Whose fault is it of not knowing the truth?

by May Tam
Solemnity of the Body and Blood of Christ

DT 8:2-3, 14B-16A

1 Corinthians 10:16-17

John 6:51 - 58

In hindsight, we are able to see in today's gospel reading the sublime sacramental theology of the Eucharist in Jesus' Bread of Life discourse. “Flesh” points to His incarnate life (a human being in his weakness and mortality) and “blood” points to His real death (rf Jn 1:14, Ez 39:18-19). To be eaten and drunk refers to His violent death when His flesh is broken and His blood is spilled (rf Ps 79:2-3, Ez 32:5-6, Zep 1:17, Pope Benedict XVI: Jesus of Nazareth Holy Week P. 130-134). To take in Jesus' flesh and blood is to “receive in faith......the Lord Himself” whose “body and blood,” through the sacrifice of His life on the cross, have become for us the nourishing food for eternal life (CCC1336).

But all these divine subtleties would not have been captured by the Galilean audience when they were spoken to at that time. Their rejection of Jesus is due to their misunderstanding of His incendiary language but who can blame them? The provocative words of “eating flesh” and “drinking blood” are repugnant even to some believers today, so what about to a culture which so strictly observes the dietary law and forbids eating unclean meat and drinking blood? (Lev 11, 17:10-14; Deut 14). However, beyond the surface, one may realize that it is pride that prevents the Jews from accepting the truth. “What sign, then, dost thou, that we may see and believe thee? What work dost thou perform?” (Jn 6:30). Ironically, these are the people who have just witnessed or even benefited from the multiplication of the loaves miracle (Jn 6:11-14). Interesting enough, paralleled to the “living bread” is the “living water” offered by Jesus to the Samaritan woman (Jn 6:51, 4:10). Though they both pertain to the divine teaching of eternal life, to the woman of Samaria, the “spring of water welling up to eternal life” is eagerly sought and well received, whereas to the Jews, the “living bread that come down from heaven” is rebuffed and repudiated (Jn 6:11-14, 51). Their persistent inability to understand is partly due to their materialistic aspirations and outlooks but largely as a result of their arrogance, not ignorance (rf Jn 6:26). Thus, they challenge Jesus, a carpenter's son, by putting Him on par with Moses who gives them the visible bread.

God's promise of Humanity's salvation is foretold in the Old Testament (Sir 24:20-21, Prv 9:2-5, Wis 16: 20, 26, Is 54:13, Jer 31:33-34). In their arrogance, the Jews fail to receive God's offer in the manner He wants them to receive, namely, through Jesus. They fail to see that the very thing they reject (Jesus being the Son of God) is the very thing God the Father has prepared for their salvation. What the Jews did two thousand years ago is, in a similar way, what we are very often doing now. Preaching a philosophy of life that focuses on physical and material needs, our present culture fails to recognize the ultimate reality of spiritual life and the necessity of God's salvation.

Despising God's precepts and rejecting His words, we may excuse ourselves like the ancient Jews that it is God's fault that we do not understand His plan, except this time we have been told, shown and fully know that “God gave His only Son so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life” (Jn 3:16). Would the same old vice of pride deprive us once again in accepting the truth and our own salvation?