Words of Life
Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood abide in me, and I in them. Just as the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so whoever eats me will live because of me. This is the bread that came down from heaven, not like that which your ancestors ate, and they died. But the one who eats this bread will live forever.” He said these things while he was teaching in the synagogue at Capernaum. When many of his disciples heard it, they said, “This teaching is difficult; who can accept it?” But Jesus, being aware that his disciples were complaining about it, said to them, “Does this offend you? Then what if you were to see the Son of Man ascending to where he was before? It is the spirit that gives life; the flesh is useless. The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life. But among you there are some who do not believe.” For Jesus knew from the first who were the ones that did not believe, and who was the one that would betray him. And he said, “For this reason I have told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted by the Father.” Because of this many of his disciples turned back and no longer went about with him. So Jesus asked the twelve, “Do you also wish to go away?” Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom can we go? You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe and know that you are the Holy One of God.” (John 6:56-69)
Reportedly Flannery O’Connor, riffed on the words of Jesus when he said, ‘the truth shall set you free,’ by saying, ‘the truth shall make you odd.’ Increasingly Christian practice is considered quaint, old-fashioned, and even odd by many. Even so, where else are sacraments that unify and bear witness to the vulnerable at the center of common life? Who else suggests all of us need a bath and a meal of the sort that Jesus established?
It is countercultural to hear Jesus’s willingness to lose disciples who could not abide his teaching. At the end of this passage, Jesus asks a defining question to the twelve, the core, ‘do you also wish to go away?’ Simon Peter’s answer echoes in my ears, ‘Lord, to whom can we go? You have the words of eternal life. You are the Holy One of God.’
Jesus challenges the disciples to steer themselves to live the moral imagination of the reign of God. The gospel’s call to practice racial justice is counter cultural and should be offensive to the life-denying practices of White Supremacy. Challenging disciples to increase planetary health raises the denials and fragility that make us turn our hearts away before our practices change. How many record wildfires or epic rainfalls or days in the ninety-degree range do we need to consider offensive questions for some but critical questions for the earth? Where else would we go but the moral imagination of Jesus? Are we ready to hear the words of life?