The Holy Eucharist

The Holy Eucharist

REALITY OR SYMBOL? (2)

We must eat the Flesh and drink the Blood of the Lord because that is the way that we come to participate in him and thus, finally, in the life of the Father.

Is this a hard doctrine? At the conclusion of the Eucharistic discourse, Jesus practically lost his entire Church: “When many of his disciples heard it, they said ‘This teaching is difficult; who can accept it?” (John 6:60). Again, if he were speaking only at the symbolic level, why would this be hard to accept?… The very resistance of his disciples to the bread of life discourse implies that they understood Jesus only too well and grasped that he was making a qualitatively different kind of assertion. [So] “many of his disciples turned back and no longer went about with him” (John 6:66). Jesus then turned to…the Twelve, and asked…: “Do you also want to go away?” (John 6:67). There is something terrible and telling in that question, as though Jesus were posing it not only to the little band gathered around him, but to all of his prospective disciples up and down the ages. One senses that…a standing or falling point has been reached, that somehow being a disciple of Jesus is intimately tied up with how one stands in regard to the Eucharist.

In response to Jesus’ question, Peter, as is often the case in the Gospels, spoke for the group: “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” (John 6:68-69). It is a Petrine confession that grounds and guarantees the survival of the Church. This explicit confession of Jesus as the Holy One of God is bound up with the implicit confession of faith in the Eucharist as truly the Body and Blood of the Lord. When the two declarations are made in tandem, John is telling us, the Church perdures.

Robert Barron, Eucharist, (2021)
©Word on Fire Catholic Ministries, Park Ridge, IL