Readings: Joshua 14:1-2a, 15-17, 18b; Ephesians 5:2a, 25-32; John 6:6–69
I find in today’s Gospel the most challenging verses of St. John’s Sixth Chapter. Doesn’t the general response to Jesus have a contemporary ring? This saying is hard; who can accept it?
Today some people attribute very little that is challenging to Jesus himself. Too often he’s presented as a cozy sage who wouldn’t hurt a flea and panders to our reassurance. Too many interpret the demanding, upsetting Jesus as the editorializing of a patriarchal Church, driven by power. We’re more likely to walk out on the Church while believing we’re still with Jesus.
The New Testament, however, challenges us: the Church is the Body of Christ. The Church is Jesus; often distorted by our crimes and misdemeanors, but Jesus nonetheless. Isn’t Jesus carrying the cross, disfigured and unrecognizable, still Jesus? Didn’t he, the crucified criminal, still forgive from the cross? The paradox of the Church is already present in the person of Jesus. I can’t separate one from the other, though I can distinguish Christ from my sins that cloak him.
Admitting this, I am very struck by these words: Jesus knew from the beginning the ones who would not believe and the one who would betray him. And he didn’t let that stop him. He didn’t wait for acceptance and security to take his first step. He didn’t need to be understood. He didn’t rant about hurts or disappointments. He never presumed that his mission wouldn’t be hard work. To me, that describes hope.
In today’s Gospel Jesus suffers a massive defection of disciples. But Jesus knew from the beginning the ones who would not believe in him and the one who would betray him. And that didn’t stop him, even left with a small, faltering band of twelve.
What an enormous trust Jesus invests in us! A few fumbling sinners willing to try again and not give up on themselves–that’s all he asks for.