The readings for this post can be found by clicking here.
When I first started teaching, my thought was that if I could simply present in a coherent and logical way the beauty of the content of the faith, then students would be convinced to follow Jesus and life would be wonderful. But I was naïve. My students needed to know Jesus. Some people really believe that if we people give lots of information about Jesus they will believe. But I had students who knew that material, but they did not believe a lick of it. While some students do believe when theological knowledge is presented, for most, it is the case that they need the relationship first so they know what to do with the knowledge they are learning.
But today’s gospel shows us that sometimes knowledge is not enough. Or, sometimes it is the case that if there is no personal relationship, either with God or at least with the teacher, then it can be quite difficult to accept the message of the faith.
That is what happens today. Jesus is saying something that is quite difficult for people to hear. Unless a person eats the flesh of the Son of God, and drinks his blood, that person has no life in them. These are not easy words to hear. The word that is used for “flesh” is just that – sarx (σαρχ). It is literally flesh, not body. So to eat human flesh and to drink human blood would certainly seem quite strange indeed.
But, not for those disciples who remained with Jesus. They did not know where else they would go. Because they had this powerful relationship with Jesus, they could understand what Jesus meant. Jesus had the words of eternal life. There is no one else who can provide this type of life-giving relationship. Only Jesus.
We are also reminded that sometimes the message of the gospel is hard. Many left after hearing Jesus talk this way. They went back to their previous way of life. There are many passages that are tough. The gospel can be tough because what it asks of us, what it challenges us to do seems simply too much. Love enemies? Forgive seven times seventy times? These seem to be really hard sayings.
It can even be tough to trust Jesus. Sometimes it can seem easier simply to do everything ourselves. To stay in control. To take care of everything on our own. But as humans we are made for more than ourselves. We are not meant to do everything ourselves. We are meant for relationship.
This is because God is about relationship. The Trinity, Father, Son and Holy Spirit are a community of love that is so perfect, so powerful, they are one. On a human level, we learn from the book of Genesis that a man and woman marry so that the two can become one.
And so the disciples in today’s gospel remind us that it is Jesus that has the words of eternal life. And so as we spend time with Jesus today, seek to remember that we are made for relationship with God, with Jesus. We are not meant to be alone, because it is Jesus that has the words of eternal life. It is Jesus who has the message of faith, a message that helps us to see that we are never alone. For as we learn in the book of Genesis, it is not good for us to be alone. And it is especially not good for us when we decide we can do things on our own. It is especially difficult when we turn away from Jesus.
This is why it is so important to listen to Jesus, to go to that quiet place where we can hear him speak to us, where we can simply be with him. Jesus modeled this behavior for us by going off by himself to pray to the Father.
So today take that time to know that you are not alone, that you are loved more than you can know, that mercy and forgiveness awaits you when you repent, and that it is only this relationship with Jesus that can give this to us.