“This saying is hard; who can accept it?” (John 6:60). Part of the reason the Church gives us the Bread of Life Discourse every three years, is the recognition that we must come to terms with this ‘hard saying’ and challenging teaching. The Eucharist as Jesus’ True Presence is at the heart of our Catholic Christian Faith. And yet, it is now and always has been a difficult teaching. It requires faith, openness, trust in God. None of which comes easy.
This challenge of the Eucharist, the Bread of Life, of Jesus to accept in Faith this “hard saying’, is not solely for the wondrous Miracle, Gift, Truth, and Fruit of Mary’s Womb in the Eucharist. It is indeed a challenge for that – especially in this context of the Bread of Life Discourse of John 6. But it is equally a challenge for the whole of Gospel, of all of Jesus’ Words & Deeds. Hardly are these the only ‘hard sayings’ of Jesus! “Whoever divorces his/her spouse and marries another commits adultery” (Lk 16:18). “Some [will] renounce marriage for the sake of the kingdom of heaven” (Cf. Mt 19:9). “Whoever receives one child such as this in my name receives me” (Mt 18:5). “Bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you” (Lk 6:28). “Deny yourself, take up his cross, and follow me” (Mt 16:24). “You saw me a stranger and welcomed me” (Mt 25:38). “Sell what you have, and give to [the] poor” (Mk 10:21). “I say to you, [forgive your brother/sister] not seven times but seventy-seven times” (Mt 18:22). “I have come not to abolish [the Law] but to fulfill” (Mt 5:17). “If any one comes to me without hating his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple” (Lk 14:26). “Let the dead bury their dead” (Lk 9:60). “If he [the sinner] refuses to listen even to the Church, then treat him as you would a Gentile or a tax collector” (Mt 18:17). I could go on, for every page of the Gospel, of the New Testament Epistles, of the Old Testament Prophets, of the whole Scripture is filled with ‘hard sayings’. The whole of the Catechism of the Catholic Church is filled with ‘hard sayings’. But this ‘hardness’ is for our good, because it is the Truth that leads to Life. Remember the goal is not ease or comfort, the goal is salvation, holiness, and eternal life with God. “Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the road broad [i.e., easy] that leads to destruction, and those who enter through it are many. How narrow the gate and constricted the road [i.e., hard] that leads to life. And those who find it are few.” (Mt 7:13-14).
We hear this weekend one of the saddest and scariest verses in the Scripture: “As a result of this [hard saying], many [of] His disciples returned to their former way of life and no longer accompanied Him” (John 6:66) [666!!!] This brings us to a singular conclusion about the Eucharist – this Perfect and Supreme Source and Act of Communion and Union. The Eucharist is for Believers… and, for believers only. Both the doctrine and disciplines of the Christ and the Church, as well as personal honesty and institutional integrity, demand this fact. And no mere belief in the ‘hard saying’ of the True Presence of Christ in the Eucharist, but the lived Catholic Christian Discipleship of all Christ’s ‘hard sayings’ lived out in the world. By this measure, no one could every present themselves for reception. Of course, only sinners (all of us!) ever receive Jesus in the Eucharist, but only ever repentant & faithful sinners should receive Jesus. Yet, another ‘hard saying!”
Holy Family, Centered on the Bread of Life, Pray for us.
~ Fr Jeremy M. Gries