Throughout recent years we’ve seen many analyses and studies about the crisis of the Christian Church in modern society. This reading is needed in order to better capture some data, but it ends up insufficient for discerning what our reaction needs to be. The story narrated by John can help us to interpret and to live out this crisis with a more Gospel-oriented depth.
According to the Gospel writer, Jesus sums up the crisis that is being created in his group this way: «The words I have spoken to you are spirit and they are life. But there are some of you who do not believe». So true. Jesus introduces a new spirit in those who follow him; his words communicate life; the program that he proposes can generate a movement capable of orienting the world toward a more dignified and more full life.
But just being a part of his group doesn’t guarantee faith. There are those who resist accepting his spirit and his life. Their presence around Jesus is false; their faith in him isn’t real. The true crisis within Christianity is always this: do we or do we not believe in Jesus?
The narrator says that «many of his disciples went away and accompanied him no more». It is in crisis that we find revealed who are Jesus’ true followers. The decisive choice is always that: who goes away and who stays with him, identified with his spirit and his life? Who is in favor and who is opposed to his project?
The group begins to get smaller. Jesus isn’t bothered, pronounces no judgment against anyone. He only asks a question to those who have stayed at his side: «What about you, do you want to go away too?». This is the question that is made to us today, we who keep on in the Church: What do we want? Why have we stayed? Is it in order to follow Jesus, welcoming his spirit and living his way of life? Is it to work on his project?
Peter’s answer is indicative: «Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the message of eternal life». Those who stay have to do it because of Jesus. Only for Jesus. Nothing else. They are committed to him. The only reason to stay in his group is him. No one else.
As sad as this current crisis seems to us, it will be something positive if we who stay in the Church –many or few– go about being converted into disciples of Jesus, that is, into men and women who find life in his words of life.
José Antonio Pagola
Translator: Fr. Jay VonHandorf