Not Alone

June 14, 2020 | N W | Deacon Eddie, Discipleship, Eucharist, Grace, Holy Spirit, Mission, Obedience, Saints, St. John, Strength

Solemnity of the Body and Blood of Christ
June 14, 2020 – Year A
Readings: Dt 8:2-3, 14B-16A / Ps 147 / 1 Cor 10:16-17 / Jn 6:51-58
by Rev. Mr. Eddie Craig, Permanent Deacon

Today our gospel comes from the sixth chapter of the Gospel of John, and it is the famous Bread of Life discourse. But a little background helps us to understand exactly what’s going on in this gospel.

At the beginning of this chapter, Jesus feeds the five thousand. Needless to say, the people are impressed: this is a great miracle, and they want to see more. At that point, Jesus pushes back a little bit, and He says the words that we have heard today.

Try to imagine what that must have sounded like to a first century Jew. We’re looking at this from two thousand years later, after this whole doctrine has developed, but imagine the shock! You can understand that they draw back and ask, What’s He saying?

Jesus does something interesting. In other places in the Gospels, when He says something, and people don’t seem to understand, He’ll explain the spiritual significance. But He doesn’t do that here. In fact, He doubles down, and He gets more graphic.

The result of that, at the end of this chapter, is that a lot of the people say, “Whoa, that is too much. No, no more of this,” and leave Him. Because it was hard. They didn’t understand, and so they walked away.

In a very real sense, we still struggle with the same thing today, because living as a Christian is not easy. We are held to a higher standard. The teachings of Jesus sometimes look simple on the surface, but as you try to put them into practice, you realize just how difficult they are.

Take, for instance, the command to love your neighbor. Turn the other cheek. Have you ever tried to do that? Love your enemy? Sounds nice when you’re sitting in the pew on Sunday, but it’s difficult to put into practice.

We talk about the teachings of the Church, and they seem simple. But when the rubber meets the road, they can be quite difficult.

For example, consider the Church teaching about right to life. The Church teaches that life is sacred and the most important, from conception to natural death. We oppose abortion, and rightly so. We talk about the sanctity of the unborn child.

Sometimes that’s harder when you think about someone who has done something extremely heinous. It’s more difficult. Pope Francis actually spoke about that just the other week, and he said: “We cannot tolerate or turn a blind eye to racism and exclusion in any form and yet claim to defend the sacredness of every human life.”

Or consider the Church’s teachings on justice. God is a God of justice. He’s also a God of compassion. Too often, when we are wronged, or somebody we love is wronged, we focus on the justice part, and we forget about the compassion part, because it’s hard.

Or the Church’s teaching about the poor. We’re supposed to look after the poor. I think most of us give money to help, but it’s a lot harder when we actually have to get our hands dirty and go volunteer at a homeless shelter. It’s hard.

I don’t mean to depress you or discourage you, because the saints struggled with this sort of thing, just like we do. In the Book of Romans, Saint Paul says, “For I do not do what I want, but I do what I hate.”

Saint Peter had a vision that the Gospel should be preached to the Gentiles. But when he’s with his friends, he shuns the Gentiles to be with Jews. Saint Paul calls him out on it, as he should.

The great saint, John Paul II, went to confession every week, because he understood how hard this is.

In fact, if we are going to strive towards our ultimate goal, which is to become saints ourselves, we have to accept that it’s impossible for us to do it on our own.

In the first reading today, Moses reminds the Jewish people that they had just done something great. They survived a long struggle in the wilderness. But he told them it wasn’t them, it was God. They survived because of God.

Brothers and sisters, if we’re going to succeed, we need God, because only with the gift of His grace, guided by the Holy Spirit, can we do it. And it’s hard. But when we open ourselves to the grace that God so freely gives, we can go out into the world and live the life of a Christian.