Jesus said to the people: “Very truly, I tell you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you.”
When many of his disciples heard this, they said: “This teaching is difficult; who can accept it?”
But Jesus, being aware that his disciples were complaining about it, said to them, “Does this offend you? Then what if you were to see the Son of Man ascending to where he was before? It is the spirit that gives life; the flesh is useless. The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life. But among you there are some who do not believe.” For Jesus knew from the first who were the ones that did not believe, and who was the one that would betray him.
And he said, “For this reason I have told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted them by my Father.”
Because of this many of his disciples turned back, and no longer went about with him. So Jesus asked the twelve, “Do you also wish to go away?”
Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom can we go? You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe and know that you are the Holy One of God.”
“This teaching is difficult. Who can accept it?”
When I began to explore the Catholic faith in my early twenties, there were a few of the Church’s teachings that I found difficult. Wisely, I was encouraged by some close friends not to just decide to agree or disagree with what I was learning, but to dig deeper into where the teachings came from, when and why they were instituted, and what they meant for me personally. It was enlightening. The more I researched the more I came to the realization that the Church deeply cares for her people. I began to see that the teachings I was finding difficult to understand were instituted out of love for us and concern for our salvation. This also led me to a greater trust for not only the authority of the Church but also the processes she uses.
When I read this gospel, I imagined that it was difficult for Jesus to watch some of His followers walk away because of what He was saying. I wonder if He was tempted to run after them to try and change their minds about leaving. Why didn’t He? My guess is that the message He was conveying was too important to compromise. Jesus said to them, “Very truly I tell you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you.” (John 6:53)
“And therefore receive and eat the body of Christ, yes, you that have become members of Christ in the body of Christ; receive and drink the blood of Christ. In order not to be scattered and separated, eat what binds you together; in order not to seem cheap in your own estimation, drink the price that was paid for you. Just as this turns into you when you eat and drink it, so you for your part turn into the body of Christ when you live devout and obedient lives.” (St. Augustine, Sermon 228B)
I want this life that Jesus is promising us. I want to drink in every ounce of Him so I can be closer to Him here on this earth and for eternity. I want to be so completely full of Him that I am overflowing, spilling over into every aspect of my circle of influence.
I can truly say that I have felt the presence of God in the Eucharist that I consume at mass and have felt His life within me. It is this Life that sustains me through every trial I face and gives me the grace to receive every blessing that God pours out for me.
The next time you have the privilege of receiving Jesus in the Eucharist, remember those words of St. Augustine. Eat what binds you together, drink the price that was paid for you, and feel the love that God pours out for you so that you can be united with Him for eternity.