Soul Food for Sundays

A Reflection for the Twenty-First Sunday in Ordinary Time (22nd August 2021)

22nd August 2021
John 6:60-69

The Author: Sean Goan
calendar_today Date: July 31, 2021 - 3 minutes read

“To whom shall we go?” These words of Peter from today’s Gospel are an answer to the question posed by Jesus to the twelve apostles: “Do you also wish to go away?”

Throughout Chapter 6 of John’s Gospel there has been a growing misunderstanding of what Jesus is saying about God and about himself as the one who reveals the infinite love of the Father. Now, at the end of the chapter, even his disciples are scandalised by the intolerable language. They are offended by the image of Jesus as the Bread of Life, the one who nourishes us through his life-giving death.

However, the key to grasping what Jesus is speaking about probably lies is his statement that “It is the Spirit that gives life; the flesh has nothing to offer.” We might be tempted to think that we are being told here that the material world is bad and that we have only to attend to things spiritual. 

Whatever else these words may mean, that is NOT what is being said. It is very clear from the Scriptures that God’s creation is good and that we live in a blessed and graced world in all its material reality. That is also evident in all the teaching and wondrous deeds of Jesus.

Yet there is no doubt that we can easily look at this world in a limited way. We can fail to look at the bigger picture (the spiritual) and focus only on our own needs and wants (the “flesh”).

We can easily forget that living in God’s world means we are called to recognise the gift that it is and to respond to it with generous and grateful hearts. Having faith (or belief) is a way of responding to the experience of being human and that is a major theme in the Gospel of John.

Coming to believe in Jesus is presented as a journey into trust. We entrust ourselves to him as the Revealer of God and on this journey we come to understand how the Spirit moves us to see God at work.

So Peter in his reply has got it right – we have come to believe and know that Jesus is the Holy One of God. He is our guide, our way to living well in this world in and through our human frailty. 

Image by ThreeMilesPerHour from Pixabay

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Sean Goan

Currently Coordinator of Spiritan Mission Ireland, Belfast-born Sean is married, with 3 children. He taught for many years in Blackrock College and was chaplain there (2014-2017). He studied Scripture in Rome, Jerusalem and Chicago. He published The Sign in 2018.

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