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The Everyday Prayer

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Icon of the Holy Face
Church of Sant'Egidio, Rome

Reading of the Word of God

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

Whoever lives and believes in me
will never die.

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

John 6, 60-69

After hearing it, many of his followers said, 'This is intolerable language. How could anyone accept it?'

Jesus was aware that his followers were complaining about it and said, 'Does this disturb you?

What if you should see the Son of man ascend to where he was before?

'It is the spirit that gives life, the flesh has nothing to offer. The words I have spoken to you are spirit and they are life.

'But there are some of you who do not believe.' For Jesus knew from the outset who did not believe and who was to betray him.

He went on, 'This is why I told you that no one could come to me except by the gift of the Father.'

After this, many of his disciples went away and accompanied him no more.

Then Jesus said to the Twelve, 'What about you, do you want to go away too?'

Simon Peter answered, 'Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the message of eternal life,

and we believe; we have come to know that you are the Holy One of God.'


Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

If you believe, you will see the glory of God,
thus says the Lord.

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

The Gospel passage we have just heard concludes the great “speech of bread” that Jesus is doing in the synagogue of Capernaum. The entire text that the evangelist reports tells us of a fundamental truth: Jesus “is” the bread and not simply he “has” the bread, which is what people thought after seeing the miracle of the multiplication of the loaves. This statement of Jesus as “the bread of life” is felt as excessive even by the disciples, who say to each other: “This teaching is difficult.” In these words, they understand that “eating the flesh and drinking the blood of Jesus” means - as indeed it does - to welcome in themselves a love so great that it involves their lives in a total way. It is too much for them. They cannot accept such a great and engaging love. They prefer to be free from any constraint. It is a temptation that seems to be taking more and more widely ground in our time. There is a tremendous growth of individualism with the consequent rejection of any restriction that may limit one’s desires, one’s horizon. One prefers to be alone with oneself. If this is the emerging mentality, how is it possible to accept a bond like the one of which Jesus asks us, to be part of his own flesh? It is better, then, to abandon Jesus. Those disciples would probably have agreed to bind to a God who is close, but not to one who enters so deeply in their lives. In short, they would prefer to be friends, but from afar – disciples, but only up to a certain point. For Jesus, friendship is instead radical, and it determines the entire existence. This is the Gospel that he came to communicate to men and women: the radical love that leads him to give his life for others, without setting any limits, not even that of death. This kind of love, which the authors of the New Testament they call “agape,” is stronger even than death. Jesus cannot give up communicating the Gospel of love. And to the disciples who were offended by these words, he says that they would be even more if they saw him “ascending where he was before.” Jesus knows that only with the eyes of faith one can recognize it and accept him. And he repeats to them, “For this reason I have told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted by the Father.” He reiterates that without the humility of being helped, it is impossible to understand the Word of the Gospel. Jesus, certainly saddened by the abandonment of many disciples, turns to the “Twelve” (this is the first time this term that appears in the Gospel of John) and asks them, “Do you also wish to go away?” It is one of the most dramatic moments of Jesus’ life. Jesus could not deny his Gospel, even at the cost of being alone. Gospel love is exclusive, without limitation, or is not. Peter, who perhaps saw Jesus’ passionate and at the same time firm eyes, let his heart be touched and thus says to Jesus, “Lord, to whom can we go? You have the words of eternal life.” Peter does not say “where” we go, but “to whom” we can go. The Lord Jesus is really our only saviour.

Sunday Vigil