Stay or Go. 21st Sunday OT

Here are links to the letters of Bishop Braxton and Pope Francis, which Bishop Braxton asked to be read at all Masses, printed in bulletins, and posted on websites. We didn't get them in the bulletin but I'll have paper copies available next weekend.

In this fourth and final consecutive passage from the Bread of Life discourse in John 6, we get to see the fallout from this teaching of Jesus. He’s been shocking and even disturbing them. You tell me, how would you react to a man who was telling you you’d live forever if you drank his blood? But the more they press Him, the more he just doubles down: Yes, I’m really saying that. You have to eat my Body and drink my Blood.

Many Christians react the same way today, and again, it’s no wonder. Surely Jesus means something symbolic or poetic here. But there’s a very good reason that belief can’t work. And it’s what we’re going to focus on this week. The first focus was the Eucharist as receiving Jesus, and the second was the Eucharist as offering Jesus. The third was the Eucharist as what makes us the Church and makes us one with each other, with all Christians, and with the people we love, even those who have died.

This final week is about rejection.

As the Bread of Life teaching ends, something dramatic happens. This crowd that’s been following Jesus everywhere… remember, these are the people He just miraculously fed with a few fish and loaves, the people who a few verses ago wanted to make Him king… this is the moment when many of them abandon Him. They were really into the multiplication of loaves, they dug His teaching up until now, but this Body-and-Blood stuff is too much and they walk away.

A crucial observation: He lets them. He watches them go. He doesn’t call after them, “hey, hold on a sec, it’s only a symbol!” Would Jesus have let people leave the Way, the Truth, and the Life, over a misunderstanding? No way. He watches them go because they’ve understood what He’s saying and they reject it. He says, “The words I have spoken to you are Spirit and life. But there are some of you who do not believe.” John explains: “Jesus knew from the start who would not believe and the one who would betray Him.”

Woah… did you catch that? This is the first reference in the Gospel to the betrayal of Judas. Is it an accident that it happens here? And let’s think now, when will Judas’ betrayal be completed? At the Last Supper, when the Bread of Life Jesus is talking about here is given for the first time.

These people wanted to make Him their King… and they wanted a king of a particular sort. Jesus is King, but not how they wanted. He’s a King who gives his Body and Blood, His very life, to His friends. He doesn’t rule from a distant palace and issue decrees to relieve us of the burden of freedom. He comes into our lives in a way so intimate, so close, that only God could do it.

This is the greatest moment of rejection Jesus will experience before His Passion, and it centers on the Eucharist. The tragic pattern continues, ever since. How many have walked away from Him? How many have heard His words of Spirit and life, and even received Him in the Eucharist, and still walked away? How many of us reject Him even now, receiving this Sacrament but withholding true conversion, accepting and embracing sin in our lives, choosing a million worldly concerns over deeper union with Jesus?

That’s all of us, in one way or another — what is sin but the rejection of Jesus? To think of the complete and vulnerable gift of Himself, and all the ways we reject and betray Him, is to understand more and more why this Christianity thing is all about mercy. So much mercy. Jesus, I’m so sorry. But along with that repentance comes such joy, because mercy is all we find. Jesus offering Himself again, and again, and again.

Maybe you’ve experienced rejection. Maybe remembering how that feels can help you appreciate the love that never stops offering Himself, never stops welcoming us back.

He wants to be our food… and it’s easy to relate to the confused crowd and their questioning because it is almost too much to believe. Even the Apostles didn’t accept it easily. “Will you leave me too?” “To whom should we go? You have the words of everlasting life.” It’s hardly a resounding affirmation. But it’s a beautiful, faith-filled refusal to abandon Him over a teaching that stretches their faith.

And with a lifetime of living it and praying it, the beauty and fittingness start to come in to focus. By the time they’re writing the New Testament, after seeing His Resurrection and Ascension, they’re able to understand and believe: the perfection of Jesus’ gift of Himself, the completeness of it, the humility, the simplicity. To be made of Jesus. To become what we eat.

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