Homily – August 26, 2018

The core message of today’s gospel is in the exchange Jesus had with his disciples, not the crowd but his close followers. ‘Unless you eat my flesh and drink my blood you cannot have life in you … this is a hard teaching and who can take it? Many of his disciples walked with him no more.

Seeing many of his friends and disciples walk away, distancing themselves from himself, Jesus asked Peter, ‘do you also wish to go away’? We hear Peter’s response, ‘Lord to whom can we go, you have the words of eternal life.’

Peter couldn’t get his head around what Jesus was talking about, seeing the son of man ascending to where he was before, eating his flesh, drinking his blood, this was all so confusing, but Peter had formed a bond with Jesus and trusted what Jesus said and trusted that what he said was true. When Jesus challenged Peter,’ will you also go away? Peter’s reply ‘Lord to whom shall we go? We have come to know and believe that you have the words of everlasting life.’ In other words, I’m sticking with you.

The people’s complaint, this is a hard saying and who can take it is echoed today when men and women walk away from challenges and demands such as, love one another as I loved you and go the way of bigotry and racism. Forgive others as God has forgiven you and hold on to grudges and resentment for years. Give your cloak to those who ask for it, share your bread with the hungry and call the people on welfare as lazy bums living off hardworking taxpayers. Welcome the stranger and call immigrants and refugees as freeloaders looking for hand outs. Men and women still find the teachings of Jesus hard sayings and in their own ways, walk with him no more.

It is not easy to be a follower of Jesus, to live by his teachings, to follow his example. We do so by the grace of God and strengthened by this Mass where are nourished by the body and blood of Jesus. He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood lives in me and I live in him/her.

The recent exposes of sexual abuse and the lack of leadership and integrity among cardinals, bishops and priests have made many people wonder if they can walk with the church anymore, a church that has let them down, embarrassed them and disappointed them. It is a decision they alone can make. But Peter’s words are still true; you have the words of everlasting life. The teachings and example of Jesus that come to us in and through the church are words that can bring us to everlasting life.

At this Mass, at every Mass we celebrate the wonder, Lord by your cross and resurrection you have set us free, you are the savior of the world. In this time of expose’ and shame may we be strengthened to echo the words of the prophet Joshua from our first reading, ‘as for me and my house we will serve the Lord’ in this one, holy, catholic, apostolic and wounded church which still offers us the words of everlasting life.