Jos 24:1-2, 15-17, 18; Eph 5:21-32; John 6:60-69
The story is told about three priests who started discussing their common problem of how to get rid of bats in their churches. The first priest said he once took a shotgun and fired at them, but to no avail. The second one said he trapped them alive and released them outside, but they came back. The third priest said, he no longer had a problem in his church. Asked how he solved it, he said: “I simply baptized them and confirmed them, and I haven’t seen them in the church since then.”
We have this Filipino expression, “walang iwanan ha!” (Do not leave me, okay?), and this basically asking the person you are speaking with to respond with their pledge of loyalty. This is also the same to asking for a reassurance coming from our friends to stick it through thick and thin until everything will be fine and done.
Our gospel today talks about how many of Jesus’ disciples abandon Him, and never come back after He starts talking about the flesh as our food for eternal life and His blood as a drink. And for these people maybe they are following a person who is a lunatic, crazy and cannibal, so they leave Him, go to their former ways (BSDU – Balik Sa Dating Ugali), and no longer accompany Him.
But before we go further in our reflection of today’s gospel, let us examine briefly at the situation of the Jews after they left Egypt. According to the Book of Exodus, the Jews complain at least three times while they were making their way through Sinai. At Marah, they grumbled because the water was too bitter to drink (15:3-24). Later, in the wilderness of Sin, they complained because they don’t like the food they were eating (16:2-3). After that, at Rephidim, they murmured again because they had no water (17-1-2). But we never hear that anyone starve to death. It is because, after they grumbled in the wilderness of Sin, God nourished them by giving them manna and quail to eat.
Jesus has so many sayings which could make His disciples leave Him like: “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,” “Forgive your enemies not only seven times but seventy times seven times,” “those who want to be the first must serve the rest,” ‘if you want to inherit eternal life sell everything, give to the poor and follow,” and so on and so forth.
It is easy to accept the teachings of Christ as long as they don’t go against us or as long as we are hit not by it. But when we are hit, we say, “Now the Church is meddling with our lives!”
I remember what happened to Jaime Cardinal Sin, DD of the Archdiocese of Manila. When he asked his parishioners to have a rally on August 14, 1994 in protest of UN- sponsored Conference on Population and Development which started on September 5, 1994 in Cairo, Egypt, he was criticized. He was misunderstood and criticized in media by some people who are “concerned” about population and etc. there were so many commented and gave negative reaction when Church entered into the scene. They would rather use the principle of “Separation of Church and State” to justify what they are doing. As a matter of fact, they even challenged the priest, bishops and religious by saying: “If they can give us food, shelter, clothing, education, then we will not use artificial birth control,” and many more. Some would say, ‘for economic and practical reasons. But what we do not know is that it is the role of the Church to protect the faithful if faith and morals are in danger. Sad to say, we don’t have this, what we call faith and moral conviction in our Christian lives. We chose this kind of life because it is the easy way out.
That is why Jesus asked the Twelve, “Do you also want to leave?” Simon Peter answered Him, “To whom shall we go you have the words of eternal life,” (vv. 67-68).
What St. Peter is referring to when he said is about the word of God in the Bible. That is why I will ask each of you here if you have a Bible in your home? If you have, did you read it or you just put it in your cabinet and the cockroaches eat it or read it? According to St. Jerome, “Ignorance of the Scripture is ignorance of Christ.”
A story is told about a prisoner who was confined to a solitary confinement and was given a Bible as his only companion. So he studied it very carefully for several years. Long before the days of computers, he discovered the following facts about the Bible:
It contains 3,586,489 letters; it has 773,692 words; it has 31,173 verses; it has 1,189 chapters. The word “and” occurs 46,277 times. The middle verse in the entire Bible is verse 8 of Psalm 118. All the letters of the alphabet are found in Ezra 8:21. The longest verse is Esther 8:9. The shortest verse is John 11:35.
Those were some of the amazing facts which that prisoner researched out of the Bible. We are nowhere told that the message of the Bible touched the prisoner’s heart.
The Mass is divided into the Liturgy of the Word and the Liturgy of the Eucharist. In the Liturgy of the Word, the Word of God is being proclaimed to us and applied us through the homily given by a priest. In the Liturgy of the Eucharist, we are offering now the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ to God the Father.
A story of a former Presbyterian pastor and later became a Catholic said that he was surprised to find out, when he began to know the Catholic faith, that Catholics actually respect the Bible so much as the Word of God. They draw their basic beliefs, including beliefs about Tradition and the Church’s Magisterium from the Bible.
But as somebody had said that it is ironic that while informed Catholics are ready to point out that the Bible is “our book,” the “book of the Church” relatively few Catholics read and study the Bible regularly. Relatively few know what “our book” teaches as well as many other Christians do. Hence, the challenge to Catholics today in this area is two-fold. First, we must know the Word of God, so that we will “always be prepared to make a defense to anyone who calls you account for the hope that is in you…with gentleness and reverence,” (1Peter 3:15). Second, Catholics must live the word of God by putting it into practice. Our salvation depends on being “doers of the word and not hearers only, deceiving (ourselves),” (Jas 1:22). These two challenges, of course, are related because we cannot live God’s word unless we understand it and know what it really means.
Even the Vatican II Council of the Church invites us to put the Word of God into practice in our daily lives. That is why it is not surprising then that one of the four primary documents of Vatican II that we called constitutions is the Dogmatic Constitution on Divine Revelation. The Latin title is simply Dei Verbum or The Word of God.
Through this word of God, we can have a personal relationship with God and fellowship with Him. We can come to know God’s existence with ease, with certitude and with no trace of error. In God’s word, we find truth, freedom and life.
I am hoping that each one of us later will say: “I am a good Catholic, not only because I am a daily communicant but also because I am a daily reader of the Word of God that gives life.” So how important is God’s Word in your life?
See Today’s Readings: Cycle B