Psalms 116:12-13, 14-15, 16-17
The Hard Saying
“This saying is hard; who can accept it?” Anyone who has read the New Testament knows that Jesus says some challenging things. If we were to create a list of sayings most likely to be labeled as “hard,” certainly his teaching on divorce would be at the top of the list. Also, right at the top would be his strong statements about forgiveness—as in forgiving those who have wronged us “seventy times seven times.”
Yet, the words quoted above as recorded in the gospel of John refer to neither of those top contenders. Rather, they are spoken in reference to Jesus’ graphic words in the preceding passage: "Amen, amen, I say to you, unless you eat the Flesh of the Son of Man and drink his Blood, you do not have life within you.” For life-long Catholics, the words have a familiar sound. But for his first century Jewish audience the shocking realism of the words would have been difficult to accept. So difficult, that many of his followers abandoned him.
Yet, how precious is our acceptance of and belief in these words! In an instant, these words speak volumes of Jesus’ promise to remain with and in those who follow him. What more dramatic illustration of this promise could there be than our taking his body and blood into our own bodies? In addition, the Christian tradition will capitalize on these words to reinforce the sanctity of our life in the flesh and, most pointedly, the statement of the Creeds that speak of belief in the resurrection of the body—that is, our bodies. The tradition will refer to the Eucharist as the “medicine of immortality,” the implication being that the flesh and blood of Jesus becomes the principle of, the seed of our eternal life.
We are invited today to allow ourselves to listen carefully to Jesus’ words and reflect on whether or not we allow ourselves to be drawn into their realism and the promises these words make. The moment of our Eucharistic communion today can become a true moment of intimate communion with the One who remains with me/us. And, in the spirit of these Easter days, we can renew our hope in the outlandish promise of the resurrection of our own bodies along with the risen body of Jesus.
By Richard Gabuzda