21st Sunday in Ordinary Time

LANGUAGE MATTERS

By Fr. Chris Valka, CSB

In our Gospel this weekend, we come to the end of John’s account of Jesus’ teaching on the “Bread of Life.” We are reminded that language is so very important. Just as the words of Jesus bring life to those who heard them; so too do the words of consecration transform bread into the very presence of Christ.

“Words create worlds,” Rabbi Abraham Heschel once wrote. Now Bishop-Elect Robert Barron speaks about the words we hear when the sacraments are celebrated in this way: If a person in the stands of a sporting event says a player has fouled, it doesn’t change the game; however, if a referee says this, it does.

Some words have more authority than others, because of who says them and their circumstance. This is especially true when we celebrate Mass together.

And yet, there is another instance I have noticed where language matters. Think for a moment about how you talk about your own presence at Mass. For example, I know many people who say, “I am going to Mass,” but this language betrays us. Mass is not something you simply attend; it is something we celebrate.

Language matters.

In today’s Gospel, we hear that many people could not accept the words Jesus spoke – and so they left. It must have been difficult for Jesus. . . to teach and have those teachings rejected by people who he would have presumably grown to know. However, in this Gospel account, it is Peter’s words that resonate: “Master, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.”

Notice the subtly: it is not where, but to whom shall we go? Peter’s confession reminds us our faith is not in a place or an idea, but a person.

Language matters.

Today’s Readings:
Joshua 24.1-2a, 15-17, 18b
Ephesians 4.32-5.1-2, 21-32
John 6.53-60-69