Mass Readings for the 21st Sunday in Ordinary Time
“For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me and I in him. Just as the living Father sent me and I have life because of the Father, so also the one who feeds on me will have life because of me. This is the bread that came down from heaven. Unlike your ancestors who ate and still died, whoever eats this bread will live forever.” John 6:54-58
These are the words Jesus spoke to his followers, his disciples, his Twelve Apostles right before the events of today’s Gospel. They are all part of the 6th chapter of John’s gospel known as the Bread of Life Discourse which we have heard over the last month. Today we hear the conclusion of this discourse.
No other chapter receives such attention in the Sunday liturgy. In this chapter, Jesus has walked on water and fed thousands with the loaves and fish. He has announced himself as the true bread sent down from heaven and made it clear that those who do not eat his flesh and drink his blood will not have eternal life.
This is where the crowds took issue with Jesus. This is where they had to decide what they were going to do. Were they going to choose to continue to follow Jesus or not? They had seen all that he had accomplished and heard all that he had to say. Yet many left him that day. They stopped believing in Jesus. They chose not to follow him anymore. They had forgotten that Jesus is offering a lot more to the people than Moses did to the Israelites in the desert. Jesus is offering spiritual nourishment and eternal life.
From today’s gospel, we hear the disciples say, “This saying is hard; who can accept it?” (John 6:60) How could they believe in Jesus when he asked them to “eat my flesh?”
“Do you also want to leave?” Jesus asks the Twelve. And these are his closest disciples.
Maybe Jesus is asking the same thing of us. Jesus’ life is about service and servant leadership. His life is one of total commitment to fulfilling the will of God the Father. Jesus gives himself to God and to us completely and unconditionally, both on the cross and in the Eucharist. We do not need to have doubt or to give our lives a mediocre effort. We must give an account of our faith. The faith we have is because of our belief in Jesus as the Son of God. The faith we have is because we believe in the Real Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist. If we want to get to heaven, we must believe. Now, I am not suggesting that belief is where our work ends, that it is the only thing we have to do. Actually, this is where our work begins. And once we believe, as fully and as completely as our human minds are capable of believing, we will be compelled by ourselves to act.
This belief drives us into action. And what do we believe about the Eucharist? We believe Jesus Christ is fully present in the host. He is there, body and blood, soul, and divinity. And we come forward at Mass to receive this gift, given to us so we can become more like Jesus. With this gift, our belief grows, and our actions become more Christ-like.
We are truly blessed to receive Jesus into us physically and spiritually in holy Communion. When we receive Jesus at Mass it gives us the strength to say what Peter said in reply to Jesus, “Master, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.”
We are called to go to Jesus, to believe in Jesus as our Savior and to be like him in this life so we can spend eternity with him in heaven.