The conversion of the heart and a paradigm shift is no small thing. Changes converts make are radical to the core of how they live, love and hope which happen only in total surrender. The preceding moments of tension may be a setting of ones choosing, God’s choosing or a bit of both. When one is about to convert, the tension comes in the understanding of life as we have known and not knowing the details of what we are getting. When Jesus told the Jews one day that to have eternal life they had to eat his flesh it was time to leap forward or backwards.
Unlike your ancestors who ate and still died, whoever eats this bread will live forever.” These things he said while teaching in the synagogue in Capernaum.
Then many of his disciples 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 accompanied 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.” ( John 6:59-69).
Unlike your ancestors who ate and still died, whoever eats this bread will live forever— This could be the payoff if they get it. The people in the time of Moses had manna from heaven which was the word for “What is it?” Jesus comes as the way, the truth and the life (John 14:6) in a visible, sacramental context.
These things he said while teaching in the synagogue in Capernaum— This is not an incidental statement by John. John made a point here that the very scene where the Law is read is where teaching happens that brings interpretation of the first five books of the Bible.
This saying is hard; who can accept it?— In my experience as a Christian in post-modern America moral relativism has often sneaked into how people make decisions on truth. If they are grounded in the divine, truth is discovered and obeyed. If they are grounded by the wisdom of this age then it is up for a subjective vote and the pope is in the mirror.
Does this shock you?- This is like a spiritual soundcheck. He then asks if they would be ready to know the big picture. This may have been rhetorical. The answer was no for most but Jesus is out to propose and not to impose.
It is the spirit that gives life, while the flesh is of no avail.— For those that read this verse and say it proves the Eucharist is not efficacious then they misunderstand what is being said. Notice Jesus said here “the flesh” not “my flesh”. In the Garden of Gethsemane Jesus sees the disciples sleeping when they were supposed to pray. He says there that “the spirit is willing but the flesh is weak” (Matthew 26:41). The flesh is weak for the disciples in the garden because they were not engaging their flesh in obedience to the Holy Spirit in their hearts. His flesh is spiritual life for the world because Jesus was 100% divine and 100% human.
As a result of this, many [of] his disciples returned to their former way of life and no longer accompanied him— This is the moment of decision. They declined the invitation of Jesus for a communion that is oneness with God: a divine proposal. They were along for a great ride and got free bread the day before. Jesus proposed more. As an addictions counselor working with clients in treatment I tell them their “addiction is outside that door doing pushups”. In the same way the former life for even those that are complete converts is always wanting reunion. To leave Jesus is to look at truth in the eye and say “No. Not going to do it”.
“Do you also want to leave?— When I became a Catholic I had much joy but I still knew that following Christ still is a continual process. At Easter Vigil the congregation reaffirms the faith that is “one, holy, Catholic and apostolic” (Nicene Creed 325). Even for those that are baptized and confirmed there is an annual decision to make where one reaffirms the Catholic Christian faith. And for my Protestant brothers and sisters, to leave the same Lord, faith and meaning of baptism is always up to you as well. We all have free will.
Master, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.— The disciples are humble and thus tied to the wisdom of eternity rather than the wisdom of that age. There is an objective truth, and they know Him as the all consuming reality (alethia).
We have come to believe and are convinced that you are the Holy One of God- They have come to a conversion point and for each of them it has come gradually in how they came, saw and were conquered. This is the nature of discipleship.
Each disciple of Jesus has a DNA in the church that Jesus started. Together the Body of Christ is meant to be a bride to whom Jesus is returning. Jesus is The Bridegroom proposing marriage in the context of faith and reason sacramentally.
The first announcement of the Eucharist divided the disciples, just as the announcement of the Passion scandalized them: “This is a hard saying; who can listen to it?” The Eucharist and the Cross are stumbling blocks. It is the same mystery and it never ceases to be an occasion of division. “Will you also go away?”: the Lord’s question echoes through the ages, as a loving invitation to discover that only he has “the words of eternal life” and that to receive in faith the gift of his Eucharist is to receive the Lord himself (Catechism of the Catholic Church, para. 1336).