21st Sunday In Ordinary Time
Cycle B | 26/08/18
Josh. 24: 1-2; 15-18
Eph. 5: 21-32
John 6: 60-69
INTRODUCTION: We come now to the end of our prayerful reflection of this extra ordinary John 6. Last week we considered the climax of John 6 which is Jesus’ teaching on the Real Presence: “Unless you eat (gnaw=trogein) the flesh of the Son of Man, you will have no life in you.” How shocking this language is to a 1st c Jewish audience! Take for granted that the eating of an animal’s blood is forbidden. Today, we get the reaction to such teaching. Every aspect of it deserves our careful attention.
(1) Many of Jesus’ disciples who were listening were reacting: “This saying is hard. Who can accept it?” Remember that Jesus’ audience here are his friends, not his enemies. Knowing their murmuring, Jesus asks, “Does this shock you?” If Jesus’ words were to be taken in a symbolic sense, they would not have had this explosive effect. If what he meant is simply, “My body is like food” or “This bread is a symbol of my body,” why in the world would there have been such strong reaction?
Jewish authors deal with poetic language all the time and indeed many times Jesus himself speaks in metaphors comparing himself to a vine, a shepherd, etc.. but it never got such strong reaction as this one. Why? Because they knew Jesus was not trading in poetic language but in a straight one. So given every opportunity to explain himself better and clarify. Jesus does nothing. Instead, he upgrades them, “There are some of you who do not believe.” In history, Catholic Tradition has resisted all the time to any tendency to soften Jesus’ teaching.
(2) “What if you were to see the Son of Man ascending to where he was before?” This does not mean: “Pls don’t take my word literally but symbolically.” That is not implied by any means. Where did the Son of Man came from? As a man, like any of us from a family. In his Divinity, he comes from heaven. It is because of his divine nature that his words has transformative power!
God’s word is not only descriptive but also creative. A basic biblical intuition! “Let there be light! Let the earth and dry land come out!” By his speech, he brings things into being as the Prophet Isaiah says, “My word does not go forth from me in vain, but rather as rain comes down and does not return till it has accomplished its purpose, so does my word does not go forth in vain till it accomplishes what it is suppose to.”
That is why when Jesus speaks, things happen. “Little girl, get up! Lazarus, come out!” “The words I am speaking to you are Spirit and Life.Jesus is not saying: “I do not mean what I say. I am speaking only in metaphor. The words I am speaking to you are Spirit and Life. Mere human invention has no power to change things at the root of their being but the Divine Being can.
(3) What follows now is the most tragic that happens in the New Testament. Everyone abandons him! Again these are not his enemies. These are his friends! Up and down the centuries, the Real Presence of Jesus in the Holy Eucharist has always had a divisive effect in the Church.
When they heard the teaching on the Eucharist, his contemporaries walked away and could not accept the Eucharist. Jesus turned to the Twelve and asked the poignant question: “Do you want to leave too?” What if they had left too? The Church would not have been born! John 6 is John equivalent to the Synoptic’s Incident at Caesarea Philippi. Peter answers in the name of all which is almost the same answer at Caesarea: “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.”
CONCLUSION: The Church has always stood with and at the side of Peter with regard to the Eucharist on Jesus’ word because he is the Holy One of God.
Most Rev. Antonio R. Tobias, DD
Bishop of Novaliches