We all have our morning voice. You know, the one that’s scratchy, raspy, scraggly, filled with all kinds of voice fluctuations. But as the day goes on, we recover our real voices. The voice gets stronger after an hour or two, after a coffee or two, after a donut or two, after a Mass or two. And our voices move from being raspy and inconsistent to consistent and much more solid. Only a drill sergeant has a strong voice from the moment they wake up. Notice they don’t hold operas and concerts at 7:00 in the morning. There are good reasons for that connected to the voice. The human voice is an interesting part of our makeup, and how it can change over a short period of time.
We’ve been listening to a Voice over the past four Sundays speak about a topic that goes right to the heart and soul of our faith. It hasn’t been an early morning voice that can be difficult to understand, although there are some who would wrongly consider it such. “What did he just say? Did he just say ‘Unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life within you?’ Why does he speak to us with his early morning voice where we cannot understand what he’s saying? Why is he talking so raspy about himself?”
Misguided questions they are. Jesus, when speaking about his flesh and blood, is using his 6:00 p.m. voice that he’s been belting out for 4 weeks now. A Voice that is strong, certain, filled with insight and power. It’s like he has the lead role in the Phantom of the Opera. Or Les Miserables. Remember when the crowds said, “No one has ever spoken like this before. Where did he get all this wisdom? How does he have a 6:00 p.m. opera voice at 8:00 in the morning?”
This is what the Eucharist is for us Catholics. It’s a 6:00 p.m. opera voice at whatever time of day we receive him.
As we gather each week, as many of us come forward to receive the Lord in our movements reserved for Sunday, we believe in our hearts and minds that we receive the real presence of Jesus. However, statistics don’t back that up. Statistics say that at least half of you don’t believe this Eucharistic truth. That you believe it’s purely symbolic.
I’ve been rattling my brain for some years now in the priesthood as to why even one Catholic does not place total faith in the truth of Who we receive a few moments after (singing) the Lamb of God. I must admit I have a difficult time understanding why that is. I wish that everyone, not just Catholics, but everyone, could visibly see the effects of the Eucharistic miracle that happened at a Mass I was presiding at just over five years ago. Where these words became visible: “My flesh is true food, my blood is true drink.”
We don’t want to part of the Catholic crowd who doubt these so powerful and reassuring words of Jesus. These loving and intimate words of our Lord. These words that are meant to be sung at an opera, and not treated as if they are mumbled and jumbled early morning words. “What did he say? Did he just say ‘My flesh is true food and my blood is true drink?’ It’s too early in the morning for me to understand that stuff! Jesus must have just woken up from sleep!” No, he didn’t just wake up. He’s wide awake!
In the 2nd reading today, St. Paul writes at the heart of this reading, “Try to understand what is the will of the Lord.” Thank you St. Paul. And this is where many good people get lost. To try to understand God’s will, at least in reference to the gift of the Eucharist, a lot of people end up giving up on God’s will. Probably because they want some hard proof that would water down the awe and mystery of the Eucharist. To understand God’s will in relation to Jesus’ words in John chapter 6 is to have the understanding that his body and blood is connected to our resurrection.
“Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life.” These are strong words from a strong Voice for any time of day. And they get even stronger; “And I will raise him on the last day.” That’s like the moment of the opera the entire audience has been waiting for to be sung with the strongest voice. That’s the hit song, the one everyone showed up for! Where everyone is tuned in and focused on that line belted out for the entire world to hear.
This is my prayer for all of us as we continue on this journey of faith that will culminate in our Lord’s presence. That we believe that Jesus’ words about the Eucharist were not spoken with an early morning raspy voice that is hard to understand, but instead the strongest Voice possible accepted with faith in our hearts. Don’t be part of the crowd, the Jewish authorities and religious leaders, who miss the moment that appears in front of them because the words are too difficult to understand. May we never treat our Lord like his words are raspy and broken. His teaching about himself comes directly from heaven, where all truth finds its starting point. Where the best operas are performed.
“Unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you do not have life within you.” We might be breathing, but if we don’t eat and drink the Lord, we don’t have life within us. Those words caused the Jewish leaders to quarrel amongst themselves and with Jesus himself. And next week’s Gospel we will see how these words caused many souls to walk away from him.
Those words have caused many Catholics to become unbelieving Catholics and ex-Catholics. They have been cause for Catholics to quarrel within our hearts and allow doubt to settle in. But Jesus is not speaking symbolically, with a rusty, uncertain, morning voice. He’s speaking with a Voice of love and intimacy. This is how we become one with him. What makes the oneness possible is faith. Faith that Jesus is singing an opera to us with those moving words. An opera that leads to eternal life.
Reject the crowd of quarrelers and doubters. Love them for being made in the image and likeness of God. But reject their claim of Jesus having an early morning voice in John Chapter 6. Embrace the power of Jesus’ words and bring them with you, even through the gates of death, where he promises to raise us on the last day.