On the Scandal of the Christian Faith

“Jesus’ Teaching Seems Hard”

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CASTEL GANDOLFO, Italy, AUG. 23, 2009 (Zenit.org).- Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI gave to crowds gathered at the papal summer residence in Castel Gandolfo for the praying of the midday Angelus.

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Dear brothers and sisters!

These past few Sundays, the liturgy has proposed for our reflection Chapter 6 of John’s Gospel in which Jesus presents himself as the “bread of life come down from heaven,” adding: “If anyone eats of this bread he will live forever and the bread that I give is my flesh for the life of the world” (John 6:51).

To the Jews who heatedly dispute among themselves, asking: “How can he give us his flesh to eat?” (6:52), Jesus stresses: “If you do not eat of the flesh of the Son of man or drink of his blood, you shall not have life within you” (6:53). Today, the 21st Sunday in Ordinary Time, we meditate on the concluding part of this chapter, in which the Fourth Evangelist relates the reaction of the people and of the disciples themselves, scandalized by the words of the Lord, to the point that many, after having followed him up till that time, exclaim: “This is a hard saying! Who can listen to it?” (6:60). And from that moment “many of his disciples left and no longer traveled with him” (6:66). Jesus, however, does not soften his statements, indeed, he turns to the Twelve directly and asks: “Do you also wish to leave?” (6:67).

This provocative question is not addressed only to the people of that time, but to the believers and men of every age. Today too, not a few are scandalized by the paradox of the Christian faith. Jesus’ teaching seems “hard,” too difficult to put into practice. There are thus those who reject it and abandon Christ; there are those who try to “adapt” the word to the fashions of the times, distorting its meaning and value.

“Do you also wish to leave?” This disturbing provocation resounds in our hearts and awaits a personal response from each person. Jesus in fact is not satisfied with a superficial and formal following, a first and enthusiastic adhesion is not sufficient for him; on the contrary, we must take part “in his thinking and in his willing” all of our lives. Following him fills the heart with joy and gives complete meaning to our existence, but it brings difficulties and renunciations because very often we must go against the current.

“Do you also wish to leave?” To Jesus’ question Peter responds in the name of the Apostles: “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life and we have come to believe and are convinced that you are the Holy One of God” (6:68-69).

Dear brothers and sisters, we too can repeat Peter’s answer, aware of course of our human fragility, but confident in the power of the Holy Spirit, who expresses himself and manifests himself in communion with Jesus. Faith is a gift of God to man and it is, at the same time, man’s free and total entrusting of himself to God; faith is the docile listening to the word of the Lord, that is the “lamp” for our steps and the “light” on our way (cf. Psalm 119:105).

If we open our hearts to Christ with confidence, if we let ourselves be conquered by him, we too can experience, together with the Curé d’Ars, “that our only happiness on this earth is to love God and to know that he loves us.” Let us ask the Virgin Mary always to keep alive in us this faith impregnated by love, which made her, the humble girl of Nazareth, Mother of God and model for all believers.

[After the Angelus, the Holy Father greeted the people in several languages. In Italian, he said:]

Today the 30th edition of the “Meeting for Friendship Among Peoples” has opened in Rimini, [Italy], taking as its title “Knowledge Is Always an Event.” In addressing a cordial greeting to those who are taking part in this significant gathering, I hope that it will be a propitious occasion for understanding that “[k]nowing is not simply a material act, since … [i]n all knowledge and in every act of love the human soul experiences something ‘over and above,’ which seems very much like a gift that we receive, or a height to which we are raised” (“Caritas in Veritate,” No. 77).

[Translation by Joseph G. Trabbic] [In English, the Holy Father said:]

I greet all the English-speaking pilgrims present at today’s Angelus. May your visit to Castel Gandolfo and Rome strengthen your faith in our Lord, the Holy One of God, and renew your desire to share the peace of his kingdom with others. Upon you and your loved ones, I invoke God’s blessings of true happiness and joy!

© Copyright 2009 — Libreria Editrice Vaticana

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