The human story is one filled with broken dreams. Created in the image of God, we can fashion marvelous possibilities of success, fame and pleasure, and spend much of our time and effort trying to make at least some of these dreams come true. But we will always encounter along the way people or circumstances that will shatter those dreams. Our dreams will or will not be realized based on the decisions that we make which determine the course of our lives. We are faced with these decisions every day.
Today, we witness a very important "moment of decision" faced by Jesus' disciples. Will they continue to follow him in a way that will bind them into a covenanted community - diverse yet one people? Or will they, too, quarrel among themselves, walk away and return to their former lives? Their decision will not only connect them to Jesus, but to each other and will also affect each and every day of their lives.
During the last few weeks, our gospels have invited us to reflect on Jesus' "Bread of Life Discourse.” And today we are told that "many" of Jesus' disciples found his teaching too hard to take. But what exactly has Jesus been teaching?
He spoke about coming down from heaven and returning there and his listeners would not have missed his claim to be a heavenly being. But he also claims to be the bread that has come down from heaven and that if they want to share "eternal life" they must eat his flesh and drink his blood.
Jesus doesn’t make any attempt to soften his words or to make his message easier for his listeners to hear. Making the meaning of the words symbolic would soften the impact they have on all of us. In the original language of the Gospel, he is literally speaking about eating flesh and drinking blood and not some symbolic meal. Jesus not only scandalizes those gathered to listen to him, he also offends his own followers.
It would be a lot for anyone to absorb.
Jesus was never into the "numbers game." He started with an enthusiastic crowd that wanted to make him king. Now the crowd is confused, upset and angry. They have only had partial vision to this point. They have seen through a glass darkly. But Jesus is so much more than what the crowd thinks, so much more than who we think he is. We believe that Jesus is the Word made flesh, God's total act of communication with us. This gift continues to grow and mature as we hear again the Word proclaimed to us today and as we do what Jesus has asked us to do – to eat his flesh and drink his blood.
Like the disciples, we face that same decision, from this moment on, at every moment. We are a diverse group of folks, and yet if we make the right decision, we can become one people, grounded and united in our religious identity as children of the covenant. Once again we are asked to make a life-decision that will not only bind us together but will also affect how we will live each day of our lives.
We celebrate this act of faith together, grateful for the Bread that gives us eternal life and by which we, though many, are one.