If you are new here, welcome! Let me explain that I have a few kinds of posts. Some are funny stories. Some are personal reflections, and the third are recaps of my weekly prayer group reflections. Whenever my group meets to pray with the upcoming Sunday gospel (we are Roman Catholics and as such use USCCB to direct us to the readings from scripture for the upcoming Sunday) we open with a prayer to the Holy Spirit and then read the gospel aloud. We pray in silence and then share the insights that strike our hearts.
I invite you to read along with our reflections if you would like to enrich your prayer life, see things through the eyes of someone else’s experiences, or simply feel apart of a community of deep Christian love for one another.
Before diving into the gospel this week, we had some catching up to do as usual. This week there were three of us; one in Nashville, one in California and one in Michigan. We are still meeting on Zoom because some of our members are in other parts of the country for now, but we look forward to hopefully someday being in the same room together once again.
A CRITICAL TEACHING
This Sunday’s gospel seems to be the one gospel where Catholics get literal in the scriptures and non-Catholic Christians seem to take a step back and get figurative. The “Bread of Life” discourse, as it is called in John chapter 6, is the the crux of the teaching on the Eucharist. Literally “thanksgiving”, the Eucharist is the body, blood, soul and divinity of our Lord, Jesus Christ. I pray this helps anyone understand something of critical essence to our faith.
Before you read the following scripture, invite the Holy Spirit along and see what He says to you. I went to a morning of reflection on Saturday and the priest who was giving us the talk quoted a saint who said
Understanding doesn’t beget peace. Only trust begets peace.
When we seek understanding, it usually just begets a need for more understanding. As we proceed, tell your inner “Brainiac” to take a back seat and let your will drive your vehicle for a bit.
Many of Jesus’ disciples who were listening said,
“This saying is hard; who can accept it?”
Since Jesus knew that his disciples were murmuring about this,
he said to them, “Does this shock you?
What if you were to see the Son of Man ascending
to where he was before?
It is the spirit that gives life,
while the flesh is of no avail.
The words I have spoken to you are Spirit and life.
But there are some of you who do not believe.”
Jesus knew from the beginning the ones who would not believe
and the one who would betray him.
And he said,
“For this reason I have told you that no one can come to me
unless it is granted him by my Father.”
As a result of this,
many of his disciples returned to their former way of life
and no longer accompanied him.
Jesus then said to the Twelve, “Do you also want to leave?”
Simon Peter answered him, “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.”
Does this shock you?
Jesus sees the reaction of the disciples who were listening as they struggled to accept his teaching that his flesh and blood become life for us in the passage just before this. There are many things in the scripture that Jesus says that can be hard to understand or seem unfair. It’s a good thing to be shocked now and then. It awakens our false sense of security in what we think we know about everything.
As a result of this, many of his disciples returned to their former way of life and no longer accompanied him. (John 6:66)
This statement is critical. This was a stumbling block for Scott Hahn when he was in seminary to become a pastor of a protestant church. He couldn’t get past this statement. Why? The way he said it (paraphrasing) You can see in this statement that Christ LET them walk away. He didn’t chase them down, go after them or change his story. He let them go.
Another thing that was shared, is the above line is the only place in the gospels where there is a chapter “6:66.” The line in John 6:66 is in fact the line–the mark of the enemy–where people reject Christ and his teachings. They walked away.
What if you were to see the Son of Man ascending to where he was before?
I never noticed before (or I never had a spiritual light about it) that Christ mentions his Ascension into heaven in the midst of this critical teaching. Why would he do that?
I was thinking that if I were listening to him discuss eating bread which becomes his actual flesh through a mystery of his sacrifice in which the Holy Mass brings to the present this very mystery, he compares these miracles sort of like…
Look, if you are going to see me–my actual body (with wounds)–lifted up into the heavens right before your very eyes and then I will “disappear” or be absorbed into another realm–Heaven, where God, Our Father, sits on His throne–and you WATCH me do this, then SURELY you can believe that I can make this bread become my flesh!
Which of these things would be harder to believe? Christ’s flesh through bread, or seeing a man who has been raised from the a violent death which hundreds witnessed, suddenly be taken body and souls up into the Heavens before many more witnesses?
I think (in my heart) that if you saw the miracle of the Ascension and you attend the miracle of the Holy Mass, you can easily believe that a God who took His precious Son to the Heavens–physically–while crowds were watching, can certainly give us the eternal bread of life in a tiny host of a wafer.
Lastly, it is reported that less than half of Catholics actually believe in the Eucharist as the body, blood, soul and divinity of Jesus Christ, let me just say that this is where the last bit of the reflection ends.
“This saying is hard; who can accept it?”
Almost every Catholic at some point struggles with the miracle of the Eucharist. The way I walked through this was to actually sit with the Eucharist in what we call “Eucharistic Adoration.” This is where we go and behold Jesus in prayer before what is called a monstrance. It looks like this:
I asked Christ to reveal himself to me during this veneration. I was a very green revert to the faith in my younger adult years when my oldest child (LB) told me he had gone into the adoration chapel during recess at his Catholic school. He spent his precious recesses/play time with Jesus as a second grader once or twice a week. He over heard me telling a friend how amazing my first experience was of Jesus in the chapel, and how much peace I felt. I said to my friend, “You can just tell him everything!” and then LB, who had overheard me, quietly and politely said, “You know Mommy, you can just listen too.” Wow.
Just like many of these disciples who actually spent time with Jesus could not understand what seemed so miraculous. I am sure Jesus was so magnetic that I would have believed everything he said (this is what I say to myself.) But we know that faith is the vehicle by which grace enters the world, and here is where we end with the prayer of the man with the sick child in Mark chapter 9,
23 Jesus said to him, “‘If you can!’ Everything is possible to one who has faith.” 24 Then the boy’s father cried out, “I do believe, help my unbelief!”
Jesus, please increase my trust. Increase my faith. Amen.