In his weekly Angelus address on Sunday, Pope Francis said that Jesus’ words are sometimes hard to accept, that they “rock our world” and challenge our secular mentality, because he doesn’t offer immediate success but a longer road to true happiness.
Referring to the Sunday gospel reading, where many of Christ’s disciples abandon him after hearing him preach about the “bread of life,” the Pope said that “even the disciples cannot accept the Master’s troubling language.” And so they exclaim: “This is a hard saying. Who can accept it?”
The Pope said that when Jesus speaks of his own flesh as the bread of life, saying he would “give his flesh as food and his blood as drink,” his words “provoked disappointment in the people, and they judged them unworthy of the Messiah.” They wanted Jesus to be a Messiah who would attain immediate success, rather than a Messiah ready to go to the cross to save humanity, and so they deserted him.
The fact is, Francis said, that they understood Jesus’ words perfectly well, but they couldn’t accept them because they “undermined their mentality.”
“The words of Jesus always rock our world,” he said, because they challenge the ways of secular society.
And Jesus knew right off the bat they were those among his disciples “who do not believe,” Francis said, and so they left him. And yet, “faced with these defections, Jesus does not back down and does not soften his words. Indeed He forces us to make a clear choice: either to be with Him or separated from Him, and so He said to the Twelve: ‘Will you go away too?’”
It is Peter, Francis said, who makes his profession of faith on behalf of the other Apostles: “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.” The Pope underscored that Jesus does not say “where shall we go?,” but “to whom shall we go?”
From Peter’s question, the Pope continued, “we understand that loyalty to God is a matter of loyalty to a person to whom we are bound to walk together on the same road. And this person is Jesus.”
“Everything we have in the world does not satisfy our hunger for the infinite. We need Jesus. We need to be with Him, to be fed at his table by his words of eternal life!” he said.
“Believing in Jesus,” Francis added, “means making Him the center and the meaning of our life. Christ is not an optional accessory, but the ‘living bread,’ our essential nourishment. Being bound to him, in a real relationship of faith and love, does not mean being enchained, but becoming profoundly free.”
“Each of us can ask: Who is Jesus for me? Is He just a name, an idea, a historical figure? Or is it really that person who loves me, who has given his life for me and walks with me?”
“Who is Jesus for you?” the Pope asked the crowd gathered in Saint Peter’s Square. “Will you stay with Jesus? Will you try to get to know Him in his Word? Will you read a passage of the Gospel every day to know Jesus?”
It is Jesus, he said, who allows us “to clean up our choices from worldly encumbrances and fears.”
Follow Thomas D. Williams on Twitter @tdwilliamsrome.