Mission Society of the Philippines

Homilies

21st SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME: "DO YOU ALSO WANT TO LEAVE?"

Jn 6: 60-69


IN HIS DISCOURSE, Jesus repeatedly declares Himself as the Bread of Life that came down from heaven. But this saying proved to be too much for the disciples. They found it hard to bear. As a result, these disciples started to drift away and in fact, went back to their former ways of life. Then Jesus turned to his closest disciples and asked the question, “Do you also want to leave?” Simon Peter answered, “Master, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.”

We can easily associate ourselves with the disciples of Jesus. This thing happened to them years, years ago. But, nevertheless, this continues to happen in our day. Let us try to examine once again the experiences of Jesus’ disciples.

Firstly, the disciples found it difficult to accept the sayings of Jesus. Perhaps, the reason for the difficulty is their inability to understand the sayings of Jesus. But Jesus did not demand understanding from them. What he wanted was merely a faith; faith in his words, and faith in his person. That is, a faith in Him that He is the Son sent by the Father to give life to the world.

In our time, there are also some words of Jesus, in a form of laws, that, for some, are hard to swallow and accept. We can think of the Ten Commandments; we can think of laws on marriage and divorce; we can think of laws against abortion and euthanasia. Some Christians, and some Catholics for that matter, could not understand these. They would not want to accept these teachings.

Secondly, the disciples started leaving Jesus as a result of their difficulty to accept His teachings. The gospel passage says, that the disciples went back to their former way of life and they did not accompany Jesus anymore.

Speaking of Christian believers leaving the Church, that still holds true today. Some departures may be definitive because some have now embraced a new faith. But for others, their departure may mean temporary, because they have not embraced a new faith. Most people in this category don’t just find any significance of being part of the Church. They distance themselves from the Church. We could not find them often in the Church.

Thirdly, Peter came to the rescue by clinging to Jesus. It may be sad for Jesus to see His disciples leaving, but the truth cannot be compromised. Lastly, He turned to His closest allies, the Twelve, and He asked them, “Do you also want to leave?” Peter had the beautiful response. He replied, “Master, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe and we are convinced that you are the Holy One of God.” It was such a beautiful expression of faith of a person who has been with Jesus, and has known Jesus fully well.

Peter’s response to Jesus’ question is worth reflecting. This should be the attitude that Catholics or Christians in relation to the teachings or laws of Jesus and the Church. Some of these teachings are hard to bear; yet, they offer life. St John Paul II had seen the ‘culture of death' in our society. These are abortion, euthanasia, etc. To counter these, he promoted the Church’s teachings which promote the 'culture of life'.  

Indeed, the words of Jesus are words of life; words of eternal life. His words may not be often understandable. But, if we have faith, that is, the capacity to accept these words, then we can find life. Indeed, He is the Bread of Life, and His words are eternal life. AMEN.


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