Reflections On Today’s Gospel Reading

Saturday, Third Week of Easter

We don’t often think of churches, communities of believers, in the land where Jesus lived and worked, what today’s first reading refers to as ‘Judea, Galilee and Samaria’. Jesus was from Galilee and spent most of his public ministry in Galilee, but he also entered Samaria and his ministry concluded in Judea, although he may also have travelled to Judea from Galilee in the course of his ministry, as the fourth gospel suggests. The first reading declares that the churches in these areas were ‘building themselves up, living in the fear of the Lord, and filled with the consolation of the Holy Spirit’. This is the wonderful fruit of Jesus’ ministry. Today’s gospel reading, from the fourth gospel, is set in Galilee and, in contrast, it highlights a moment of crisis for the original group of disciples that Jesus had gathered about himself. Jesus had been revealing himself as the Bread of Life and declaring that ‘those who eat my flesh and drink my blood have eternal life’. Some of the disciples declare, ‘This is intolerable language. How could anyone accept it?’ The evangelist goes on to state, ‘many of his disciples left him and stopped going with him’. This is a very different picture to the vibrant church in Galilee given to us in the first reading. There is often an ebb and flow to the life of the church in a region. When the tide seems to be going out, we shouldn’t get discouraged. The risen Lord is with us in the lean times as much as in the times of flourishing. In crisis times, it is important that some believers hold firm. This is what we find happening in the gospel reading. When many of Jesus’ disciples left, he turns to the twelve and asks them, ‘What about you, do you want to go away too?’ It is one of those questions of Jesus that hangs in the air for us all. Where do we stand when it seems easier to join the stampede heading for the exit? We are all invited to make our own Peter’s response to Jesus’ question, ‘Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the message of eternal life’.