21st Sunday in Ordinary Time (Fr. Simham)
Words of Eternal Life
The gospel we heard today is the climax or conclusion of the sixth chapter of St. John which is a chapter on the Eucharist. It begins with the feeding of the five thousand and ends with the long discourse on the Holy Eucharist. In the discourse Jesus talks about the bread from heaven which he is going to give and it is going to be greater than Manna in the desert which their fore-fathers ate and died. Eating this they will not die. Excited about that kind of bread, they said “Lord, give us this bread always.” But when Jesus said that ‘he is the bread from heaven and his flesh is true food and his blood is true drink,’ they were stunned. They did not understand. And it is not something what they wanted to hear. They were disappointed. And so they all leave him grumbling. And the reason why they leave him is not so much because they did not understand what he said and in fact they in no mood to understand his words. They leave him because they did not get what they wanted. They knew that they are not going to get their loaves again for which they are searching him.
The reason why I say this is because Jesus himself stated clearly the reason why they were searching for him at the beginning of the discourse. Jesus himself said Jn 6:26
‘You search for me because you ate the loaves.’ It was loaves that brought them to him. And when he was talking about bread from heaven, they were still thinking of a kind bread that can fill their stomach. Once they sensed that they are not going to get what they wanted, they leave grumbling “it is a hard saying who can follow it?” It is like the old fox in the story which I heard when I was a child. Old little fox saw a bunch of grapes on the vine. It was too high for him to reach. Any way he tried to get it. He jumped and jumped and jumped but could not reach. Frustrated he said ‘These grapes are useless and sour.’ So he said and left. In the same way, these people who followed Jesus say ‘his words are too hard to follow’ not so much because they did not understand, but because they could not get what they wanted.
Looking at the twelve, the other group who did not leave him, Jesus asks
“Will you also leave me?” Simon Peter says “Lord, to whom shall we go, for you have the words of eternal life.” How strange? Two groups of people heard the same words being said; but one group found them to be ‘hard’ and ‘offensive’ whereas the other group found them to be ‘words of eternal life.’
Even today the Bible and the scriptures are words ‘hard and offensive
’ for some and for some or many they are words of eternal life where they find the meaning and purpose for their lives. And the teachings and traditions of the church are hard and offensive for some and for some they are words of life.
Why is it so? Why are they hard and offensive for some and not for the other? Or the other way; why are they words of eternal life for some and not for the other. Take the example of the sermon on the mount and all the principles of life that are laid down there. Specially the principle regarding the love of enemy, control of senses almsgiving, fasting and prayer and so on. They are hard for many but for few they are the best principles of life. Gandhi a non -Christian based the whole of his philosophy of Ahimsa on this sermon on the mount.
What about the encyclical on the dignity of Human life “Humane Vitae”. Some find it to be hard and intrusive one‘s private life. But others find it to be the pioneer of saving lives. Why? As I said in the beginning, it depends on what you are looking for or what you are searching for in them. What you are looking for in your scriptures and religion? If you are looking for a theoretical support to your own way of life or the way the world lives, you find then to be hard and offensive, but if you are searching for a life of grace, they are words of eternal life. Amen.
Fr. Showreelu Simham