Note: These Sunday & Holy Day Gospel Reflections are written so that mothers may prepare for Holy Mass in advance either as a small group or individually (especially since we are so often necessarily distracted during Mass itself).
Many of Jesus’disciples who were listening said,
“This saying is hard; who can accept it?”
Since Jesus knew that his disciples were murmuring about this,
he said to them, “Does this shock you?
What if you were to see the Son of Man ascending
to where he was before?
It is the spirit that gives life,
while the flesh is of no avail.
The words I have spoken to you are Spirit and life.
But there are some of you who do not believe.”
Jesus knew from the beginning the ones who would not believe
and the one who would betray him.
And he said,
“For this reason I have told you that no one can come to me
unless it is granted him by my Father.”
As a result of this,
many of his disciples returned to their former way of life
and no longer accompanied him.
Jesus then said to the Twelve, “Do you also want to leave?”
Simon Peter answered him, “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.”
This Gospel directly follows the previous week's reading on the Eucharist. I am amazed at how Jesus' reaction to the doubt of his followers applies so directly to all of our struggles in life. Here is my translation of what the Lord is saying:
"This saying is hard; who can accept it?" = Life is hard, people. This is a fact. We are called to take the road less traveled. We are called to be counter-cultural. We are, especially as mothers, called to sacrifice in ways no one understands. Jesus could have said this about his other teachings, as I mentioned last week, and so, we can perhaps apply this to all that God asks of us.
"Does this shock you?" = Why are we surprised when life is hard? We go along happily and when we hit a rock, we act indignant. How could this happen to me? Rather than look at it as an opportunity for faith, as an opportunity for growth, we act astonished that we would be asked to endure such pain or carry such a burden. These are supposed to be gifts.
"It is the spirit that gives life, while the flesh is of no avail." = Our flesh is nothing. This life is not our focus. The things of this world will pass away, and we must be willing to sacrifice them...all of them. I do not wish to make light of tragedies, as I have read plenty lately to make my heart ache, but what I wish to do is question our attitudes towards our daily obsessions with material things.
"The words I have spoken to you are Spirit and life. But there are some of you who do not believe." = Faith is the way to eternal life. Even in the sometimes terrifying difficult times of our lives, our faith must remain. We must, regardless of whether or not we can utter any other prayer, continually state that we believe God works in all things for good. We know God has a hand in our crosses, our struggles, our tragedies, and that He will bring mercy to those situations if we believe.
"Many of His disciples returned to their former way of life." = Do we give up? Do we refuse to accept the cross God puts before us, because it is too hard? If we do this, we are lost. There is no place to turn except to the darkness. We must endure. We must not give up, persevering in faith, believing that eternal life is available to us through Jesus Christ.
"Master, to whom shall we go?" = If you believe in Jesus Christ, giving up is not an option. Blood, sweat, and tears must be shed if we truly love our Lord. There is no where else to turn than to Him, who allows us to receive the challenges of life to bring us closer to Him. We must endure. We must believe and in believing, accept His gifts of blessing and painful growth.
Lord, your hand is in all things. My faith is strong, because I believe that you are the one, true God. I believe that you have the promise of eternal life. Help me to stand firm in that faith. Help me to endure despite whatever difficulties you may choose to allow in my life. I will not turn away, and I know you will never turn away from me.