May 7, 2022 (readings)
- Saturday of the Third Week of Easter
- Maribeth Harper
Many of the disciples of Jesus who were listening said, “This saying is hard; who can accept it?” Since Jesus knew that his disciples were murmuring about this, he said to them, “Does this shock you? What if you were to see the Son of Man ascending to where he was before? It is the Spirit that gives life, while the flesh is of no avail. The words I have spoken to you are Spirit and life. But there are some of you who do not believe.” Jesus knew from the beginning the ones who would not believe and the one who would betray him. And he said, “For this reason I have told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted him by my Father.” As a result of this, many of his disciples returned to their former way of life and no longer walked with him. Jesus then said to the Twelve, “Do you also want to leave?” Simon Peter answered him, “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.”
Opening Prayer: Lord, I often find that your words challenge me and that your laws are “hard to accept.” As I come before you in prayer today, bless me and strengthen my heart to obey you without hesitation.
This Saying Is Hard: Christ had just revealed to his followers his divine plan to become “living” bread. The Eucharist was to be his way of uniting intimately to each one of us from generation to generation. Jews of that era had been taught not to consume the blood of animals, so this was a difficult moment for them. “Does this shock you?” Jesus asked. What would have happened if someone in the crowd answered simply and humbly, “Yes, Lord. Could you explain further? I want to learn.” Instead, they murmured among themselves. What do we do when we find ourselves challenged by a tenet of Church teaching? Do we spend time praying, studying, inquiring, and humbly seeking the truth? Do we take our struggle to Christ, admitting we are shocked, burdened, confused, or angry? He welcomes our angst and suffers with us as he gently guides us to truth.
Jesus Knew: Jesus worked tirelessly in ministry, suffered in agony, and hung on a cross even though he knew people would reject him. And some of those who rejected him would do so not because of misunderstanding, but because they chose not to believe—they wanted their own way. Not only would individual souls reject him, but Jesus also knew that some would actively collaborate with darkness to betray him—and still do. Yet, he suffered anyway. Even his friends, those of us with whom Jesus celebrates this Easter Season, let him down at least seven times a day (Proverbs 24:16). What magnanimity Our Lord shows us in this moment. Although some of his disciples walked away, Jesus was not deterred from the Father’s plan for our redemption. In fact, he would have died for just one of us!
Former Way of Life?: Many of Jesus’ disciples returned to their “former way of life,'' in other words, life without Christ. It can be easy to live without Christ when life is joyful. However, life can seem unbearable when we try to suffer without him. Only by faith can we find joy in suffering. The saints bear witness to this: “All the pleasures of the world are nothing compared with the sweetness found in the gall and vinegar offered to Jesus Christ. That is, hard and painful things endured for Jesus Christ and with Jesus Christ” (St. Ignatius of Loyola). “From the moment I came to love suffering, it ceased to be a suffering for me. Suffering is the daily food of my soul” (St. Faustina). When we are afraid of suffering, we can take consolation in what Jesus told St. Faustina: “Do not be afflicted if your heart often experiences repugnance and dislike for sacrifice. All its power rests in the will, and so these contrary feelings, far from lowering the value of the sacrifice in my eyes, will enhance it.”
Conversation with Christ: Lord, you know how difficult I can find it to bend my will to yours, especially when your words are difficult for me to understand. Help me to rely not on my own understanding but to genuinely seek truth. By your grace, I have no desire to return to my former way of life, but help me to be faithful during difficult or painful moments.
Resolution: Lord, today by your grace I will offer up every inconvenience or suffering for the sake of souls with confidence that it pleases you.
For Further Reflection: “By his passion and death on the cross Christ has given a new meaning to suffering: it can henceforth configure us to him and unite us with his redemptive Passion” (CCC 1505).
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