Many of the disciples of Jesus who were listening said,
“This saying is hard; who can accept it?”
Since Jesus knew that his disciples were murmuring about this,
he said to them, “Does this shock you?
What if you were to see the Son of Man ascending to where he was before?
It is the Spirit that gives life, while the flesh is of no avail.
The words I have spoken to you are Spirit and life.
But there are some of you who do not believe.”
Jesus knew from the beginning the ones who would not believe
and the one who would betray him.
And he said, “For this reason I have told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted him by my Father.”
As a result of this,
many of his disciples returned to their former way of life
and no longer walked with him.
Jesus then said to the Twelve, “Do you also want to leave?”
Simon Peter answered him, “Master, to whom shall we go?
You have the words of eternal life.
We have come to believe
and are convinced that you are the Holy One of God.”
6:62 the Son of man: The heavenly figure described in Dan 7:13.
6:63 the Spirit … the flesh: A contrast between the Spirit’s ability to enlighten our minds (14:26) and human reason’s inability to comprehend revealed truths apart from faith (8:15). It is this earthbound perspective that is profitless in the face of divine mysteries. Note that Jesus is not speaking of his own “flesh”, which does in fact give life to the world (6:51; Eph 2:13–16; Heb 10:10) (CCC 737).
6:66 his disciples drew back: This is the only instance in the Gospels where followers of Jesus abandon him in such large numbers. Even so, Jesus still makes no effort to soften his words or clear up potential misunderstandings about his eucharistic teaching (CCC 1336).
6:69 the Holy One: A title for Jesus also in Mk 1:24; Lk 4:34; and Acts 3:14; Here it is a confession of faith by Peter, who believes the words of Christ from the heart, even though his head does not yet understand the mysteries revealed in the discourse (6:35–58).
Friends, we come today to the end of the extraordinary sixth chapter of John’s Gospel. He has told his listeners, “Unless you gnaw on the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you.” We hear that “many of Jesus’ disciples …said, ‘This saying is hard; who can accept it.’” Knowing their murmuring, Jesus says, “Does this shock you?” Now, if his words were meant in a symbolic sense, they wouldn’t have had this explosive, shocking effect on his listeners. Given every opportunity to clarify his meaning along symbolic lines, Jesus does nothing of the kind.
What follows from these words of the Lord is one of the saddest moments in the New Testament: the Scripture tells us that most of his followers abandoned him. But when Jesus asks whether his disciples will leave, too, Peter speaks for the Twelve: “Master, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe and are convinced that you are the Holy One of God.”
The Church, down through the ages to the present day, has stood with Peter. Jesus is not one interesting teacher among many; he is the only one, the one with the words of eternal life, indeed, the Holy One of God. And he comes to us through the flesh and blood of the Eucharist.
– Bishop Robert Barron
May the virtues of faith, hope, and love go with you today – DV.