Saturday of the Third Week of Easter
The hearts that once were warm and open had begun to cool for it seems that they now see Christ only with their eyes; they understood Jesus’ offering of His Flesh and Blood as a source of eternal nourishment to mean they had to consume Jesus as they then beheld Him. Had they believed in Him, if they saw Him in their hearts as He so desired, how differently this discourse could have ended! For if they loved Him, they would have trusted that so beautiful a promise would be fulfilled in an equally beautiful way: their love would have enabled them to trust. Adam and Eve were never told why they mustn’t eat from the tree, only that to do so would result in death; they were asked to trust God, which is essential to love. Jesus, likewise, was asking the crowd to trust Him; He commanded but did not explain.
They respond as all who struggle to love God respond, “This saying is hard; who can accept it?” The it to which they refer is Christ’s revelation of God’s love, that God so loved the world that He gave His only Son so all who believe in Him—who love Him—might have eternal life. “Does this shock you?” Jesus asks the crowd, as well as the rest of us.
So does it? Does the Eucharist shock you? Are you utterly astounded at the breadth and the depth and the height of God’s love for you, that He would send His Son to die for you, to be the very means by which He gives you His life as a source for your own eternally? Imagine Jesus pointing at the sky when He says, in so many words, “What if you could see how much the Father loves me? Then you would be astounded!” It is the Spirit that gives life, while the flesh is of no avail; what you see with your eyes and understand only in your own mind cannot give life; only the Spirit—God’s love for us and ours for Him—gives life. But there are some…who do not believe…believe what? Believe that Jesus could be serious about eating His Flesh? NO. Rather, there are those that do not—cannot—believe that God could so love us. Judas could not believe this; there are even those of us who cannot quite believe this either, because we cannot permit ourselves to accept the love that is granted…by the Father.
As a result many in Capernaum—and many since—returned to their former way of life. For this reason He later cries out, “And as for you, Capernaum, ‘Will you be exalted to heaven? You will go down to the netherworld.’ ” (Lk. 10:15) They had chosen, as did Adam and Eve, to reject the food of eternal life—the love of God—and in so doing they have rejected Heaven. Turning mournfully to His friends He asks if they, too, will leave. As a foreshadowing of his later profession of faith, Peter says the words that Jesus longed to hear from the crowd, that He longs to hear from us, those words we echo in the words of the centurion just before we receive Communion at Mass: “Jesus, I trust in you.” The Twelve had come to believe, to see God in their hearts and not merely with their eyes. (Mt. 16:17)
If our “amen” at Communion is true, if we have come to believe that Jesus is the Son of God, that God has so loved us as to give His only Son, if we believe that the Eucharist is the Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity of Christ, then truly to whom else or where else shall we go? Here at Mass we receive Heaven on earth; here at Mass we receive the Word of eternal life.