by José Antonio Pagola (English translation by Rebel Girl)
Web de Jose Antonio Pagola
August 23, 2012
John 6: 60-69
John's gospel has preserved the memory of a strong crisis among Jesus' followers. We barely have the facts. We're only told that his way of speaking was hard for the disciples. The adherence he was demanding of them probably seemed excessive to them. At a given point, "many of his disciples turned back." They were no longer walking with him.
For the first time, Jesus found that his words didn't have the desired strength. However, he didn't withdraw them but further reaffirmed, "The words I have spoken to you are spirit and life. And yet, some of you don't believe." His words seem harsh but they transmit life, they bring to life since they contain the Spirit of God.
Jesus doesn't lose his calm. The failure doesn't worry him. Addressing the Twelve, he asks them the decisive question, "Do you also want to leave?". He doesn't want to retain them under duress. He leaves them the freedom to choose. His disciples are not to be servants, but friends. They can go home if they want to.
Once again, Peter answers on behalf of all. His response is exemplary. Sincere, humble, sensible, characteristic of a disciple who knows Jesus enough not to abandon him. Yet today, his attitude could help those of wavering faith who are considering dispensing with all faith.
"Master, to whom shall we go?". It doesn't make sense to abandon Jesus any which way, without having found a better and more convincing teacher. If they don't follow Jesus, they'll remain without knowing whom to follow. They don't have to rush. It isn't good to be without a light or guide in life.
Peter is a realist. Is it good to abandon Jesus without having found a more convincing and attractive hope? Is it enough to replace him with a downgraded lifestyle, with hardly any goals or horizon? Is it better to live without questions or proposals or seeking of any kind?
There's something Peter hasn't forgotten: "You have the words of eternal life." He senses that Jesus' words aren't empty or deceptive. With him, they have discovered life differently. His message has opened them to eternal life. What could they substitute for Jesus' Gospel? Where could they find better News of God?
Finally, Peter remembers the basic experience. By living with Jesus, they have discovered that he comes from the mystery of God. From afar, at a distance, from indifference or lack of interest, the mystery enclosed in Jesus can't be recognized. The Twelve have dealt with him up close. That's why they can say, "We believe and we know." They will go on with Jesus.