21st Sun. (B)

Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.

The main theme of today’s readings is that Christian life is a series of daily choices for God or against God, as we choose to live out or reject the truths He has revealed through His prophets in the Old Testament and especially through His Son Jesus in the New Testament. They remind us that the fundamental choice that we make determines how we live our lives. Joshua, in our first reading, and Paul, in the second reading, make similar challenges to the people to make their choice.  Today we, too, are challenged to decide whom we will serve. In the first reading Joshua challenges the Israelites to decide whom they will serve, the gods of their fathers, the gods of the Amorites in whose country they are now dwelling or the God of Israelites Who has done so much for them. The Renewal of Covenant ceremony in Joshua 24 reminds us that the Eucharist is a Covenant meal that calls for a decision of Faith.

The Gospel (Jn. 6:60-69) highlights the fundamental option and core decision of the disciples, either to break away from Christ or to reinforce their commitment to him. This passage brings the sixth chapter of John’s gospel to a climactic conclusion after having fed the crowd by multiplying the bread and the fish and made a series of unique claims:1) “I am the living bread that came down from heaven.”  2)”I am the bread of life.”  3) “The bread that I will give is my flesh for the life of the world.” 4) “Unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you do not have life within you.” 5)“No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him.”  6)“I will raise him on the last day.” 7) “No one has seen the Father except the one who is from God.” 8) The words I have spoken to you are spirit and life. In short, Christ Jesus reveals himself as God and as the “breadof life from heaven” sent by the Father for our salvation.

Now upon completion of his teaching, many of his followers murmured, saying, “This saying is hard; who can accept it?” Jesus responds that human nature alone (the “flesh”) is of no avail in coming to believe and to have life in him. This faith and life is possible only as a gift of the Father. After the exchange in the synagogue, many of his disciples left him. Jesus said to the Twelve, “Do you also want to leave?” Simon Peter answered, “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.”

Faith and life in Jesus is a gift beyond human expectation and understanding. This is the implication not only of this passage but also of John’s entire gospel. “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but have eternal life” (Jn. 3:16). The gift of eternal life is NOW; it does not begin after we die. In faith we can live without fear: “Even though I walk in the dark valley I fear no evil; for you are at my side” (Ps. 23:4). The saints of every age witness to the reality that faith is participation in the joy, the prayer, the gratitude of Christ’s life now: “Rejoice always. Pray without ceasing. In all circumstances give thanks, for this is the will of God for you in Christ Jesus” (1Thess. 5:16-18).

At the same time, we have to make a difference between the earthly life and the eternal life. This earthly life that we are living is a preparation for our eternal life. We have the famous words of St. Augustine: “Lord has created us for himself and we cannot rest until we rest in him.” There is a deep earning desire in our life to be in union with the divine. Psalms 62 and 42 are clear testimonies expressing the desire and the longings of the psalmist.

Looking into our life there are two dimensions; the interior and the exterior. The former is concerned with our inner self, our dispositions and the attitudes, whereas the latter is the outer self, the expressions and all what we do. These two dimensions are correlated and it is said that our ideas become the words; words become the actions; actions become the attitudes; attitudes become our character and the character becomes our destiny.

The individual’s transformation is the result of an encounter with Jesus, who is the way, the truth and the life. It can take place only when we accept, assimilate the entire person of Jesus into our lives. His spirit will regenerate our soul and body with power and energy, which can make difference in our lives. Zacchaeus experiences a conversion after Jesus encountered him in his house. Similarly Mary Magdalene too experiences a conversion after experiencing the mercy and forgiveness of Jesus in her life.  Jesus gave sight to the blind man and he became his follower praising and thanking God for the gift of sight.

The gospel passage alerts us to the fact that faith is not primarily assent to a creed about God but a personal relationship with God. Like friendship, faith is mutual self-giving; it can become stronger or become weaker; it can begin and it can end. The attitude that summarizes the words of Peter is to stand before the Holy Sacrament in humble and silent adoration, cultivating in the heart not the doubt, but the desire of full communion with him.