Twenty-first Sunday of Ordinary Time in Year B

Posté par diaconos le 18 août 2021

Lord, to whom shall we go ? You have the words of eternal life


# Apostle refers to a person who is sent on a mission, or even to the fulfilment of the mission or the letters describing it1 . In the Greek Septuagint Bible, the word is applied to persons (1Ki 14:6); it translates the Hebrew shaliah, « sent with authority ». The New Testament uses the word several times. It is applied to several distinct categories of persons the witnesses of Jesus’ resurrection, sent to announce this event; one of the ministries of the early Church; twice in the Gospels (Mt 10:2 and Lk 6:13): the group of Twelve chosen by Jesus, first to send them (Mt 10:5-42), and finally to be with him and to symbolically signify the people of the end of time (Mt 19:28) Paul, who was not one of the twelve apostles, is called an apostle without further specification. This word is also applied to people who teach and spread religion in the manner of Jesus’ apostles. By extension, it also describes propagators of a doctrine, opinion or cause.

In colloquial vocabulary, « apostle » refers to a person who will blindly listen to his master thinker and actively propagate his ideas. This image refers to the apostles of Jesus Christ. The New Testament also shows an apostolate conceived in the early Church as one of the essential ministries; Paul’s letters (e.g. 2 Cor 11:13) speak of « false apostles ». The first example of an apostolic text is probably the apostolic letter sent to the church of Antioch following the speeches of Peter (Acts 15:7-12) and James (Acts 15:13-21) on the decision of the Jerusalem Council on the observance of traditional Jewish rules, especially circumcision (ca. 50). The texts are not always explicit about the content of this ministry, which may have included an itinerant missionary dimension: the Didache attests to its existence in Syria at the beginning of the second century. The apostolate, unlike the episcopate, is not exercised in a circumscribed and precise territory: it has a universal dimension.

Peter first presided over the Church of Antioch and then the Church of Rome. The tradition of the Church, following the texts of the Acts of the Apostles, adopts a modified apostolic college after the defection and betrayal of Judas Iscariot. It replaced him with Matthias and especially with Paul (Apostle). Most of the time, these two additional Apostles appear together among the Twelve at the expense of one of the Eleven called by Jesus Christ. In any case, Paul always appears in the apostolic college, in second place after Peter. The Apostolic Tradition was defined by Hippolytus of Rome at the beginning of the third century.r the existence of this ministry of the early Church on which Calvin relied to restructure the ministries of the churches of the Reformation.

Lord, to whom shall we go ? You have the words of eternal life

From the Gospel of Jesus Christ St John

Jesus taught in the synagogue of Capernaum. Many of his disciples who heard him said: « This is a hard word! Who can hear it? « . Jesus knew that his disciples were grumbling about him. He said to them: « Does this offend you? And when ye see the Son of Man ascending to the place where He was before… It is the spirit that gives life; the flesh is capable of nothing. The words I have spoken to you are spirit and they are life.

But there are some among you who do not believe. For Jesus knew from the beginning who those who did not believe were and who it was who would betray him. He added: « This is why I have told you that no one can come to me unless it is given to him by the Father ».

From that time on, many of his disciples turned away and stopped accompanying him. Then Jesus said to the Twelve: « Will you also go away? « . Simon Peter answered him: « Lord, to whom shall we go? Thou hast the words of eternal life. As for us, we believe and know that you are the Holy One of God. ( Jn 6,60-69)

The defection of some disciples

After Jesus had argued with the Jews, who were more or less opposed to his teaching, he left the synagogue, followed by those who, in great numbers, followed him from place to place to hear his word and witness his works. Many of these came forward. A crisis of faith occurred among them. 0Jesus knew the secret murmurings of the disciples; he saw at once that they were caused by a lack of faith: « Does this offend you? Is this an occasion for you to fall away and desert?  « For many, the end of the discourse seemed to have exceeded the measure of their intelligence and strength.

Their comment, « This word is hard, » did not mean only that they found it difficult to understand, but rather impossible to accept: who could hear it and put it into practice? These disciples did not take these words of Jesus so literally and materially as the Jews did; but they found it a stumbling block that Jesus should suffer and die for the life of the world, and that they themselves should appropriate the fruits of his death through a mysterious communion with him.

This scandalised them. This prospect was always a source of scandal to the Jews, and also to the apostles, before they had received the divine Spirit. It is no different for many people today. Jesus therefore refers his listeners, scandalised by his previous statements, to the time when he will have returned to the glory he had before his incarnation.

Some, considering that Jesus could not ascend to heaven except by passing through profound humiliation and the death of which he has just spoken, have thought that he wanted to say to his listeners: There you will find much stronger reasons to be scandalised. Others, concentrating exclusively on the idea of the ascension and glorification of Christ, announced here, thought that he was explaining to his hearers the prospect of a time when it will be easier for them to understand the spiritual meaning of his words, to believe in him, in a word, to no longer be scandalised (thus Calvin, Stier, Ebrard, Luthardt, Godet, Keil, Holtzmann).

Jesus was speaking to listeners who were scandalised by his speech. He wanted to dispel their prejudices; to this end, he affirmed three propositions: it is the Spirit who gives life, the Holy Spirit of God, with whom Jesus was filled to the brim and who, through his word, regenerates souls and communicates life. « The words I have spoken to you are Spirit and life »; this double affirmation brings with it divine power and communicates life. But for this to happen, the soul must be open to the light and life-giving power of the Spirit, for without Him the flesh is useless.

Even the flesh of Christ, who gave for the life of the world, all his person and all his work, which we must appropriate by faith, could only be enlivened by the Spirit, who alone makes comprehensible the incarnation and sacrifice of Jesus Christ and our union with him. For those who stopped outside and knew Christ only in the flesh, Christ himself was of no use. « For the words which I speak unto you are spirit and life; the reason of the offence which they do you is not in them, but in your unbelief.

Jesus softened this accusation, reducing to a few the number of those who refused to believe in him, to receive him as he had just presented himself to them in this discourse. Yet, with this observation, John explains that Jesus was not surprised by this crisis of faith in his disciples, that he had expected it, that he had seen it in advance in their hearts.  Moreover, he knew from the beginning who were those who did not believe and who was the one who betrayed him.

What did the word « from the beginning » mean?  Most interpreters understand this as the moment when Jesus entered his ministry and began to gather disciples, but this meaning did not apply to his Galilean hearers who did not believe. Jesus did not know them at that time. As soon as the first seeds of unbelief spring up in the heart of a disciple, Jesus already knows him to the core… In this case, John’s remark about Judas would not refer to the moment when Jesus admitted him into the number of the twelve, but to the moment when this disciple’s greed and hypocrisy took root in his heart.

There were some who did not believe, because, although they followed Jesus, their hearts were not ready to receive the Good Word. Jesus said to his disciples, « Do you also want to go away?  Jesus wanted to test them and bring about a complete decision in them, because he wanted a people of free will. He knew them well enough to know that all of them, with the exception of Judas, would remain faithful to him, and there was no doubt about their answer, but he wanted to hear it from them, because Peter’s profession helped to strengthen their faith. You have the words of eternal life »; these words were spoken by Peter with full persuasion, enthusiasm and ardent love for Jesus.

Deacon Michel Houyoux

Links to other Christian websites

◊ Father Hanly : click here to read the paper → Homily for 21st Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B

◊ Catholic Diocese of Sandhurst, Victoria, Australia : click here to read the paper →   21st Sunday in Ordinary Time

  Homily for the 21st Sunday of Ordinary Time

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