The Eucharist: mystery and invitation

| Father Joseph Johnson | August 23, 2018 | 0 Comments


“This saying is hard; who can accept it?” We start this Sunday’s Gospel (Jn 6:60-69) with an objection from those Jesus is teaching and then are told that many “no longer accompanied him.” Contrast this with the first reading, in which Joshua challenges the people to “decide today whom you will serve” and they reply “far be it from us to forsake the Lord for the service of other gods.”

Jesus had just taught that his flesh is true food and his blood is true drink. This unambiguous teaching on the holy Eucharist is what prompted the defection of so many. It is not an easily understandable doctrine. “God’s ways are not our ways” is a popular old saying. Indeed, they are not!

Do I rely more on my intelligence or the weight of God’s Word in seeking the truth? Reason and revelation don’t need to be opposed, but one must lead and the other must follow. The listeners of Joshua trusted God, having seen his miracles. The listeners of Jesus had just seen, and even eaten, the miraculous multiplication of loaves and fish, and yet many chose not to believe.

“Believe it or not?” There used to be a popular television show by that name that recounted all sorts of odd and seemingly improbable events. The show gave no judgments, just the evidence as best as it could muster from the historical record. It could be sensational at times, but it always left the verdict to the viewers.

Following Jesus is about making a choice. Actually, it involves a whole lifelong series of choices. How do I integrate my daily decisions — at work, home or even in traffic — to be in harmony with my overarching personal commitment to follow Jesus? The wristband craze “WWJD” (What would Jesus do?) was an attempt to remind us of the need to examine our individual choices each day for the sake of consistency — a life of integrity or lip service?

The collect of today’s Mass petitions is “O God, who cause the minds of the faithful to unite in a single purpose, grant your people to love what you command and to desire what you promise… .” Do I allow grace to draw my mind and heart into unity with the Church’s longing to be faithful to God’s commands as we seek eternal life?

What might prevent my mind from following this urging of grace? Timidity: “This saying is hard.” Discouragement: “Who can accept this?” Pride: “I know better” or “prove it to me.”

Following Jesus has never been easy, and there are plenty of “mysteries” of faith that leave us scratching our heads. Faith is not just a set of intellectual propositions to which we must give assent. Faith is an invitation to a lived relationship of trust in God. The Word of God invites me beyond my natural limits into relationship with a truth and love greater than my human capacity to receive.

Today Jesus asks for our answer: “Do you also want to leave?” May we answer in faith with Peter: “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.”

Father Johnson is pastor of Holy Family in St. Louis Park.

Sunday, Aug. 26
Twenty-first Sunday in Ordinary Time

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Category: Focus on Faith