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RELIGION LITURGY AND LIFE

21 ST SUNDAY OF ORDINARY TIME.

Here we are at the end of August with the final roundup of getting back from the holidays and the beginning of the manically busy days of getting ready for the beginning of the new school year on the horizon. We always came back from the country for the last week in August in order to get ready for the beginning of September and the opening of the various schools and colleges we all attended. There always that certainty of going home and getting back to the normal daily routine after the summer, when everyone was going around and about doing their own thing and enjoying the break from the monotony of the same old thing school, college or work day in and day out.

 In the Gospel readings of the past weeks, Jesus has been distressing the disciples by his words. Last week he said we have to consume his flesh and blood in order to have eternal life. His followers could not possibly have understood this. They whispered, “This saying is hard; who can accept it?” In the Gospel, we have finally reached  the great conclusion of the discussion about Jesus’ being the “Bread of Life”, and his being the one ”sent”. Some of His disciples find these words offensive to their senses and so their minds boggle. They have to leave and return to their former ways of seeing, thinking and believing.

They saw the miraculous distribution of bread and fish and ate their fill. Their senses told them something they could grasp. Jesus stretches their minds and asks them as he asks all of us to be as open to something even more miraculous, but which goes beyond the information provided by the senses. They choose the path of the “flesh” while Jesus is inviting them to walk the way of the Spirit. They stumble over what they cannot see or imagine. It takes faith and trust to believe in Jesus and to accept his words. Real faith, however, is neither blind trust nor ignorant belief. Augustine of Hippo once said: “I believe, in order to understand; and I understand, the better to believe.” Faith and reason go together, because faith seeks understanding of God’s truth and revelation. That is why God gives us the help and guidance of the Holy Spirit, who is our instructor and daily tutor in the wisdom and knowledge of God. Paul the Apostle teaches us to pray for understanding that God “may give you a spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him, having the eyes of your heart enlightened” (Ephesians 1:17-18). Faith or lack of faith is our personal response to God’s revelation of himself to us. Jesus reveals who God is and offers us a personal relationship with God as our heavenly Father. Peter’s profession of faith was based on the personal relationship he had with Jesus. Peter grasped, through the eyes of faith, that Jesus truly was the Messiah, the Holy One of God.  Through the gift of faith Peter came to understand that Jesus was both God and man, sent into the world by the Father who loved the world so much that he gave us his only Son (John 3:16).

Peter believed in the words which Jesus spoke, because he accepted Jesus as the Son of God and saviour of the world. Faith is an entirely free gift of God which enables us to respond to God’s word with trust because God is true and utterly reliable. Faith is the key to understanding and experiencing God at work in our daily personal lives. Do you believe, as Peter did, that Jesus can change your life because he has the words of everlasting life?

Many leave, but some stay including Peter. So Jesus puts the big question to them and him, “Do you also want to leave?” He also puts that question to us here and now, will we remain faithful or will we go our own way by travelling down the road of life on our own without the certainty of a spiritual life.  I think that the quotation above from Augustine of Hippo is a good starting point for us as people of faith. We believe in order to understand and we understand better to believe. Faith is an entirely free gift of God which enables us to respond to God’s word with trust because God is true and utterly reliable so let us trust in God to help us in every difficulty there may be in the future as he has done in the past .

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