I am Catholic because believing in Jesus is difficult. We have countless proofs for His existence, for His providence, for His Love, and yet we continue to suffer from failures in our faith and in our actions as Christians. We fall short. He offers all of Himself but we choose to stay at the fringes, as Pope Francis says. We hesitate to engage with Jesus because doing so challenges us beyond our “comfort zone”.
In the Gospel of John, Jesus tells a crowd that He is the Bread of Life. He says, “Amen, amen, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His Blood you will not have life within you.” For Catholics, this “Bread of Life Discourse” becomes one of the proof-texts for the Real Presence, but today, I refer to this passage for another reason.
After hearing Jesus say that someone must eat his flesh and drink his blood, the people are distressed. You might even say that they were repulsed. Who is this guy telling us to eat and drink him? Among the assembled people, cannibalism was a barbaric practice condemned by the Law of Moses. The suggestion was repugnant. They murmured to each other, “This is a hard saying, who can accept it?”
We frequently “go it alone” without considering the spiritual treasures below the surface. There is a superficiality to this approach. The superficiality begins with the assumption that we can know the answer without referring to some supports for help.
The Gospel says that many departed from Jesus. The fact that a few — including the disciples — remained behind should not be taken as a sign that these were the individuals who weren’t perturbed by what Jesus has said. When Jesus asked if they would also leave, Peter spoke for them, saying, “To whom will we go? You have the keys to eternal life.”
Compare the people who acted alone. They heard the same thing as the disciples and those others who remained, but they walked away, not because they did not hear the truth, but because they were without the supports to accept it. Meanwhile, those who remained were formed into a community together. There was a leader – Peter – who acknowledged the difficulty but who was already too attached to Jesus to walk away.
Without these leaders in faith, without these apostles who hear the truth and are (not just for others, but also for themselves) too attached, too in love, to leave Jesus behind, the Barque is not a ship that weathers the storm, but merely an assemblage of parts without a captain, without a complement of officers, and without a crew to help bring her to port.
The Barque of St. Peter is safety for the Christian. Its objective is the salvation of the souls under its protection. Ships return to port when lifeboats cannot.