21st Sunday of Ordinary time

Year B

John 6: 60 – 69

Father, you wait for us until we are open to you.

We wait for your Word to make us receptive.

Attune us to your voice, to your silence.

Speak and bring your Son to us – Jesus – the Word of your peace.

Up to now Jesus has presented himself to us as:

41 … I am the bread that came down from heaven.

48 … I am the bread of life.

This is the way he refers to his way of life, the message that he brought to humanity and that he continues to put before us.

In today’s reading we find how people responded to Jesus message.  As you read the text below you will become aware that there were many people who were not prepared to accept the teachings of Jesus.  All text that refers to this rejection of Jesus has been printed in red.

Time to read Jn 6: 60 – 69

60 After hearing his doctrine many of the followers of Jesus said, “This is intolerable language.  How could anyone accept it?”  61Jesus was aware that his followers were complaining about it and said, “Does this upset you?  62What if you should see the Son of Man ascend to where he was before?  63It is the spirit that gives life, the flesh has nothing to offer.  The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and they are life.  64But there are some of you who do not believe.”  For Jesus knew from the outset those who did not believe, and who it was that would betray him.  65He went on, “This is why I told you that no one could come to me unless the Father allows him.”  66 After this, many of his disciples left him and stopped going with him.  67 Then Jesus said to the Twelve, “What about you, do you want to go away too?”

68 Simon Peter answered, “Lord, who shall we go to?  You have the message of eternal life, 69and we believe; we know that you are the Holy One of God.”

This must have been a terrible experience for Jesus. There was so much opposition to him.  All that he taught was considered “intolerable”. Then the people voted with their feet and left.  What was it that had so upset his followers?

For the answer to this question all we need to do is page through the gospels.  Here are just some of the teachings that people would not accept.  Many of these teachings of Jesus are still not accepted.

The place of women in the kingdom.

The first person to fill the role of disciple in Mark’s gospel is Peter’s mother-in-law.  “She ministered to them.”  (Mk 1: 31)  The second was a pagan and his mission was to the pagans.  “Then the man went off and began to proclaim in the Decapolis what Jesus had done for him.”  (Mk 5: 20)  The message is clear.  Women are welcome in the kingdom and all are equal in the kingdom.  No longer will they be discriminated against.  As if that was not enough, Jesus announces that Pagans are welcome and that they will play an important role in the proclaiming of the Kingdom.  Take note you men!  Women and pagans are busy being disciples long before the apostles are sent out in Mk 6: 7.

The  Twelve were sent out to preach “repentance”.  (Mk 6: 12)  Repentance in Scripture means a complete change of heart.  We are called to change our thinking and our attitudes.  Remember how we saw Jesus accept Jew and Pagan alike at the beginning of Chapter 6.  (Nineteenth Sunday of Ordinary time.)

In today’s text we are well aware that many of Jesus’ disciple were not prepared to change.

Take a few minutes to read Lk 6: 35 – 38.  On first reading this looks like sound like some very challenging teaching on the part of Jesus – “love your enemies”.  This is correct.  There is another interpretation of this text.  Read this text again as a description of how God behaves and how he wants us to behave.

Elsewhere he challenged the experts when he proclaimed:

“The Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath.”  (Mk 2: 27)  Is it any wonder that Jesus lost so many of his friends?

“Do you want to go away too?”

These words are addressed to us every time we go to the Eucharist.

The Vatican Council tells us:

“The Church has always venerated the divine Scriptures just as she venerates the body of the Lord, since from the table of both the Word of God and of the Body of Christ she unceasingly receives and offers the faithful the bread of life, especially in the sacred liturgy.”

To receive the Eucharist means to be assimilated with Christ, to identify with and accept his teaching, his Word.  When we respond “Amen” after receiving Communion we are in effect saying, “Lord, who shall we go to?  You have the message of eternal life, 69 and we believe”.

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