Sunday Readings: Joshua 23.1-2, 15-17, 18; Ephesians 5.21-32; John 6.60-69
Many of Jesus’ disciples turned back and no longer went about with him. Jesus then said to the Twelve, “Do you also want to leave?” But Simon Peter said, “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. – John 6.66-69
John’s gospel sees Jesus as the word spoken in creation who in Jesus, becomes flesh, one of us humans. “In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God” (John 1.1).
John’s gospel originates near the end of the first century; it is more than a narrative. It’s a book of signs in which wine, water, bread, and light all point to who Jesus is. In Cana at a wedding, Jesus turns six jars of water into “the best wine saved until now (John 2). At Jacob’s well, Jesus intrigues a Samaritan woman with living water that “becomes a spring welling up to eternal life (John 4).
Chapter six begins with Jesus multiplying five barley loaves and two fish into food for 5,000 with 12 baskets of leftovers, a sign that sets off 47 verses of reflection — and contention that speaks to differences between Jews who follow Moses and Jews who follow Jesus.
In John 6 the crowd that eats the bread seeks a second sign so they can believe in him. “This is the will of my Father that everyone who sees the Son and believes in him may have eternal life (6.40).
Contention rises when Jesus insists, “I am the living bread that came down from heaven; whoever eats this bread will live forever” (6.51). The bread carries the promise of Jesus’ death and resurrection for those who believe.
Then the rhetoric pushes beyond the literal meaning of bread to an uncomfortable extreme in our ears, “All who eat my flesh and drink my blood have eternal life and I will raise them up on the last day” (6.55). Flesh is a word for human. To eat the bread that is Jesus’ sign of himself is to live faith in his power to transform us. To drink the wine that is a sign of his lifeblood expresses faith Jesus will raise believers on the last day.
Faith in the risen Jesus is an abiding relationship and transforming experience. After the destruction of the temple, faith in Jesus separates Christians Jews from Jews that follow Moses. Some folks realize they just aren’t getting it and return to the comfort of the God they know.
Jesus is unrelenting in Sunday’s gospel, asking the twelve if they plan to leave his company, too. Peter responds, “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” (6.69).
How do you understand the mystery of the Eucharist?