Sacraments are outward, visible sign of union between Jesus, His Church
John 6: 56-65 NRSV
Those who eat My flesh and drink My blood abide in Me, and I in them. Just as the living Father sent Me, and I live because of the Father, so whoever eats Me will live because of Me.
This is the bread that came down from heaven, not like that which your ancestors ate, and they died. But the one who eats this bread will live for ever.’ He said these things while he was teaching in the synagogue at Capernaum.
When many of His disciples heard it, 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 see the Son of Man ascend to where he was before! The Spirit gives life; the flesh counts for nothing. The words I have spoken to you—they are full of the Spirit and life. Yet there are some of you who do not believe.” For Jesus had known from the beginning which of them did not believe and who would betray him. He went on to say, “This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless the Father has enabled them.”
No wonder early Christians were accused of being cannibals!
It’s one that has perplexed the greatest theologians throughout time, probably because they are thinking with their heads more than their hearts. It was after hearing those difficult words that “many of his disciples turned back and no longer followed him.”
When Jesus asked the disciples,“You do not want to leave too, do you?” Simon Peter answered Him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe and to know that you are the Holy One of God.”
We Trust You, Lord.
Trust is an interesting word. I think we trust one another less and less in our world today. We have to hover over our children to keep them safe. We have to stay on top of our records to guard from identity theft. There’s so much information in the media and on the Internet that we cannot tell what is reliable.
Yes, we give our credit card to waiters in restaurants, not certain if they will run up several thousand dollar purchases on it. But we trust they won’t.
We give our heart to the person we marry. We aren’t certain they won’t walk out on us and create endless heartaches and headaches during a divorce. But we believe in them and trust they won’t.
How many of you knew how to work a smart phone, a Kindle, or an iPad before you bought it? But you buy it anyway, trusting it will work.
Many of Jesus’ followers just wouldn’t “buy” his difficult teaching. They walked away. But, how else could Jesus have explained this mystical, sacred ritual, Holy Communion, in words we could understand?
Even the scientific genius Einstein said, “It would be possible to describe everything scientifically, but it would make no sense; it would be without meaning, as if you described a Beethoven symphony as a variation of wave pressure.”
So not-always-knowing-beyond-a-reasonable-doubt doesn’t prevent us from trusting and believing in something, someone, sometimes. And that is what today’s gospel is all about: trusting Jesus’ words of mystery.
Einstein also told us, “The most beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious. Mystery is the source of all true art and all science.”
Einstein explains what we find unexplainable, stating, “We are in the position of a little child entering a huge library filled with books in many different languages.
“The child knows someone must have written those books. It does not know how. It does not understand the languages in which they are written. The child dimly suspects a mysterious order in the arrangement of the books but doesn’t know what it is.
“That, it seems to me, is the attitude of even the most intelligent human being toward God. We see a universe marvelously arranged and obeying certain laws, but only dimly understand these laws. Our limited minds cannot grasp the mysterious force that moves the constellations.”
Protestant Reformer Martin Luther tried to explain the difficult words of the text in his 1527 treatise, This Is My Body:
“To give a simple illustration of what takes place in this eating: It is as if a wolf devoured a sheep and the sheep were so powerful-a-food that it transformed the wolf and turned him into a sheep.
“So, when we eat Christ’s flesh physically and spiritually, the food-is-so-powerful that it transforms us into itself and out of fleshly, sinful mortal[s] into spiritual, holy, living [persons].”
A professor at seminary offered: “When you buy a valentine card for someone you love, you are actually giving more than the card. The card is not just a card; it encompasses your love.”
In a few weeks my son and his fiance will be taking their marriage vows. Among the words said at the service will be these, which also help us to understand this difficult passage:
“The rings, the lighting of the Unity Candle, the signing of the marriage license … like sharing of the bread and cup, and use of water at baptism, are all the outward and visible signs of an inward and spiritual grace, signifying to us the union between Jesus Christ and His church.
Whenever we share in any of these Sacraments, we are partaking of an outward and visible sign — receiving and eating and drinking of what is going on inside us through God’s grace — which signifies our union with Jesus Christ as His Church.”