21st SUNDAY OF THE YEAR
In our first reading today from the Book of Joshua, there is a clear challenge to all the people. Joshua gathers the tribes of Israel together and puts a direct question: “Do you want to follow the many pagan gods or the God of your ancestors who brought you out of slavery in Egypt? It’s a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ situation. There is a clear ‘yes; answer. “We will serve the Lord, for he is our God.”
Contrast that with what we take up in the Gospel. Many of the followers of Jesus said: “This is INTOLERABLE language. How could anyone accept it?” This is their response to the teaching of Jesus as recorded on John 6:52-59 (The reading we missed out on last week as we celebrate the Feast of the Assumption of our Lady). Jesus had said: “The bread that I shall give is my flesh, for the life of the world … anyone who does eat my flesh and drink my blood has eternal life, and I shall raise them up on the last day. For my flesh is real food and my blood is real drink … this is the bread come down from heaven and anyone who eats this bread will live for ever.”
This is the unacceptable language that many people thought intolerable and so stopped following Jesus. Over the generations too many people could only think of cannibalism or who is this Jesus who claim to be God and yet only human.
It is central to our Faith that we take Jesus at his word as he spoke at the Last Supper: “Do this in memory of me.” “This bread is my body, this wine is my blood poured out for you.” We may not understand the full meaning of TRANSUBSTANTIANTION, but yet we believe and take Jesus at his word. We believe that the bread and wine are changed, transformed into the Body and Blood of Jesus. We ‘take and eat’ in order that we would have his life in us.
We can do well to remember the words of St Augustine: “We are gathered as the body of Christ, when we receive the Eucharist, we become what we receive” (Para).
In all of this debate in chapter 6 of St John, there is the added matter of the Jewish law forbidding the consuming of blood in any shape or form. This is stated clearly in the Book of Deuteronomy. It counts too for the strong reaction to Jesus’ words.
The focus moves from the crowd to the disciples and the twelve apostles. They too were grumbling and mumbling and confused. Peter sums up the dilemma, “To whom shall we go? You have the message of eternal life and we believe you are the Holy One of God.
We too need to adopt that attitude and renew our belief in the truth of the Eucharist. The bread and wine are transformed into the Body and Blood of Christ.
That’s all for this week, God bless. Fr Joe