“This saying is hard, who can accept it?” These words spoken by the disciples at the beginning of today’s gospel (John 6:60-69) come at the end of a long sermon given by Jesus (John 6:22-59). Basically, he has been saying that if the people want real nourishment, they must come to them. He will feed them with his word and wisdom and especially with his very own flesh and blood. Several times his listeners have questioned how this could be, but Jesus continues to affirm his claim to feed them through his word and sacrament. However, many could not accept his teaching and left finding the teaching too hard. When Jesus questions the twelve if they too want to leave, Peter speaks up and says, “Master, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.”
The past several weeks, the Catholic Church has been shamed by the revelation that some clergy, including priests and bishops, have been guilty of abuse of seminarians and adolescents. Furthermore, there were often attempts to cover up the abuse. While the Church in America has made significant strides in the past 20 years to eliminate abuse, those who were victimized in the past still suffer the after effects. We need to pray for them and their healing.
In the wake of these scandals, one might be tempted to leave the faith. To paraphrase the opening of the gospel in regard to our belief that the Church is the Body of Christ, one might ask: “This saying is hard, who can accept it?” But then we are reminded that Jesus likened the Church to a dragnet cast into the sea to bring in bad fish as well as good (Matt 13:47-50), and a field that had tares mixed up with wheat (Matt 13:24). In a different vein, he said to the apostles in Luke’s gospel, “He who hears you hears me and he who rejects you rejects me.” And in Matthew’s gospel, he ends with these promising words, “And know that I am with you until the end of the world.” (Matt 28:20)
Besides… “to whom shall we go? You (Jesus) have the words of eternal life.”
Again, let us pray for the victims and the development of a process in the Church and wider society to ensure the safety of our young people.