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August 26, 2018 - "Faith is Disruptive"

Twenty-first Sunday in Ordinary Time

Scripture Readings

Finally, after five weekends, we have reached the end the Bread of Life discourse. We could only wish that the discourse ends well. But it does not. It ends letting the readers know that many of Jesus’ disciples “returned to their former way of life and no longer accompanied him (Jn 6:66). Just as you prepare yourself for a bad ending, there is a glimpse of hope. Jesus came to the Twelve and asked them, "Do you also want to leave?" (Jn 6:67). Peter’s response warms every believer’s heart. "Master, to whom shall we go?” he says, “You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe and are convinced that you are the Holy One of God” (Jn 6:68-69). (As an aside, please keep Peter’s confession at the back of your mind. We will return to it later). Just when you think that the story has a happy ending, John gives us this devastating news: Jesus said to the Twelve: “Did I not choose you twelve? Yet is not one of you a devil? He was referring to Judas, son of Simon the Iscariot (Jn 6:70-71). The story will ultimately end well, but for that we must until the resurrection. 

John’s conclusion to the Bread of Life discourse is not merely a conclusion to the discourse. It the end of this section of John and the beginning of a new. Now the plot thickens. The dice is thrown. People will make choices with regard to Jesus. That choice will disrupt life. That choice will determine eternity. Here is my conclusion to the discourse and my three practical implications.  

1. Not all Disciples can get to where Jesus leads. It is interesting to me that John says that many of Jesus’ “disciples” returned to their former way of life. These disciples were not the Twelve, but neither were they simply the crowds that followed him because of the multiplication the loaves and the fish. The “disciples” seemed to have had made significant changes in their life-style to follow Jesus. Now they returned to their former way of life. The transition from bread to flesh, the transition from Moses to Jesus, the transition from life to eternal life, the transition from flesh to spirit – it was hard. John is making a point – following Jesus is hard. When has been hard for you to follow Jesus? I can tell you when I find it hard. I find it hard to follow Jesus when my trust has been broken. I trust easily because I believe in the basic goodness of people. But when that trust gets broken, for me it takes a long time to get over the hurt. I am going through this at this very moment. I know what Jesus would do and I know what Jesus wants me to do during these times. However, it is hard. When is it hard for you to follow Jesus? It is a good question to reflect on this week.    

2. Faith According to John .John’s entire gospel was written for one simple reason – that the readers may come to believe that Jesus is the Son of God. Right at the beginning, John says this to his readers, “But to those who did accept him he gave power to become children of God, to those who believe in his name… (Jn1:12). John ends his gospel with the words, "these are written that you may [come to] believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that through this belief you may have life in his name” (Jn 20: 31). John’s stories about Samaritan woman, man born blind, the resurrection of Lazarus, they all end with a personal confession of faith in Jesus as the Messiah. So too, the end of the Bread of Life discourse. The disciples must come to a personal confession of faith. On behalf of the Twelve, Peter says, "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” (Jn 6:68-69).For John, those who believe in Jesus must come to an absolute conviction about Jesus Christ. They must acknowledge that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of the Living God, who has come into the world. They must confess and accept that Jesus is the Way, the Truth, and the Life; that He is the Bread of Life; that He is the Light of the World; and, that He is the Resurrection and the Life. Faith in Jesus Christ involves a believer’s total surrender to Jesus Christ – no questions asked. What is our confession of faith? Especially when things get hard – serious illness, unexpected death, broken relationships, betrayal, child sex abuse by priests, cover-up by bishops, when sin overwhelms us – what does faith look like? 

3. Faith in Disruptive. John’s demand for a confession of faith in Jesus Christ was hard in those days because Jesus turned religion on its head. Jesus completely disrupted how people believed in God. He disrupted their life so seriously that many of them abandoned Jesus.  He disrupted their lives so intensely, that Judas betrayed him and the religious leaders killed him. Here is the crux of John’s entire gospel - genuine faith in Jesus Christ causes a total disruption in a person’s life, indeed in the world. Jesus unsettles us. Jesus makes us uncomfortable. To forgive in the way Jesus demands, to love even our enemies in the way Jesus shows, to give without measure like Jesus does, to live the life that Jesus lived – it is bound to unsettle us. Faith is disruptive.  In fact, the end of the Bread of Life discourse, mirrors life. It mirrors the life of a believer and those who abandon Christ. In the gospel of John, there is no middle ground; there is not sitting on the fence. Either you must give it all or walk away. Either way, Jesus is going to disrupt your life. Either way, it is going to affect your eternity. Either way, Faith is disruptive. 

Today as we come to Christ in the Eucharist, he is asking us, "And what about you?" May our response be, "Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life." 

- Fr. Satish Joseph