You know that for several Sundays the Liturgy has proposed for our reflection Chapter Six of John’s Gospel, in which Jesus presents himself as the “Bread of life… which came down from Heaven”, and, he adds: “if anyone eats of this bread, he will live for ever: and the bread which I shall give for the life of the world is my flesh” (Jn 6: 51). To the Jews who were arguing heatedly among themselves, questioning: “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?” (v. 52) and the world still debates it Jesus replies in every age: “unless you eat the flesh of the Son of man and drink his blood, you have no life in you” (v. 53). We too should reflect on whether we have really understood this message. Today, the 21st Sunday of Ordinary Time, let us meditate on the last part of this chapter in which the Fourth Evangelist mentions the reaction of the people and of the disciples themselves. They were shocked by the Lord’s words to the point that having followed him until then they exclaimed: “This is a hard saying; who can listen to it?” (v. 60). After this, “many of his disciples drew back and no longer went about with him” (v. 66) and the same thing has happened over and over again in various periods of history. One might expect Jesus to seek compromises to make himself better understood, but he does not mitigate what he says. On the contrary, he turns directly to the Twelve and asks them: “Will you also go away?” (v. 67).
This provocative question is not addressed only to the people of that time, but to the believers and men of every age. Today too, not a few are scandalized by the paradox of the Christian faith. Jesus’ teaching seems “hard,” too difficult to put into practice. There are thus those who reject it and abandon Christ; there are those who try to “adapt” the word to the fashions of the times, distorting its meaning and value.
“Do you also wish to leave?” This disturbing provocation resounds in our hearts and awaits a personal response from each person. Jesus in fact is not satisfied with a superficial and formal following, a first and enthusiastic adhesion is not sufficient for him; on the contrary, we must take part “in his thinking and in his willing” all of our lives. Following him fills the heart with joy and gives complete meaning to our existence, but it brings difficulties and renunciations because very often we must go against the current.
Dear brothers and sisters, we too can repeat Peter’s answer, aware of course of our human fragility, but confident in the power of the Holy Spirit, who expresses himself and manifests himself in communion with Jesus. Faith is a gift of God to man and it is, at the same t6/ime, man’s free and total entrusting of himself to God; faith is the docile listening to the word of the Lord, that is the “lamp” for our steps and the “light” on our way (cf. Psalm 119:105).
If we open our hearts to Christ with confidence, if we let ourselves be conquered by him, we too can experience, together with the Curé d’Ars, “that our only happiness on this earth is to love God and to know that he loves us.” Pope Benedict XVI 8/23/2009
Photo: Caswell Beach, NC. 8/26/2012