21st Sunday of Ordinary Time (Ages 6-9): Spirit and Life
(Adults, the Bread of Life discourse concludes this week. It is complicated--for adults as well as for children :) You could begin by reading the Gospel aloud to the child. Alternatively, you could read the first paragraph of the reflection to the child, then read the Gospel, and then continue with the reflection.)
Last week, we took a break from listening to the accounts of Jesus and the disciples, to think instead about his mother Mary. We thought about how important it is that she says "yes" to the Plan of God, how important it is that she believes. In the Gospel for this Sunday we hear about another person who says "yes", another person who believes when so many others do not.
We return in our thinking to Jesus, the Bread of Life. He tells the people who have gathered around him,
“Very truly, I tell you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you.
Who is the Son of Man? This is a name we find in the Bible. It refers to a person who comes from God; it describes a person who is sent by God. Jesus understands that he is the Son of Man. Often he will use this name when he is talking about himself.
Jesus tells the people that they have no life in them if they do not eat the flesh and drink the blood of the Son of Man. Our flesh is our body; it is the part of us that we can touch. Our blood carries the life within us to all parts of our body--without it we cannot live. Jesus says, without his body and his blood, the people will have no life in them. They will not have Jesus' life in them.
Why would they want Jesus' life in them? They have their own life. What do we know about Jesus' life? We know that he has died and he is Risen. Jesus has eternal life. He will never die again.
The people do not know what to think about this, though.
When many of his disciples heard it, they said, “This teaching is difficult; who can accept it?”
They do not like the talk about eating the flesh and drinking the blood of the Son of Man. They have forgotten what Jesus has already said:
I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats of this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.”
Jesus has already told them that they will eat bread that is his body. He will give them bread. It will be his body. They just have to believe.
At the Last Supper, we know Jesus takes bread, blesses it, breaks it and gives it to his disciples saying, "Take, eat, this is my body." We know he takes the cup filled with wine, and after blessing it, he gives it to his friends, saying, "Take and drink. This is my blood." He says these words and it is so.
If we pick up bread and say "this is my body," is it so? Is the bread now our body? Nope. Our words do not make something be. Our words do not make something become. So how can Jesus do this?
The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life.
Jesus' words are not simply words at all. They are spirit. They are life. He calls, and the sheep follow. He commands, "Little girl, get up!", and a child who was dead is alive. He says, "this is my body, this is my blood," and bread and wine are ordinary no longer. Jesus speaks, and it is so.
Only One person can do this.
The people know who this One person is. They do not think this One person is Jesus.
Because of this many of his disciples turned back and no longer went about with him.
Jesus' own followers leave. He watches them go.
So Jesus asked the twelve, “Do you also wish to go away?”
This is it. What if everyone leaves? What will happen to the Plan of God? What will happen to the Kingdom?
Simon Peter answered him, “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.”
How can Simon Peter know that Jesus is the Holy One? How can he know that Jesus is of God? This is a knowing that can only come from God. This is a gift of the Holy Spirit, and Simon Peter has unwrapped that gift!
Simon Peter says, "yes." He believes.
He believes and so there are twelve apostles at the Last Supper instead of none.
He believes and people are at that table to receive the bread that is Holy, the wine that is Life.
He believes and so after Jesus has ascended into heaven, he speaks those same words that Jesus speaks--"This is my body; this is my blood"--and once again those words are Spirit and Life.
Simon Peter believes, and the Kingdom of God continues to build. We arrive at Mass to hear those same words spoken over and over, those words of Spirit. Those words of Life.
We believe, just as Simon Peter does, and we stretch out our hands to receive a taste of the Kingdom of God, to have Life within us.