Gospel – John 6: 60 – 69
This weekend we listen to the end of the Bread of Life Discourse. The ending is not what one would expect regarding the miracles and teachings of Jesus. The Israelites at the time of Jesus were longing for the coming of the Messiah. There were others preaching at that time who some people thought were the Messiah, including John the Baptist. One of the reasons such large crowds came to follow Jesus was because of his preaching and mighty works, and because they saw him as the long awaited Messiah. With the Bread of Life Discourse Jesus seems to have crossed a line for many of those who followed him. Not only was he speaking as a Messiah, but he was beginning to reveal himself as being divine, the Son of God. Recall that when Jesus was on trial before the Sanhedrin he was charged with blasphemy in that he claimed to be God. This was a crime punishable by death and he was thus taken to the Roman officials to carry out the death sentence. Jesus’ teaching that he was the Bread of Life that led to Eternal Life was difficult form some of the followers to accept, and so we are told “that many of his disciple returned to their former way of life and no longer accompanied him.” When it comes to the ministry of Jesus you would think that there would be a happy ending rather than people rejecting him and walking away. In some ways this episode is a preview of the ultimate rejection of Jesus and his passion and death.
Jesus’ response to the disciples leaving is to turn to the twelve and ask, “Do you want to leave?” In our relation with Jesus we make the decision to follow him or to leave him. This is the free will we were blessed with that enables us to love or reject the Lord. Peter answered that question with a beautiful profession of Faith, “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.” Rather than seeing the teaching of Jesus as blasphemous Peter sees Jesus as the one who leads us to eternal life, and who is the Holy One of God. This Gospel and question of Peter should cause us to pause and ask ourselves if we can give the same response about Jesus. Are we able to acknowledge him as the one who leads us to eternal life? Do we see him as the Holy one of God, as Lord, Savior, and Redeemer?
To follow Jesus involves listening carefully and seriously to his teachings, and to reflect on them in a way that helps us to grow in our faith. At times his teachings may seem difficult and his promises seem impossible, but with faith we come to understand even the most difficult teaching, and to believe that “with Christ all things are possible.” With Christ bread and wine become his Body and Blood Soul and Divinity, sins are forgiven in the sacrament of Confession, people are healed in the sacrament of the Anointing of the sick, the Holy Spirit fills us at Baptism and Confirmation, vocations are sanctified in the Sacraments of Marriage and Ordination. With all of these how could anyone choose to stop following him? This is a choice and people have made the choice to do so. May we reflect on this Gospel and give thanks to God for the gift of faith we have to follow him, and pray for those who have chosen not too. May their eyes and hearts be open to rediscover the beauty of Christ.
Father Killian Loch, O.S.B.
Photo: Kim Metzgar