Listening to the Gospel this morning at Mass—because Catholics are all about the Bible and Church authority—(1Timothy 3:15)—I was struck by Jesus’ missed opportunity.
In Matthew 19: 16-22, when the young man approached Jesus and asked, “Teacher, what good must I do to gain eternal life?” Jesus gave him a to-do list: keep the Commandments. Then to make up for what the man still lacked, he added:
“If you wish to be perfect, go, sell what you have and give to the poor,
and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” When the young man heard this statement, he went away sad, for he had many possessions.
Why didn’t Jesus tell him to believe in him as his personal Lord and Savior? And this is not the only time Jesus missed an opportunity. There’s the Bread of Life discourse in John 6:48-68 where Jesus told his disciples that he was the “living bread that came down from heaven; whoever eats this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give is my flesh for the life of the world."
Who wouldn’t find that disturbing at the time? The Jews wondered: say what? Jesus knew how disturbing they found his words. But he missed an opportunity. Just look to our politicians. They aren’t going to lose votes over misunderstandings, so news releases and media interviews always correct public falsehoods. Why didn’t Jesus explain things? Instead, he repeated his disturbing message.
"Amen, amen, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you do not have life within you. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him on the last day. For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me and I in him. Just as the living Father sent me and I have life because of the Father, so also the one who feeds on me will have life because of me. This is the bread that came down from heaven. Unlike your ancestors who ate and still died, whoever eats this bread will live forever."
The disciples spoke up, "This saying is hard; who can accept it?"
Why didn’t Jesus care about the opinion polls? He was a campaign manager’s nightmare.
"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 let people leave without telling anyone he was just using symbolism—not meaning we were to eat his real Body and Blood. All these years Catholics have acted as if Jesus’s omissions were done intentionally. Because, of course everything was as he intended. There were no omissions--not in what Jesus did and not in what the Church teaches.