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When many of the disciples heard Jesus, they said, ‘This teaching is difficult; who can accept it?’ But Jesus, being aware that his disciples were complaining about it, said to them, ‘Does this offend you? Then what if you were to see the Son of Man ascending to where he was before? It is the spirit that gives life; the flesh is useless. The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life. But among you there are some who do not believe.’ For Jesus knew from the first who were the ones that did not believe, and who was the one that would betray him. And he said, ‘For this reason I have told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted by the Father.’
Because of this many of his disciples turned back and no longer went about with him. So Jesus asked the twelve, ‘Do you also wish to go away?’ Simon Peter answered him, ‘Lord, to whom can we go? You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe and know that you are the Holy One of God.’
This teaching is difficult; who can accept it?
We are travelling through difficult and challenging times. For the last year we have had to spend much time reflecting upon the learning and the wisdom of medical professionals, scientists and politicians. Our whole way of life has had to change. Those who have resisted that change have simply added an increasing burden of anxiety to their daily lives. This teaching is difficult; who can accept it?
In our rural communities there is, as in almost all rural communities, a sense of calm and gentle routine. Many have been able to journey through the same daily, weekly, monthly and annual routines for a very long time. Then came the undeniable and unstoppable challenges of the last year, challenges that necessitated a significant change in routine and outlook. This teaching is difficult; who can accept it?
The sixth chapter of St John’s Gospel, and yesterday’s honouring of our patron saint, have brought us face to face with ‘difficult teaching’. We have been challenged to look again at our comfortable lifestyles and reconsider how we live out our lives. We have been challenged to think again about how tomorrow will look because, if we are to follow the path of Jesus Christ, it will be different. This teaching is difficult; who can accept it?
To follow Jesus Christ is not a matter of turning up in a big medieval building on an occasional basis that is largely dictated by social convenience. To follow Jesus Christ is about real commitment to living a self-sacrificial life of love and service for all. To follow Jesus Christ is about taking an active role in turning the spotlight away from ourselves and on to those who are in need of love and care. Is there any wonder that in today’s reading we hear of those who turned back and no longer went about with him?
As we journey through this season of Easter we should be overflowing with enthusiasm and zeal; we should be making our faith the most important thing in our lives; and we should be demonstrating our faith in all that we say and do. Is that the place where you will be found today? Or, have you dug a bunker of nostalgia and self-pity in which you are waiting for the return of the ‘good old days’ that never really existed but in which you were able to nestle and hide. As Jesus said: This teaching is difficult. Can you accept it? Are you able to join the disciples in proclaiming Jesus as the Holy One of God in all you say and do?