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Friends, in today’s Gospel, Jesus declares that “unless you eat the Flesh of the Son of Man and drink his Blood, you do not have life within you.”

The talk that Jesus gave concerning the sacrament of his Body and Blood was quite literally revolting. It is a rather remarkable understatement when John writes, “The Jews quarreled among themselves, saying, ‘How can this man give us his Flesh to eat?’”

So what does Jesus do when confronted with this objection? One would think that he would offer a metaphorical or symbolic interpretation of his words. Instead, he intensifies what he had said.

How do we appropriate this shocking talk? We honor these unnerving words of Jesus, resisting all attempts to explain them away. We affirm the doctrine of “Real Presence.” Vatican II re-expressed the traditional Catholic belief when it taught that, though Jesus is present to us in any number of ways—in the proclamation of the Gospel, in the gathering of two or three in his name, in the poor and suffering—he is nevertheless present in a qualitatively different way in the Eucharist.