In the Sunday liturgy over the last month we have jumped (from Mark) into the sixth chapter of John’s gospel.
Next Sunday we leap back to Mark. Today the gospel verses are from the end of John 6:
As a result of this,many of his disciples returned to their former way of lifeand no longer accompanied 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 believeand are convinced that you are the Holy One of God.”
These verses always strike me as extraordinary. So often my own projects and attempts at good works seem to come to nothing. My efforts appear to bear no fruit. I am left feeling disappointed and frustrated. At times I even begin to fear that I am not up to the task of evangelization.
And then I read these words from John’s gospel: “many of his disciples returned to their former way of life, and no longer accompanied him.”
This is hard to believe. Jesus, the master evangelist. Jesus, the maestro missionary. And yet many people walked away from him.
It is also significant that Jesus made no effort to entice them back. He certainly did not compromise his “hard sayings” to make the life of faith more easily digestible for them. Jesus seemed to be completely unconcerned with the growth in numbers of his group of disciples.
The heart of the missionary method of Jesus was his acceptance of the fact that personal intimacy with God is the only place of life. Everything else is the fruit of this relationship.
We can plan programmes, form pastoral plans and undertake new evangelization endeavours. But all of these well-intentioned efforts will come to nothing if we do not seek personal intimacy with Jesus above all else.
As we live this life in harmony with God, some people will be attracted, but many others will leave us, even persecute us. In the midst of this strife and loneliness we stay, since we know that
“You have the words of eternal life.We have come to believeand are convinced that you are the Holy One of God.”