life to the believer. He invites us to look beyond the material to the spiritual – a reality more real than what we know. His presence, and for the early Christians and for us, in the bread of life, the Holy Eucharist, we feed on his real yet spiritual presence. To eat and drink is exactly what Jesus means.
Yet, his words are not always comfortable or easy. There may have been or are times when we feel it’s just too much.
As we prepare for Sunday, maybe pray about those time(s). The issue(s), the position of the Church on various life and marriage issues. Where are you with all that?
More to come . . .