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Friends, we come today to the end of the extraordinary sixth chapter of John’s Gospel. Jesus has told his listeners, “Unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you do not have life within you.”

Now, we hear that “many of the disciples of Jesus . . . 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 many 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, he is the Holy One of God. And he comes to us through the Flesh and Blood of the Eucharist.