When many of his disciples heard it, they said, “This teaching is difficult; who can accept it?” But Jesus, being aware that his disciples were complaining about it, said to them, “Does this offend you? Then what if you were to see the Son of Man ascending to where he was before? It is the spirit that gives life; the flesh is useless. The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life. But among you there are some who do not believe.”
For Jesus knew from the first who were the ones that did not believe, and who was the one that would betray him. And he said, “For this reason I have told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted by the Father.” Because of this many of his disciples turned back and no longer went about with him. So Jesus asked the twelve, “Do you also wish to go away?” Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom can we go? You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe and know that you are the Holy One of God.”
New Revised Standard Version, copyright 1989, by the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved. USCCB approved (http://www.usccb.org/bible/approved-translations)
We hear today a familiar yet challenging passage from Paul’s letter to the Ephesians. It represents marriage as a mirror of the relationship between Christ and the Church. Husbands in particular are reminded to surrender power and prerogative for the sake of their wives. For all of us the strength of this reading comes in its reminder that it is within the nitty-gritty of our relationships one with another that we work out our salvation. Either we learn to make the necessary sacrifices to see our relationships prosper or we are doomed to lives of disruption and upset as we search high and low for the kind of acceptance and understanding which make us whole. It is really all about God’s gift of mutuality – being there for one another. This is one lesson of today’s Scriptures.
There is another lesson which we have prayed over in different ways the past three Sundays. This is that Jesus gives us food and drink that are so real that they bring us God’s own divine life, indeed the very life of God’s Holy Spirit. It is God’s Spirit who strengthens our hearts, transforms our lives, and gives us the wisdom and insight we need to make those practical decisions which make all the difference – for our families, for our professional lives, for our own peace of heart down deep within.
In this very human and uniquely spiritual process, don’t we also learn that Jesus offer us his total self? He draws us together as learners and teachers, seekers and givers, holy pilgrims and vessels of clay. And in freedom he invites our total, loving response. This brings us to the fundamental question of today’s gospel: “Do you also wish to go away?” Some of those listening to Jesus did just that – they shook their heads and walked away. So what about each of us? Do we grumble? Do we walk away? Or do we come to throw in our lot more faithfully with this Jesus, the Son of God, whose Holy Spirit brings insight and grace to our daily routine? Lord Jesus, come again to our waiting world. Give us your wisdom; send us your Holy Spirit!
—The Jesuit Prayer Team
Lord, we can easily relate to your disciples’ words, “Lord, to whom can we go?” Without you how could we ever answer the daunting question posed by Eric Fromm: “If I am what I have and if I lose what I have who then am I?” It is inevitable that we will eventually lose everything. Without faith death has the final word, stripping us of our beloved relationships, wiping out our very essence. We cling to your promise that you guarantee us eternal life. And when the time comes for those closest to us to cross over or for our own finite life to end, we believe that the best is yet to come. This day we will try to be present to the moment as we strive to live, to love, to learn, and to leave a legacy.
—The Jesuit Prayer Team