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.
In today’s Gospel, Jesus’s disciples are dispirited and confused. They get a glimpse of the difficulty of following Jesus in uncertain times. In our own time, we feel confused and angered by leaders who did not lead; by shepherds who abandoned — or preyed upon — members of their own flock.
We are right to ask Jesus what to make of all we read in the news. And in the swirl of all this, Jesus gently asks us, as he does his disciples, “do you also wish to go away?” Put another way, “why is it that you stay?” Why do we as Catholic Christians remain, despite our disappointment in leadership, and our righteous anger over abuse and cover-ups?
Peter points a way forward: “Master, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe and are convinced that you are the Holy One of God.”
Trying times have a way of seizing our attention, and refocusing our vision. We are invited, again, to turn not to human principalities and fallible leaders, but to Jesus. We are called to tend to the body of Christ, the Church on earth, which is bruised and hurting. We are challenged to give an encouraging word, to bind up wounds, and to reach out to those in greatest need of healing, and to make amends to protect this body of Christ in the future.
This is why I stay – how about you?
—Fr. Joe Simmons, SJ, is a priest of the Midwest Province and a proud alumnus of Marquette University High School and Marquette University. He begins doctoral studies in theology and literature at the University of Oxford in October.
Lord God, in the midst of hurt and suffering, we ask you to help us turn our eyes toward Jesus, the object of our faith. May we each live out our role in the body of Christ here on earth, as we strive to work with Christ in building the kingdom. Amen.
—The Jesuit Prayer team
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