21st Sunday in Ordinary Time
Well here we are past the midpoint of August with the return to school for our youngsters looming in a few days time. Spare a thought for all the parents out there getting the bits and pieces needed for the kids return to school. I’m sure they are running round trying to bring it all together and I hope that it all goes well for the kids and their parents as September looms large on the horizion. This Sundays Gospel reading has a resonance with the modern world for me. In today’s Gospel, Jesus puts the choice to His apostles of following Him, or of leaving Him. Many of the Lord’s followers had left Him because of His teaching that He Himself is the Bread of Life. After hearing Jesus’ teaching on the bread of life, many of the people find Jesus’ language intolerable. As a result of this intolerable language some of them choose to leave him. Today in a similar way so many people find the words of Jesus to be intolerable language as many Christians have got up and left their faith behind them and some may never return again.
No one who accepts Christ for what he is, the Son of God in human form, has any difficulty in believing that he left us himself in the Eucharist as a sacrifice and a sacrament This does not mean that we understand this gift of Christ in all its details I certainly don’t but it was an act of divine power and as such beyond full human comprehension. We can understand enough about the actuality of the Eucharist because we accept the words of Christ, who “has the words of eternal life,” even though its innermost nature escapes us. In Galilee he promised to give his body and blood in the Eucharist—to be our spiritual nourishment — communion — and our means of offering an absolutely pleasing sacrifice to God every time his body and blood are made present by the words of the priest. He fulfilled that promise at the Last Supper. He gave to his Apostles and their successors the power to repeat this act of divine love when he said: “Do this in memory of me.”
When Simon Peter answered Christ’s challenge—”will you too go away?”—he spoke not only for his fellow-Apostles that day with: “Lord to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.” but for all of us in our own time and place as well, people who really believe that Christ was the incarnate Son of God. Peter made his act of faith before he was fully convinced of the divinity of Christ, but he was already convinced that Christ was close to God and spoke nothing but the truth.
We have the proofs of Christ’s divinity which Peter and the Apostles later got. We have also the faith of two thousand years of the Christians whose belief in the Blessed Sacrament the bread of life as a sacrifice and sacrament was at the very center of their Christian lives. This belief was passed down to us through each generation. We have also the noble example of many martyrs who gladly gave their lives in defense of this truth. Our faith may never be put to such an extreme test, but should it be, God grant that we will not be found wanting. “Lord to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.”