It’s perhaps the most poignant question in the Gospels – Do you also want to leave? – and Peter’s answer is perhaps the most profound – We have come to believe and are convinced that you are the Holy One of God. His profession of Faith echoes the words of Joshua in the first reading, As for me and my household, we will serve the Lord. What is their common meeting point? They both relate to the Source and Summit of our Catholic Faith, Eucharist, because the Eucharist constantly begs from us a response. How can we believe and live what we cannot understand? Perhaps the words of St. Paul in today’s excerpt from his letter to the Ephesians can help.
Paul’s words to the Ephesians, Be subordinate to one another out of reverence for Christ, give us the key to the passage and its relationship to the Eucharist. St. Paul calls the Church the Body of Christ with Jesus as its head. The Greek word he uses for head, kephalē, refers not only to leadership but also conveys a sense of source. For example, we refer to the source of a river as the headwaters. Christ is the Source of life in the Church; He is also its leader, its head. We search for His guidance as Source and strive to attain Him as Summit when we eat his body and drink his blood.
Now consider Paul’s words to husbands, which were counter-cultural at a time when men viewed themselves as rulers and their wives as property. When he challenges men to love your wives, even as Christ loved the Church and handed himself over for her, he refers to Christ’s total gift of self, even unto death (Phil. 2:8). Still today, this saying is hard; who can accept it? Joshua’s declaration gives us a good example of what Paul is describing and what we call servant-leadership. The word, subordinate, was problematic then as it is now. Paul is promoting a unity that comes only through mutual acquiescence; this is what a holy marital relationship should look like and it is that kind of subordination that Jesus desires from us when he asks, Do you also want to leave? It is the same subordination required when he eat his body and drink his blood.
I consume the Eucharist to unite myself to him so that he can make me salt of the earth and a light of the world (Mt. 5:13-14). Today, 2,000 years later, we can still hear many people cry out, This saying is hard; who can accept it? Just as living a marital relationship is difficult, so it is to live a life in which Christ is my Source and Summit. When we consider today’s readings in light of the Eucharist, Paul’s final words inspire a richer and deeper sense: the two shall become one flesh.
This is a Great Mystery.