The people murmured: “This saying is hard. Who can accept it?”
Which saying? The one we heard last Sunday. My flesh is true food and my blood true drink. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me, and I in him. The one who feeds on Me will have life because of me.
Christ, the man, flesh and blood, born of the womb of Mary. He possesses divine life, eternally flowing into Him from the Father. Infinite life. The Holy Spirit, Who has breathed life into everything that lives. This particular Galilean fellow, made of bones and cells and stuff, just like us. He gives His body and blood as the gift of divine life for us. The Holy Spirit gives life–through the flesh and blood of Christ.
Ok: A hard saying, which demands faith in the Incarnation and the Blessed Sacrament of the altar. He anticipated that His words would push some into disbelief.
The saying about the Body of the Galilean rabbi isn’t the only hard one involving flesh and blood in this Sunday’s readings, though. What about St. Paul quoting Christ quoting Genesis? A man shall join with his wife and become one flesh.
One flesh. Sex, marriage, procreation, and permanence go together. Like root beer and foam go together, or chips and salsa, or music and dancing. These are flesh-and-blood facts of life, brought to us by God Himself. You and me and baby makes three.
Maybe the idea that we all come into the world in this somewhat messy way; this one-flesh thing… maybe it strikes us as a little odd, if we think about it too meticulously. But God has His beautiful reasons.
The birds and the bees are a fact of life. Like “This is My Body,” and “This is My Blood,” is a fact of Christian life.
We didn’t make up that marriage is the permanent bond of man and woman. We didn’t make up that the Holy Mass gives us Christ’s true flesh. We Catholics just take the Lord at His word. We believe. We know that, if we believe, then maybe we can begin to understand. But if we don’t totally believe, we will never understand at all.
Anyway: taken all together, the facts of life, given by God in today’s readings: fleshy. Altogether fleshy. Husband and wife: one, inseparable flesh. Holy Communion: Christ’s flesh and blood to eat and drink. Almighty God does not despise human flesh. To the contrary, He has embraced it more intimately than we can conceive.
Hence, the paradox: In the same breath with which the Lord lays down these stunning affirmations of intense fleshiness, He also says, “it is the spirit that gives life; the flesh is of no avail. The words I speak to you are spirit and life.”
The flesh has life. The flesh even has life to give. But the flesh itself is not ‘life.’ God wills to give us life in these muscles and bones of ours. He wills that we receive our lives through our parents’ flesh and bones. He wills that we receive eternal life through His incarnate Son’s living flesh.
But our life is not just in the flesh. It’s not just breakfast, lunch, dinner, supper, tv, and bed. Our life is God. God is immeasurably greater than all flesh and blood. God is so pure and spiritual that we cannot begin to imagine, cannot begin to conceive. He is the Beauty of everything beautiful, the Truth of everything true. He is our goal. God, purely God, awesomely, mysteriously God.
Everything Christ ever said has one fundamental meaning for us: that we would never shoot for anything less than God Himself.