by Bishop Thomas Gumbleton
Pax Christi USA Teacher of Peace
As I mentioned at the beginning of the reading of the Gospel, this concludes a series of five Gospels that we’ve had now where Jesus started by first performing what John calls a sign, a sign that John at the conclusion of this Gospel says, “There were many of these signs given that you might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God.” So this extraordinary event that took place in the desert was a sign of who Jesus really is.
Now we come to the end of the instructions that Jesus gave in reflecting upon that sign. As John points out, many of the people who came to hear what Jesus said decided it’s too hard to stay. It’s too hard. We can’t believe it. We can’t accept first that this is a sign that Jesus is the Christ, the son of the living God. To them, he was just another human being, one like them. In fact, you might remember a Sunday ago, they said, “Is this not the son of Mary? Do we not know his mother and Joseph, his father? His brothers and sisters? He’s just one of us.”
So it’s hard saying that this is Jesus, son of God, as well as son of Mary. Also, for these past Sundays, Jesus proclaimed, “I am the living bread come down from heaven.” They understood that because in the Jewish tradition, the living bread, the manna in the desert, was the teaching of God. So Jesus is proclaiming, “What I say is the very word of God, the teaching of God.” He expects his disciples, his followers, all those who have been with him that ran around the shore of the lake to catch up with him when he left after that miracle.
He said to them, “My teaching is the teaching of God.” As they reflect on his teaching, they begin to say, “No, it’s too hard. How can we accept that he is the son of God?” It’s also the teachings that he gives and has given in the other Gospels that is brought out even more clearly, about his work. His first service is to the poor, and they are supposed to follow him. In Luke’s Gospel, Jesus makes it very plain: “I come to proclaim good news to the poor, to give the blind new sight, to heal the brokenhearted, to set the downtrodden free. I’m coming to raise people up, those who are most oppressed and overburdened,” especially through injustice or through unjust treatment that brings about poverty…