Choosing Presence : 21st Sunday_August 26, 2018

Today’s Gospel follows last week’s gospel passage in which Jesus said, “I am the living bread that comes down from heaven… . whoever eats this bread will live forever.” Many of Jesus’ disciples said, “This saying is hard; who can accept it?” It is one thing to hear the words of Jesus and be excited and then to experience his healings. Jesus offers those who eat his body and drink his blood eternal life. But who is he? How can this be a real offer? It seems to many to be bizarre. Jesus knows this and says, “The words I have spoken to you are Spirit and life. But there are some of you who do not believe. For this reason I have told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted to him by my Father.”

Even Jesus himself allowed many of his disciples (not merely the crowds) to return to their former way of life when his teaching seemed too hard. Our faith is not subject to scientific scrutiny after which a demonstrable proof will be accepted by a rational mind. Instead, faith is a gift.

Peter’s response can be our own when faced with the overwhelming mystery of the gift of faith in the one sent from God. Yet, we should be humble with respect to this mystery, for the gift is not given to all, but only to those whom the Father grants it. In light of this it is good to be patient with those who do not share our faith. And when another does come to faith we can be assured that it is not be- cause of our wondrous evangelization, our dedication to a particular program, or our having memorized specific Scripture verses. God grants faith to those to whom he will.

Jesus is offering them an amazing gift, eternal life with him, but for some it is just too hard to believe. “Many of his disciples returned to their former way of life and no longer accompanied him.” Remember, this was written fifty years or more after the death of Jesus. John, who is the last living apostle, wants everyone to know that the journey of Jesus was not easy. His message was rejected even by some who started out to be his disciples. It all depended on their accepting a remarkable and yet almost unbelievable gift. When you think about it, that is the same for us today. Can we accept this wondrous gift from Jesus?

Adapted from PrayerTime: Faith-Sharing Reflections on the Sunday Gospels available at the RENEW International.