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At times God asks for too much

We are at the end of Jesus’ discourse in the synagogue at Capernaum. The Jews, who had sought him as a miracle worker, are faced with a staggering dilemma: could they eat of him as bread which came down from heaven. 

 The proposal can be accepted or rejected, but not negotiated, modified, made more acceptable by the cancellation of some of its demands. 

The choice, which is not only an act of the mind and heart, but also an act of approaching to receive the bread of the Eucharist in which Christ is really present, is offered to the disciples.

Accepting Christ in the Eucharist is an incomprehensible offer. The disciples are asked to leave the world of the flesh and enter the world of the Spirit to understand it. 

Purely human and earthly wisdom is unable to enter into the mysteries of God. 

It should not be surprising, then, that the gospel cannot be accepted by those who insist on wanting to reconcile with the human common sense.

The response to this invitation is depressing, but predictable: “After this many disciples withdrew and no longer followed him.”

These disciples, also present in our communities, are not bad. They should not be considered traitors; they are just consistent. They realise that the Master is demanding too much; they are unwilling to give their consent and withdraw. 

Jesus respects their freedom, does not oblige them to share his choice, nor force them to eat his flesh. Maybe they will look back, indeed, we are confident that they will review their position, especially those who approach the Eucharist each day will give them a witness of authentic Christian life.

Jesus deluded the expectations of the majority of those who have followed him, but there is a group that, while not yet fully understanding what is involved in adhering to him, gives him its assent.

Faith is not based on evident and irrefutable proofs, but it is the loving adherence to a person. It is no wonder that this adhesion is accompanied always by doubt and perplexity, and many remain, even for a long time, hesitant.

To the Master’s question, “Will you also go away?” Peter, speaking in the plural, expresses the faith of all and says, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.” This is the profession of faith that Christ expects of us today.

The question remains hanging: “Who can ever feel worthy to approach the Eucharistic banquet? Who can be so rash as to compromise with Christ, in such solemn manner, to give one’s life with him?”

If the Eucharist was a reward for the righteous, certainly no one would dare receive it. But it is not the bread of angels; it is the food offered to the pilgrim people—sinners, weak, tired, in need of help on earth.

 In the account of the institution of the Eucharist, the evangelist, Matthew, reports Jesus’ words when he offers the cup of wine to his disciples: “Drink this, all of you, for this is my blood, the blood of the Covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins” (Matthew  26:27-28).

 It is not to celebrate our own purity and holiness that we approach the Eucharistic banquet, but to obtain from God the forgiveness of sins. 

To one who receives communion moral perfection is not required, but the disposition of the poor who recognise his unworthiness and his own misery and approaches him who can heal. 

For whoever receives it with this disposition of humble and sincere faith, the bread of the Eucharist becomes a medicine, it treats moral diseases, heals any wound, overcomes all sin.

λ Father Fernando Armellini cmf
     Claretian Publications