HOMILY Jn 6:60-69
Many Disciples Desert Jesus
60 On hearing it, many of his disciples said, “This is a hard teaching. Who can accept it?” 61 Aware that his disciples were grumbling about this, Jesus said to them, “Does this offend you? 62 Then what if you see the Son of Man ascend to where he was before! 63 The Spirit gives life; the flesh counts for nothing. The words I have spoken to you—they are full of the Spirit[a] and life. 64 Yet there are some of you who do not believe.” For Jesus had known from the beginning which of them did not believe and who would betray him. 65 He went on to say, “This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless the Father has enabled them.”
66 From this time many of his disciples turned back and no longer followed him.
67 “You do not want to leave too, do you?” Jesus asked the Twelve.68 Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. 69 We have come to believe and to know that you are the Holy One of God.”
Jesus was a highly talented teacher. He knew what he was saying in to-day’s gospel, he got everyone’s attention, and left a message that has challenged Christians ever since.
Today we conclude the discussion of Jesus as the Bread of Life.
Remember he was speaking to fellow Jews, people he shared his faith tradition with. His words would be a challenge to all who were listening to Him, including his disciples. In a literal sense his call to eat his flesh and drink his blood as a way to life would have been offensive for anyone.
“This is intolerable language. How could anyone accept it? “We heard in the gospel. If we had been there, we would surely have had problems also. Perhaps we have heard the words so many times, we gloss over them. As a retired secondary school RE teacher, teenage students have challenged me with a literal understanding of the words. On face value it is ‘intolerable language’.
Jesus is fully aware of their difficulty. “Does this shake your trust in me?” he asks them. In the words of the Gospel Jesus reflects that if they have problems with these words, how will they react when he rises from the dead and ascends to his Father? This is an indication that the acceptance of the resurrection was a choice and very much a matter of faith. Forget the beautiful art masterpieces of the Ascension. They reflect the creativity of the artists. No one literally saw Jesus rise from the dead or ascend to the Father. It is a matter of faith conviction that it had taken place.
Jesus then points out where the problem really lies. “It is the spirit that gives life; the flesh is useless. The words I spoke to you are spirit and they are life.” The disciples are hearing Jesus’ words only in the “flesh” and not with the penetrating eyes of the Spirit. To understand the real meaning of Jesus’ words comes from the gift, the grace of faith. Faith is a gift open to all but it is a gift to which one needs to be open to receive. We have a choice. Remember we hear those words through the eyes of faith, we are believers who worship each Sunday, we are post resurrection people, sharing in the Eucharist and receiving the post resurrection Christ in the host.
Knowing some disciples would choose to leave Him, Jesus then turns to the Twelve, “What about you? Do you want to go away too?” He acknowledges that the Apostles also have a choice. Peter, as leader, made his choice with a profound act of trust and commitment: “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the message of eternal life and we believe; we know that you are the Holy One of God.” In other words, they chose Jesus, they acknowledge Him as the Messiah, God’s chosen Messenger who is uniquely united with him. “Believe” and “know” are in the perfect tense in the original Greek, meaning “We have come to know and have come to believe and continue to do so…” It indicates not just a momentary action but an ongoing position.
If we reflect more deeply on it, we know that Peter is right. There is really no viable alternative to the Way of Jesus, even when things happen which are difficult to understand or accept. Remember: the Way of Jesus is not just adherence to a religious group, the Way he proposes is the way for every human being to live. To assimilate Jesus into one’s life is not just to become a good Christian but a good person, a good citizen. Some have left the Church in recent years, tragically missed the truth that Jesus is the WAY.
James Keenan in his book, ‘Virtues of Ordinary Christians’, says that fidelity is the bottom line of the Christian Life. “Each person”, he says, “has two major moral goals in life: to be just and to be faithful.” In other words, faithful to the WAY. Being faithful to his Father, and to us, sums up what Jesus did for us and what he calls forth from the disciples in today’s Gospel.
The Gospel today reminds us that fidelity is at the heart of the moral life. Jesus was faithful to his Father, (and to us) and it is exactly what he calls forth from the disciples in the Gospel. We too are called to be faithful to our belief in the Body and Blood of Jesus. It is that faith that leads us to a moral life, to be followers of the WAY.
Let us ask for the faith and strength to stay with Him and experience the life that only he can give. Above all, help us to see our world with the eyes of Jesus, and to help others to do the same. 814
Rev Kevin J Pattison