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"You have the words of eternal life."
May 7th Readings Reflection: Saturday of the Third Week of Easter
“This saying is hard; who can accept it?”
This is the question that many of Jesus’ followers asked themselves upon hearing His words. Jesus had just been presenting the doctrine of the Eucharist: “[M]y flesh is meat indeed: and my blood is drink indeed” (Jn 6:56 DRB). Jesus declared Himself to be the living Bread from Heaven, an idea which shocked and repulsed many of His disciples.
When presented with a difficult doctrine, many of them gave up and turned away from Christ. Jesus asked them whether they would believe if they saw Him ascending to His Father, whether they would believe if His glory were visibly made manifest to them. His words are Spirit and life, yet these disciples felt they could not accept it, so they turned away from Him.
So often in our own lives, we do the same as these disciples. When we encounter something difficult — either in our personal lives or in our faith — we allow ourselves to be overcome by the difficulty. Rather than praying for God’s grace to strengthen us and enlighten our minds, we put up barriers and shut Him out. It is impossible to understand, we say, and thus we do not try any longer. We simply give up, resigning ourselves to perpetual confusion and hurt at not being able to understand.
The Twelve Apostles were presented with the same difficulty. They could have joined the other disciples who turned away from Jesus at His difficult teaching. Yet they chose to stay, recognizing that the words of Jesus are “eternal life.” This does not mean that they immediately understood all that He taught; there are many instances throughout the Gospels where we see the Apostles struggling to understand a more difficult teaching of Jesus. What set the Apostles apart from the disciples who left, therefore, is their desire to understand. They turned to Jesus and asked for the grace to understand what He was saying, so that they might believe without reservation. There is no one else to whom they could turn; if they left Jesus, they knew that they would also leave the Truth.
There are many aspects of the Faith with which we may struggle throughout our lives. Let us implore the intercession of the Holy Apostles, that we may imitate them and not become disheartened when we encounter a difficulty in our faith. God has given us the gift of free will; we are free to choose to leave Him or to stay. May we accept the graces God offers us and choose to hold fast to Jesus’ teachings, striving to always believe in spite of any difficulties we may encounter, knowing that Jesus alone has “the words of eternal life.”