First reading: Jos. 24:1–2a,15–18b
Joshua gathered together all the tribes of Israel at Shechem, summoning their elders, their leaders, their judges, and their officers. When they stood in ranks before God, Joshua addressed all the people: “If it does not please you to serve the LORD, decide today whom you will serve, the gods your fathers served beyond the River or the gods of the Amorites in whose country you are now dwelling. As for me and my household, we will serve the LORD.”
But the people answered, “Far be it from us to forsake the LORD for the service of other gods. For it was the LORD, our God, who brought us and our fathers up out of the land of Egypt, out of a state of slavery. He performed those great miracles before our very eyes and protected us along our entire journey and among the peoples through whom we passed. Therefore we also will serve the LORD, for he is our God.”
Second reading: Eph. 5:21–32
Brothers and sisters: Be subordinate to one another out of reverence for Christ. Wives should be subordinate to their husbands as to the Lord. For the husband is head of his wife just as Christ is head of the church, he himself the savior of the body. As the church is subordinate to Christ, so wives should be subordinate to their husbands in everything. Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ loved the church and handed himself over for her to sanctify her, cleansing her by the bath of water with the word, that he might present to himself the church in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. So also husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. For no one hates his own flesh but rather nourishes and cherishes it, even as Christ does the church, because we are members of his body.
For this reason a man shall leave his father and his mother
and be joined to his wife,
and the two shall become one flesh.
This is a great mystery, but I speak in reference to Christ and the church.
Gospel: Jn. 6:60–69
Many of Jesus’ disciples who were listening said, “This saying is hard; who can accept it?” Since Jesus knew that his disciples were murmuring about this, he said to them, “Does this shock you? What if you were to see the Son of Man ascending to where he was before? It is the spirit that gives life, while the flesh is of no avail. The words I have spoken to you are Spirit and life. But there are some of you who do not believe.” Jesus knew from the beginning the ones who would not believe and the one who would betray him. And he said, “For this reason I have told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted him by my Father.”
As a result of this, many of his disciples returned to their former way of life and no longer accompanied him. Jesus then said to the Twelve, “Do you also want to leave?” Simon Peter answered him, “Master, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe and are convinced that you are the Holy One of God.”
In other words Fr. Raymun J. Festin, SVD (Rome)
The background of today’s Gospel is Jesus’ discourse on the Bread of Life. “I am the Bread of Life. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood lives in me, and I live in him,” He declares.
This statement caused a lot of debate, argument, grumbling, murmuring, and even confusion among his disciples. “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?” some of them asked. Others exclaimed, “This saying is hard; who can accept it?”
What was at stake here for Jesus’ disciple was something of vital importance. They found themselves at the crossroads. Either they remained with Jesus or abandoned him. Either they believed in His words, or they did not believe in these.
Put another way, what was at stake for the disciples was this: either they believed in the Holy Eucharist or did not believe it.
There was no middle way.
They had a fundamental choice to make, a life-defining decision: for Jesus or against Jesus.
Many of Jesus’ followers turned back and would not go with Him anymore.
When Jesus said, “My flesh is real food, and my blood real drink,” did He mean it literally or figuratively? Did Jesus mean His words symbolically or factually?
This question actually sets us apart from the Protestants. For them and all other Christian denominations and sects, Jesus’ words are figurative, metaphorical, symbolic, or even allegorical.
I will mention two supporting facts that prove the Jesus’ words are literal.
First, the disciples who heard Jesus saying, “My flesh is real food, and my blood real drink,” grumbled, “This teaching is too hard.”
John’s Gospel uses the Greek word skleros for the adjective “hard,” which is the root word of the English term sclerosis. Now, skleros literally means disagreeable, too harsh to bear, very difficult to digest, or even offensive to consider.
If the disciples understood Jesus’ words in the figurative sense, they would not have grumbled. They would not have complained that Jesus’ teaching on the Bread of Life was too hard (skleros).
But grumble they did. This only proves that Jesus meant His words literally, just as the disciples understood them literally.
Second, when many of His disciples left Him, Jesus did not call them back. Jesus did not say to those who left Him, “Hoy, balik kayo! (Come back!) What I told you about the Bread of Life is just, you know, figurative or symbolic. Kayo naman, di mabiro. (I’m just kidding, you know.) Come back to me.”
No, Jesus did not say that. He just let them go. He meant His words literally.
In the Holy Mass, the priest repeats the words of Jesus at the last supper, “This is my Body…”
Well, when we are spiritually hungry, to whom shall we go?