“Is Jesus my Teacher?”
by Fr Eunan McDonnell SDB
This is intolerable language, how could anyone accept it?
After this, many of his disciples left him and stopped going with him.
Sometimes we may be tempted to present the Gospel in a way that appeals to people or accommodates their opinions. The truth, however, does not depend on public opinion, referendums or majority vote. Democracies don’t make things true. Jesus is the way the truth and the life. He reveals the truth to us. However, because the teaching of Jesus is the truth it provokes a reaction – before the truth we cannot remain neutral. We either accept or reject it– there is no other alternative. This is why John states that although the light has come into the world, many people prefer darkness to light.
The word that is used most often to describe Jesus in Mark’s Gospel is Teacher or Rabbi. Jesus is presented as teaching with authority. In John’s Gospel the teaching of Jesus is constantly misunderstood because he speaks at one level and people understand at another. In other places Jesus states – ‘thank you Father for hiding these things from the learned and the clever and revealing them to mere children for that is what it has pleased you to do.”
All of this points to one thing – the teaching of Jesus can only be received if we are humble, if we are open and childlike – if we are ready to learn to be taught by him – if we realize that the truth is deeper than my opinion, beliefs and convictions.
We are followers of Jesus but I wonder what our response would have been if we were among the crowd in today’s Gospel. Am I so certain that I would have stayed with him and not walked away with others:
This is intolerable language who could accept it?
What teaching do his followers find intolerable? We are arriving at the climax of chapter Six of John’s Gospel, the teaching on the Eucharist. Jesus states clearly and unambiguously that the Eucharist is not simply a symbol it is his very body, his flesh. He is giving us his flesh as food so that his body and ours become one and he can nourish us with his life. The same word is used at the beginning of John’s Gospel – the Word became flesh and dwelt among us – now that flesh becomes the bread of life and is given to us in holy communion. This is the teaching that many reject – even today among Christians his followers.
Jesus is teacher, but is he My teacher? If we accept Jesus as teacher it implies that we learn the truth from him.
If Jesus is truly my teacher, what have I learnt from him recently?
Scripture readings: Courtesy of Universalis Publishing Ltd. – www.universalis.com
Reflections and Prayers by Fr Jack Finnegan SDB
1st Reading – Joshua 24:1-2, 15-18
Our first reading introduces a pivotal point in the early history of Israel and the renewing of the Covenant with the LORD. Joshua brings all the people together at Shechem, the religious centre of the new land. There were ancient links to Shechem: Abraham met God there and links continue after Abraham. Jacob bought property there. And there Joseph’s bones were laid to rest. No wonder Joshua confronts the people with a defining choice: worship Yahweh, the God of the Israelites or El-berith, the god of the Amorites. A choice had to be made; and choices have consequences. They shape stories. Here is the link to the gospel where a choice also must be made. What choice are we making in Ireland today? What choice are we making in Europe, in the world? Do we hear the ancient invitation echoing down the millennia: choose this day whom you will serve? Can we make Peter’s words our own: to whom shall we go? What is your experience? What stance have you taken? Where do you find words of life? Will you renew today the choice to live in loving and life shaping relationship with God?
LORD, Adonai, at Shechem Joshua and the people renewed their covenant with you. Today I renew my commitment. May you be praised and glorified in all I do! Joshua acted at the end of his life, trying to ensure the fidelity of the people he led to freedom after Moses. It was a difficult time. We stand today at a time when faith has grown weak and secular ideologies have grown strong. The temptation to leave you is everywhere. Reach out to all our people. Pour your Spirit out upon us. Touch us as we need to be touched by your loving presence. Bless us as we need to be blessed. Send angels of light to bring us back. Inspire us with the wisdom of Joshua and his people. Send us shepherds who know you, leaders who understand your ways. May you truly be our God! Now and forever. Amen.
Psalm 34:2-3, 9, 16-23
Our psalm today teaches us the significance of a spirituality rooted in the experience of gratitude. It shows us how to bring together our need for God’s help and our ability to see beyond need to grateful praise embedded in personal experience of God’s awesome goodness. The central topic in psalm 34 is prayer: humble prayer, Spirit-led prayer, the prayer of one whose life has been truly touched by God, who has come to experience God’s loving presence, who seeks to see all of life through the eyes of God. And then we learn that all true prayer leads to action for a better world. Are we up to the challenge? Am I ready to bless the LORD always? Is God’s praise ever on my lips? Does God’s glory inspire me to live the realities of justice and fairness? Do I taste and see God’s awesome wonder?
LORD, Adonai, may your praise be ever on my lips! May my soul be filled with songs of gratitude! May my spirit celebrate your goodness in all creation! May my life taste your loving presence everywhere! May my whole being glory in the radiance of your light! May I know oneness with you! May I learn to rest in your awesome care! Bless the just! Hear the cry of the poor! Heal the broken-hearted! Confront the evil that we do to each other! Free us from the violence that hides in our hearts! Deliver those who are in trouble: the trafficked, the enslaved, the oppressed! Watch over us! Now and forever. Amen.
2nd Reading – Ephesians 5:21-32
The core of this text is the relationship between Christ and the Church, with marriage as a metaphor. But many find it problematic today because of words like ‘subordinate’ and ‘love’? What complicates matters is the use of the word ‘head’ to translate the original Greek, with its strong overtones in English of ‘authority’. But the Greek does not have that meaning suggesting instead the notion of ‘source’. Do we read this text as a firm defence of patriarchal order as many do today? Do we to read it in the light of a discipleship of equals rejecting patriarchy? Do we seek a position between the two, focusing on a living bond between two people that exalts neither, something new about marriage at the time? Or are we to read the text in the light of classical models of household management? Is something else at work: a call to self-emptying love on each one’s part. Which fits Christ best? Let the text speak to your heart, empowering you to walk in love and unity with the living Christ today.
Lord Jesus, you are the living Source! You are the Source of all blessing! You are the Source of all love! As we pray for our married sisters and brothers today, help us all understand that in you every difference is overcome. Oneness is made possible. All troubles are brought to a bright place of healing. Help us all recognise our emotional immaturity: our selfish needs, our power and control needs, all those aspects of our humanity that get in the way of unifying love and compassion. Unblock our capacity to love as you love. Unblock our capacity to understand each other as you do. Unblock our capacity to honour each other and respect each other in the power of your grace. Bring deep peace to our families. Bring deep peace to the Church you love. Bring deep peace to the world in which we live. Now and forever. Amen.
Gospel Reading – John 6:60-69
Once again, we are listening to the discourse at Capernaum on the Bread from heaven. By now, the disciples knew that they had to make a choice, one that proved far from easy. “This saying is hard; who can accept it?” They took Jesus literally, following their own frames of reference. How do we cope with our own human nature, our own limitations? How do we manage our own emotional immaturity? Because what is at stake here is not so much Eucharist as sacrament, but us confronted by Jesus as heavenly Wisdom incarnate, God’s true revelation. That is one reason why this passage ends with many of his disciples returned to their former way of life and no longer accompanied him. That is one reason why this passage ends with a confession from Peter on behalf of the Twelve: “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.” Here is the stark choice. Do we stay with Jesus intentionally as Peter did and the Twelve, or do we go our own way as many are doing in our own days? Do we follow Jesus or do our own thing? Am I an intentional disciple choosing Spirit and Life in Christ? The choice is always ours.
Sit with words like discipleship, faith, revelation, doubt, rejection. Where are you today?
Lord Jesus, sometimes it is difficult to follow you along the way to life. Sometimes we find your word too challenging. Be with us today. Be present to us when faith in your word is challenging. Bless us when we doubt you. In difficult moments shower us with the wisdom and insight we need to choose life in you. Help us recognise the limits of our self-centred frames of reference. Help us recognise that you are Wisdom incarnate. Help us recognise that your words are Spirit and life. Help us recognise that you are the living door to the Father. So very often we are quarrelsome like the people with Moses at Meriba. We find the going tough. We want our needs met. We want to go back to our narcissism and our slavery. Many left you that day at Capernaum. Many returned to their old ways. Something similar is happening in Ireland today. Grace us at such moments to renew our covenant with you. Help us deepen our commitment to your way. Teach us the way of fidelity. Now and forever. Amen.
Read: understand what the text is saying, focussing on how it says it
Meditate: apply what the text says to life