21st Sunday of Year B

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CATHOLIC PRODUCTIONS (5:49) – In this intro video For ths 21st Sunday in Ordinary Time Dr. Brant Pitre discusses the reaction of the listeners to Jesus’ Bread of Life Discourse and Jesus’ response to them.

Key Points to the Readings


Joshua 24:1-2a, 15-17, 18b

We will serve the Lord!

  • The Book of Joshua describes the story of the Israelites as they take possession of the Promised Land.
  • The people are a new generation of Israel.
  • Joshua gathers the people in the center of the land at Shechem to renew their covenant commitment to God.
SOURCES: Content adapted from Our Sunday Visitor.  The clipart is from the archive of Father Richard Lonsdale © 2000 which may be freely reproduced in any non-profit publication.


Ephesians 5:21-32

Christ loves us as spouses love each other.

  • The reading from the Letter to the Ephesians describes the mutual respect that should prevail in ordinary human relationships because of the new life shared in Christ.
  • The relationship of marriage is particularly significant because the marriage relationship stands as a symbol of the covenant relationship between the people and God.
  • The fidelity and love between wife and husband symbolize the fidelity and love between God and the people and between Christ and his Church.
SOURCES: Content adapted from Our Sunday Visitor.  The clipart is from the archive of Father Richard Lonsdale © 2000 which may be freely reproduced in any non-profit publication.


John 6:60-69

You have the words of eternal life.

  • Jesus’ divinity is clearly implied in the Gospel of John.
  • In today’s passage the disciples are faced with a choice.
  • Peter, representing the Twelve, affirms their decision to stay with Jesus.
SOURCES: Content adapted from Our Sunday Visitor.  The clipart is from the archive of Father Richard Lonsdale © 2000 which may be freely reproduced in any non-profit publication.

Dr. Kieran J. O’Mahony, OSA


Navarre Bible



Click to access 21-ordinary-time-year-b.pdf

Sources include The Jerome Biblical Commentary, The New Jerome Biblical Commentary, and The Navarre Bible. In addition, Church History by Laux (TAN Books), Introduction to the Bible by Laux (TAN Books), A Guide to the Bible by Fuentes (Four Courts Press), and Sharing Our Biblical Story by Russell for background information. We also included quotations from The Faith of the Early Fathers (3 volumes) by Jergens and Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture (many volumes) edited by Odum.
SOURCE: Bible study program at St. Charles Borromeo (Picayune, MS) courtesy of Military Archdiocese.
Raymond E. Brown

Introduction to the New Testament


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Ave Maria Press

A Catholic Study of God’s Word


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Niell Donavan

Sermon Writer


Richard Niell Donavan, a Disciples of Christ clergyman, published SermonWriter from 1997 until his death in 2020. His wife Dale has graciously kept his website online. A subscription is no longer required.

First Reading

Second Reading


Gospel Reading

saint louis university

Scripture in Depth


FIRST READING:The appointment of this reading for today is governed by the parallel between the choice made at Shechem and the choice confronting the disciples after the discourse in John 6. The challenge “Choose this day whom you will serve” parallels “Will you also go away?”; and the response “We will serve the Lord, for he is our God” parallels Peter’s response, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.”

RESPONSORIAL PSALM: Of this psalm the Jerome Biblical Commentary states: “A wisdom psalm, though it is widely classified as a psalm of thanksgiving.”

SECOND READING:The author’s doctrine of the Church is not built up from below, from a natural understanding of marriage; rather, his understanding of marriage is built from above, from a theological understanding of the mystical union between Christ and his Church.

GOSPEL:  Our passage, therefore, is not speaking of the sacrament but of the reception of the revelation of Jesus as the heavenly wisdom, the bread from heaven. In other words, it refers back to John 6:35-50, not to John 6:51c-59, which, as we have seen, are best understood as a later redactional addition.


  1. THE WORD EMBODIED: Difficult Passages
  2. HISTORICAL CULTURAL CONTEXT: Commitment and Factions
  3. THOUGHTS FROM THE EARLY CHURCH: Cyril of Alexandria
  4. LET THE SCRIPTURES SPEAK: Good News, Tough Choices
  6. GLANCING THOUGHTS: Tasting in Order to See
  8. A POEM TO SIT WITH: Crying for a Vision
Visit for more resources (e.g PRAYING TOWARD SUNDAY, MUSIC OF SUNDAY, GENERAL INTERCESSIONS) to help you reflect on the spirituality of the scriptures before Mass.

21st Sunday of Year B

The Choice to Serve or to Walk Away

Today’s Gospel reading concludes the four-week Sunday meditation on the Eucharist from Jesus’ Bread of Life Discourse in the 6th chapter of St. John’s Gospel.  At the end of His discourse, Jesus challenges the Twelve Apostles to make a choice: will they chose to believe and accept the New Covenant and the promise of eternal life that Jesus offers in His flesh and blood, or will they walk away and return to their former lives before He called them to discipleship.

Excerpts from Michal E. Hunt’s Agape Bible Study.  Material slightly reformatted. Used with permission.



Decide If You Will Serve the Lord

Joshua’s challenge to the children of Israel, and the announcement of his decision in the First Reading, prefigures the decision of the Twelve Apostles in the Gospel reading.  When the Israelites completed the first phase of the conquest of the Promised Land, Joshua allotted territory to the new generation of the twelve tribes who were the holy warrior descendants of the Exodus generation.  In the allotment of the land, God’s servant, Joshua, had come to the end of his mission.  He called the tribes together for a National Assembly at Shechem in central Canaan and challenged the children of Israel to renew their commitment to the Sinai Covenant.  Joshua called upon them to continue the oath they swore to Yahweh to live as a holy people in obedience to all of God’s commands and prohibitions and to reap God’s covenant blessings living in the Promised Land.  His challenge was to either renew their oath to the covenant or to relinquish God’s protection and go to serve the false gods of the Canaanites and other Gentile peoples of the region.  In making the challenge, Joshua answered for himself and his family saying, “As for me and my household, we will serve the Lord!” (Josh 24:15).  It is a decision every family is still making.


When Joshua was elderly, and his mission to secure the Promised Land for the new generation of the children of Israel (the children and grandchildren of the Exodus generation) was coming to an end, he called a national sssembly at Shechem in central Canaan.  Shechem was important in the history of the children of Israel.  It was at Shechem that Yahweh promised the land to the descendants of their ancestor Abraham, and it was where Abraham built his first altar to Yahweh and offered sacrifice in the Promised Land of Canaan (Gen 12:6-7). In this momentous national event, the people were called by Joshua as one body into the presence of Yahweh, their king.

A national sssembly is not the same as a liturgical sacred assembly associated with feast days in the liturgical calendar.  National assemblies included everyone living in Israel: native-born Israelites from the twelve tribes and the foreign aliens living among them who are subject to God’s Law and who acknowledged Yahweh as the sovereign Lord of the nation of Israel.  Sacred assemblies, on the other hand, were the God-appointed times.  Only Israelites and any Gentiles who had converted to the faith of Israel by ritually submitting his/her life to Yahweh (males through circumcision) had the right to attend and take part in the religious services associated with the Sanctuary.  Non-covenant members could not enter the Sanctuary, nor were they able to take part in Yahweh’s sacred meals associated with His liturgical assemblies like the Todah (“Thanksgiving communion meals), or the sacred meals associated with religious festivals like the Passover and the other annual feasts.

At the national assembly, Joshua intended for the people to renew their oath of allegiance to Yahweh, God and Great King of Israel, His obedient vassal people.  In his speech to the people, Joshua challenged them to make a decision. Would they serve Yahweh with undivided hearts and submit to the Laws of the Sinai Covenant to which they swore their obedience at Mt. Sinai, or would they choose to turn to the false gods of the Canaanites and other pagan peoples of the region?  In verse 15b, the gods of your fathers served beyond the River refers to the pagan gods of Abraham’s family before he rejected all false gods in service to Yahweh alone; Abraham’s father Terah and his Aramaean sons and their descendants were pagans (Gen 35:2).

In his challenge to the people, Joshua made the declaration: “As regards my family and me, we shall serve the LORD (Yahweh).” A righteous parent cannot secure his children’s eternal salvation.  Every person must decide whether to choose to believe in God, to serve Him, and be obedient to His commands or to reject belief, obedience and therefore the gift of eternal salvation.  However, parents can nurture their children by providing a climate of righteousness and establishing a pattern of godly obedience within their household that will set their children on the narrow path to salvation.  That is the pledge that Joshua made for his family.

The Israelites responded in two parts in verses 16-18.  First, they made a profession of faith in Yahweh in verses 16-18a, saying, “At our approach the LORD drove out all the peoples, including the Amorites who dwelt in the land.”  And then they swore an oath of obedience in verse 18b, “Therefore we also will serve the LORD, for he is our God.”  The first part of the people’s response in verses 16-18a is a declaration of faith reciting in a concise summary of God’s intervention in their history.  Then, the Israelites ended their profession of faith with an oath to serve God.  The choice they made by recalling the history of God’s works on their behalf followed by their profession of allegiance is the same way we summarize our belief in God’s intervention in the history of humanity and renew our oath of allegiance to the New Covenant in Christ in the Nicene-Constantinople Creed.  But our creed ends with a profession of what we believe God will do for us in the future if we choose to serve him in the promise of life everlasting: We look for the resurrection of the dead, and the life of the world to come.

Excerpts from Michal E. Hunt’s Agape Bible Study.  Material slightly reformatted. Used with permission.



Find Refuge in Serving the Lord

Response: Taste and see the goodness of the Lord.

In the Responsorial Psalm, we repeat the same response from Psalm 34:9, “Taste and see the goodness of the Lord,” that we have been singing since the 19th Sunday.  The psalmist has experienced the power of the Lord in his own life in the midst of distress, and he bears witness to the Lord’s faithfulness, deliverance, and protection.  Our response invites the liturgical assembly to “taste,” meaning to experience, God’s goodness for themselves by appealing to His mercy and taking refuge in Him through the blessings He gives us by receiving Christ in the sacred communion meal of the Eucharist.

Since the 19th Sunday, we have been singing the same response from Psalm 34:9, “Taste and see the goodness of the Lord.”  The title in verse 1 identifies this as a psalm of David, the first Davidic king of Israel and the ancestor of Jesus (Mt 1:1).  The psalmist begins by praising God, and he invites the humble (lowly) in the liturgical assembly to also unite themselves to God (verses 2-3).  The other verses in 16-21 give his reasons why the Lord deserves praise.

The psalmist, having experienced the power of the Lord in his own life in the midst of distress, bears witness to the Lord’s faithfulness, deliverance, and protection.  Our response, from 34:9, invites the liturgical assembly to “taste,” meaning to experience, God’s goodness for themselves by appealing to God’s mercy and taking refuge in Him.  The Gospel of John alludes to verse 21 as a prophecy fulfilled in Jesus’ crucifixion: For this happened so that the scripture passage might be fulfilled: “Not a bone of it will be broken” (Jn 19:36).  According to the Law, the bones of a Passover victim must not be broken for the sacrifice to be acceptable (Ex 12:46).  Jesus was humanity’s Passover sacrifice, redeeming us from eternal death just as God saved the firstborn Israelites from death when they were obedient to God’s command and covered their doors with the blood of the Passover victims in the sign of a cross from their thresholds to their lintels and two doorposts in the first Passover.

Excerpts from Michal E. Hunt’s Agape Bible Study.Material slightly reformatted. Used with permission.



Christ is the Head of the Church

In the Second Reading, St. Paul encourages the Ephesian Christians to be imitators of Christ by demonstrating love to others in the same way that Christ loves them.  He uses marital love as a metaphor for the love between Jesus and His Church.  Paul urges Christians to demonstrate a strong and unselfish mutual love, especially in their marital relationship.  In making the comparison between the marriage of a woman and a man and Christ and the Church, Paul makes these two concepts complement and illuminate each other.  Christ is the husband of the Church because, as the Head of the Body of Christ, He loves the Church like a man loves his wife and takes the Church as His Bride in the Sacraments of Baptism and the Eucharist.


St. Paul begins this part of his letter to the Ephesian Christians by encouraging them to be imitators of Christ (Eph 5:1) by demonstrating love to others in the same unselfish way Christ showed His love for them in His Passion and death.  He uses marital love as a metaphor for the love between Jesus and His Church, and Paul urges Christians to demonstrate a strong and unselfish mutual love, especially in their marital relationship.  In making the comparison between marriage between a woman and a man and Christ and the Church, Paul makes these two concepts complement and illuminate each other.  Christ is the husband of the Church because He is her head and because He loves the Church like a man loves his wife.  Paul is using symbolism his Jewish-Christian audience would have readily understood.  The symbol of the covenant people as the Bride of Yahweh is a reoccurring symbol image of the Old Testament prophets.

Paul compares the purification of an Israelite bride in her bridal bath before her wedding day with the Sacrament of Baptism. In Jewish tradition, the bridal mikveh, or ritual bath, signifies the spiritual rebirth of the bride as she began her new life (The New Jewish Wedding, Anita Diamant, Simon & Schuster, Inc., N.Y., 1985, 2001).  In the Sacrament of Christian Baptism, Christ sanctifies each member of the Body of Christ that is His Church, purifying His Bride of sin to make her holy and without blemish or defect as she offers herself to Christ the divine Bridegroom.

In verse 31, Paul emphasizes that marriage between a man and a woman is a God-ordained institution, quoting from God’s words to Adam and Eve in Genesis 2:24.  He writes that Christian marriage takes on a new, symbolic meaning in imitation of Christ the Bridegroom’s love for His Bride the Church.  Wives should lovingly serve their husbands in the same way the Church serves Christ (verses 22 and 24).  And at the same time, husbands should honor and care for their wives with the same devotion of Christ in caring for His Church (verses 25-30).  Paul is making the point that the Sacrament of Marriage is a path to holiness.

32 This is a great mystery, but I speak in reference to Christ and the Church.
The great mystery is Christ’s unique relationship to the Church as Bridegroom to Bride.  It is a mystery that we can come to grasp somewhat in the ideal loving and unselfish union between husband and wife.  But, it is a mystery not fully revealed until Christ returns in glory and when the Church celebrates the “wedding day of the Lamb and His Bride” (see St. John’s vision in Rev 19:6-10).

Excerpts from Michal E. Hunt’s Agape Bible Study.  Material slightly reformatted. Used with permission.



Jesus Asks: “Will You Leave?”

The Gospel Reading reminds us that we declare our commitment to the New Covenant in Christ Jesus through the Sacraments Jesus gave us, especially in the Sacraments of Baptism and the Eucharist.  As we heard in the Second Reading, Jesus gave us the Sacrament of Baptism so that we might be sanctified/made holy by Christ the Bridegroom through a spiritual rebirth by water and the Spirit as cherished members of the Bride of Christ that is the Church.  And, it is through the Eucharist that we continually renew our covenant commitment, as He nourishes us with His own Body and Blood on our journey through earthly life to the Promised Land of Heaven.  Therefore, every generation must answer the same challenge Jesus made to His disciples.  In the Mass, you declare your faith in Jesus as Lord and Savior as you make your way to the altar to renew your covenant commitment by receiving Christ in the Eucharist.  Have the commitment of Joshua by announcing “I will serve the Lord,” the courage of St. Peter in declaring “We have come to believe that You are the Holy One of God!” and have faith in the words of the Psalmist who calls us to “Taste and see the goodness of the Lord,” for He “redeems the lives of His loyal servants!” (Ps 34:9, 23).


This passage is the conclusion of Jesus’ “Bread of Life Discourse” in John chapter 6.  What Jesus said that many Jews found offensive was His statement concerning the necessity of eating His flesh and drinking His blood to have His gift of eternal life (Jn 6:51, 53-56).  The Jews were scandalized and asked, “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?” (Jn 6:52).  What Jesus was teaching was intolerable to an orthodox, Old Covenant Jew. The people listening to Him believed He was speaking literally about eating His flesh and blood and was demanding cannibalism, forbidden under the Law and punishable by death. But there was also the prohibition against consuming raw meat or drinking blood.

The Noahide Law (the laws set down for humanity after the Great Flood in Genesis 9:1-17) and the Law of the Sinai Covenant that came centuries later forbid the consumption of any flesh or blood of any kind.  Anyone who violated the law was to be completely cut off (excommunicated) from the community: If any member of the House of Israel or any resident alien consumes blood of any kind, I shall set my face against that individual who consumes blood and shall outlaw him from his people.  For the life of the creature is in the blood, and I have given it to you for performing the rite of expiation on the altar for your lives, for blood is what expiates for a life (Lev 17:10-11).  It is a prohibition repeated nine times (see Gen 9:4; Lev 3:17; 7:26; 17:10-12, 14; 19:26; Dt 12:16, 23-28 and 15:23).  The expressed purpose of blood was its use in the blood rituals that expiated sins in the liturgy of worship.

The Jews were scandalized because what Jesus commanded in consuming His flesh and blood would cut them off from their families in the covenant community and liturgical worship in the Temple.  But Jesus is not talking about His human flesh.  In the Holy Eucharist, believers are eating Christ’s glorified Body and drinking His glorified Blood.  Some have argued that Jesus is only speaking symbolically, but He is not speaking symbolically, and He does intend that New Covenant believers will be cut-off from the Old Covenant.

In Jesus’ Passion, Resurrection, and Ascension into Heaven, He fulfilled and transformed the Old Covenant.  He satisfied the purification and sacrificial rites, making them no longer necessary.  He also transformed the liturgy of worship, establishing a new ritual of worship in the Eucharistic banquet.  Therefore, the only part of the Old Covenant that remained was the moral Law.  However, Jesus intensified and internalized the moral law and established an internationalized covenant opened to all nations on earth.  Jesus fulfilled all blood/animal sacrifices in His one perfect sacrifice, and the sacred meal of the communion Todah, the “Thanksgiving” sacrifice of praise in a sacred meal in the presence of God, continued in the Eucharist (from the Greek for “Thanksgiving” and the Greek word used for the Todah in the Greek Old Testament translation).

In response to the Jews’ distress, Jesus asks “Does this shock you?  What if you were to see the Son of Man ascending to where he was before?”   Some of them will see the event of His Ascension when He will take His place before the heavenly throne of God the Father, offering Himself to the Father as the perfect sacrifice for the sins of humanity (see Rev 5:3-10).  In verse 62, Jesus is referring once again to the vision in Daniel 7:13 and is asking them if that would be enough proof for them to accept for His authority and His divine identity.

In John 6:63, Jesus continues, saying, It is the spirit that gives life, while the flesh is of no avail.  The words I have spoken to you are Spirit and life.  But there are some of you who do not believe.”  The misinterpretation of this verse is the stumbling block to those who resist accepting the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist.  All life comes from one source: it is the spirit that gives life.  God is spirit: God is spirit, and those who worship must worship in spirit and truth (Jn 4:24).  Jesus does not fully reveal the mystery of God the Holy Spirit until His glorification through His death and resurrection.  However, Jesus will continue to speak more frequently about the Holy Spirit to His disciples and the people:

  • Jesus spoke of the Spirit in His discussion with Nicodemus (Jn 3:5-8).
  • He spoke of the Spirit to the woman of Samaria (Jn 4:10, 14, 23-24).
  • He announced the coming of the Spirit of God at the Feast of Tabernacles (Jn 7:37-39).
  • He promised to send the Holy Spirit as another Advocate in His Last Supper Discourse (Jn 14-16).

He speaks openly of the Spirit with His disciples in connection with prayer and with the witness of Him that they will carry to the world (Lk 11:13).  When Jesus says that “the spirit gives life” He is speaking of God the Holy Spirit who interacts with man to give the gift of our human birth: “Human life is sacred because from its beginning it involves the creative action of God and it remains for ever in a special relationship with the Creator, who is its sole end.  God alone is the Lord of life from its beginning until its end…”(CCC# 2258).

It is the spirit that gives life, while the flesh is of no avail.

This part of the verse is the often misinterpreted critical statement.  The “flesh” Jesus refers to cannot be His flesh, or He would be contradicting what He has already taught in verses 50-53.  In verse 53 Jesus said: “Amen, amen, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you do not have life within you.”  In verse 63, Jesus spoke of God the Holy Spirit giving human beings life.  Humanity is God’s greatest creation, and yet that creation has nothing to offer that can compare with what Jesus is offering.  There is no salvation through human flesh, and the “flesh” Jesus is referring to in verse 63 is the “flesh” of human beings that has nothing to offer.  Man cannot work out his salvation.  It is through Jesus’ glorified flesh, and His glorified blood made present by the power of the Holy Spirit that our souls will be nourished and will receive life that is eternal.  As St. Peter Chrysologus wrote: “The Father in heaven urges us, as children of heaven, to ask for the bread of heaven. [Christ] himself is the bread who, sown in the Virgin, raised up in the flesh, kneaded in the Passion, baked in the oven of the tomb, reserved in churches, brought to altars, furnishes the faithful each day with food from heaven” (Homilie 67: PL 52, 392).

Even if you do not accept that Jesus is not referring to His flesh but human flesh in general, it must be conceded that it is not His human, Jewish flesh that gives us life.  When we partake Christ in the Holy Eucharist, we receive all of the glorified, resurrected Christ, Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity, effused without limit with God the Holy Spirit.  Jesus’ glorified flesh is the flesh that gives life.

The words I have spoken to you are Spirit and life.

“The words” are a reference to Jesus’ teaching about the promise of eternal life through the gift of His flesh and blood, when He said: “the bread that comes down from heaven, so that one may eat it and not die” (in verse 50).  His words reveal something divine which only God the Holy Spirit can supply.  It is from the Spirit that the source of life for all people of the world will come, and it is only Jesus who can provide the complete understanding of that gift. We cannot fully understand this miracle without the power of the Holy Spirit acting in our lives.  Jesus will teach the disciples in His Last Supper Discourse: “The Advocate [Paraclete], the Holy Spirit that the Father will send in my name, he will teach you everything and remind of you of all that I told you” (Jn 14:26). The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches, “The Holy Spirit will lead us into all truth and will glorify Christ.  He will prove the world wrong about sin, righteousness, and judgment” (CCC 729 also see 728).

There were three “scandals” or stumbling blocks which prevented belief for many of the Jews:

  1. The first was the expectation at the feeding of the multitude that Jesus was going to be a nationalistic military leader who would become their king and defeat the Romans.
  2. The second was the refusal to accept His divine nature in John 6:41-43.
  3. The third was the demand that we must consume, as a true sacrifice,  Jesus body and blood.

64 But there are some of you who do not believe.”  Jesus knew from the beginning the ones who would not believe and the one who would betray him.  65 And he said, “For this reason I have told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted him by my Father.”  66 As a result of this, many of his disciples returned to their former way of life and no longer accompanied him.

These verses are undoubtedly a crucial point in the text.  It is obvious that the crowd, including some of Jesus’ disciples, believed Jesus was speaking literally and not symbolically.  The crucial point is that when they walked away, and Jesus did not stop them!  If He were only speaking symbolically and then let them leave, He would be perpetuating a lie which is a sin.  Jesus is without sin.  They left, and He let them leave because He was not speaking symbolically; He was speaking literally.

67 Jesus then said to the Twelve, “Do you also want to leave?”  68 Simon Peter answered him, “Master, to whom shall we go?  You have the words of eternal life.  69 We have come to believe and are convinced that you are the Holy One of God.”

Peter answers for himself and the other Apostles.  When he refers to “the Holy One,” Peter is using one of the expressions which designates God Himself in the Old Testament (see Is 40:25; Hos 11:9; Hab 1:12; etc.) and in the New Testament “the Holy One of God” refers to the divine Messiah (Mk 1:24; Lk 1:35; 4:34; Acts 2:27).  Peter is answering Jesus’ challenge by affirming his and the other Apostles’ belief in the divinity of Jesus.

Peter’s affirmation of faith is a lesson for us all.  When we become frustrated with the Church because we do not understand why certain abuses continue or when priests disappoint us in their pastoral missions, it is good to remember what Peter asked in this passage when he said: “to whom shall we go?”  Where would we go?  It would have been better, down through Church history, if others had remembered those words.  The Church is the Body of Christ.  We are the Body because we consume the Body.  There can only be but One Body.  Our duty as professing Christians is to safeguard, reform when necessary, and protect that Body.  After all, the question to consider when confronted with abuses or failures of human leaders within the Church is: if you had known Judas, would you have walked away from Christ and forfeited your gift of eternal salvation, or would you have chosen to stay?  Your choice is the same today.  Will you stay, trust in Jesus, protect His Church, and declare your faith as Peter and the Apostles affirmed theirs?  Or will you walk away like those in the crowd and forfeit God’s gift of eternal life?

Excerpts from Michal E. Hunt’s Agape Bible Study.  Material slightly reformatted. Used with permission.

21st Sunday of Year B



The Ways of an Infinite God

Job 38:8
“Who decreed the boundaries of the seas when they gushed from the depths? Who clothed them with clouds and thick darkness

New Living Translation (Hover cursor above the scripture reference to read the NRSV version)

JOB 38:2–39:30 God used a series of questions to illustrate how little Job knew about creation and God’s ways. If Job knew nothing of these mysteries, how could he know anything about God’s character? All Job could do was worship and trust God.

We, too, wonder why we suffer. We wonder why bad things happen to us and those we love. But like Job, we are finite and cannot understand the ways of our infinite God. All we can do is praise him and await his deliverance.

SOURCE: Content taken from THE LIFE RECOVERY BIBLE notes by Stephen Arterburn & David Stoop. Copyright © 1998, 2017. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, a Division of Tyndale House Ministries. All rights reserved.

Care of Responsible Shepherds

Jeremiah 23:4
Then I will appoint responsible shepherds who will care for them, and they will never be afraid again. Not a single one will be lost or missing. I, the LORD, have spoken!

JER 23:1-4 Shepherds—the leaders of God’s people—who were supposed to care for God’s “sheep” had scattered and forsaken them. Since Judah’s leaders had led God’s people astray, God promised to punish the leaders and gather his people “back to their own sheepfold.” He vowed to place them in the care of responsible shepherds who would love and tend them. Jesus is our good shepherd, loving us and tending us as his flock (see John 10:1-18).

If we are willing to seek out and follow his will for our life, there is hope for us, no matter how far we may have strayed.

SOURCE: Content taken from THE LIFE RECOVERY BIBLE notes by Stephen Arterburn & David Stoop. Copyright © 1998, 2017. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, a Division of Tyndale House Ministries. All rights reserved.

Serve Only the Lord

Joshua 24:14 NLT
“So fear the LORD and serve him wholeheartedly. Put away forever the idols your ancestors worshiped when they lived beyond the Euphrates River and in Egypt. Serve the LORD alone.

JOSHUA 24:14-18 Joshua concluded by challenging the people to serve the true God and to reject the gods their ancestors had so foolishly served in the wilderness and in Egypt. He then mockingly suggested that if the people were so unwise as to not worship the God of Israel as the only true God, then they should choose to serve either the gods of the Euphrates region or the gods of those heathen nations living in the Promised Land. Joshua and his family, however, would serve the God of Israel. The people responded positively to Joshua’s challenge and declared their undying commitment to the one true God.

Each day we make a decision whom we will serve, either God or this world. What a wonderful experience to be able to firmly assert that you will serve only the Lord!

SOURCE: Content taken from THE LIFE RECOVERY BIBLE notes by Stephen Arterburn & David Stoop. Copyright © 1998, 2017. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, a Division of Tyndale House Ministries. All rights reserved.

Splitting Your Legs Like the Hyena

Like the hyena, many Christians are caught in the middle, wanting both what the world has to offer and also wanting God’s blessing.

JOSHUA 24:14-18– A Meru proverb from Kenya says, Niku gwatuka maguru ta mbiti, meaning, “This is how to split your legs like the hyena.” A story is told that a hyena spotted a goat grazing in a field and gave chase. The goat ran for its life. It arrived at a fork on the path and took one. When the hyena got to the same junction, he could not decide which path to take. He told himself, “If I take this one, I may miss the goat. But if I take the other one I may miss the goat.” He kept thinking about it, giving the goat time to get home to safety.

Finally, the hyena, not wanting to choose one path and risk losing the goat, decided to take both paths! After a short distance, he tore himself in the middle and died.

Many things compete for our attention and affection. The world lures us with alcohol, wealth through corruption, adultery, love of power and money, and many other temptations. Like the hyena, many Christians are caught in the middle, wanting both what the world has to offer and also wanting God’s blessing (Matthew 7:13-14).

Joshua told the Israelites that they must put away the gods whom their forefathers had served on the other side of the river and in Egypt. He implored them to serve the Lord, but then left the final decision to them by saying “Choose today whom you will serve.” But then Joshua added, “As for me and my family, we will serve the Lord” (Joshua 24:15).




Godly Boasting

Psalm 34:2 NLT
I will boast only in the LORD; let all who are helpless take heart.

PSALM 34:1-7 When we experience deliverance through God’s power, it should be natural for us to praise him and share the good news with others. If we care about other people who suffer as we did, we would be selfish not to tell how God has delivered us. Boasting about our God and the help he has given us is one kind of boasting that is good. This kind of godly boasting will not only encourage others in the recovery process, but it will also strengthen our faith in God.

SOURCE: Content taken from THE LIFE RECOVERY BIBLE notes by Stephen Arterburn & David Stoop. Copyright © 1998, 2017. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, a Division of Tyndale House Ministries. All rights reserved.



Rebuilding Family Relationships

Ephesians 5:25 NLT
For husbands, this means love your wives, just as Christ loved the church. He gave up his life for her

Ephesians 5:21-33 When our life is out of control, family tensions and conflict are common. Paul tells us that the home should be a place where love and mutual respect are shown. Husbands and wives should love each other and be sensitive to each other’s needs, showing the same love Christ showed the church. The painful consequences of our addiction are felt most deeply by our family. By selfishly seeking to meet our own needs through addictive behavior, we have neglected and hurt the people it was our responsibility to love and support. Rebuilding family relationships is one of the most important tasks we face in recovery. As we admit the nature of our wrongs and seek to make amends to our loved ones, we can begin to reestablish a family atmosphere of love and mutual respect.

SOURCE: Content taken from THE LIFE RECOVERY BIBLE notes by Stephen Arterburn & David Stoop. Copyright © 1998, 2017. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, a Division of Tyndale House Ministries. All rights reserved.

Submission and Self-Denial leads to Self-Fulfillment

Self-contempt says we have no worth; self-denial declares that we are of infinite worth—as are others—and life is found in the rhythm of affirming ourselves and others in the act of “loving others as ourselves.”

EPHESIANS 5:21-32 – Self-actualization or self-fulfillment is not the opposite of self-denial. Self-denial, according to Jesus, is the only road to self-fulfilment. We save our lives by losing them for Christ’s sake. Willingness to be “last” makes us “first.” Again, it must be made clear—if we are to have a creative, redemptive understanding of submission—that self-denial is not the same thing as self-contempt. Unfortunately, some expressions of Christian piety have equated the two. To a marked degree, the monastic movement was a world-denying, self-mortification movement that stimulated an ascetic spirituality in which the flesh was evil and had to be “whipped” into subjection to the Spirit. This was rooted in a misunderstanding of Paul’s teaching about “flesh and spirit” (see commentary on Gal. 2:17–21), and denied God’s affirmation of His creation as good. Thus, self-denial issued in self-contempt. To practice self-denial out of a stance of self-contempt never produces the abundant life of joy which is the birthright of persons in Christ.

Jesus made the ability to love ourselves the foundation for loving and reaching out to others (Matt. 22:39). Self-contempt says we have no worth; self-denial declares that we are of infinite worth—as are others—and life is found in the rhythm of affirming ourselves and others in the act of “loving others as ourselves.” It is in this context that submission is to be understood and practiced.

Submission is an ethical theme that runs throughout the New Testament. It is to be the posture of all Christians because we are to follow the crucified Lord who emptied himself to become the servant of all. Submission is the cross-style to which we are called. Jesus not only died a cross-death, He lived a cross-life of submission and service.

SOURCE: Excerpt taken from THe Preacher’s Commentary, Complete 35-Volume Set: Genesis–Revelation offers pastors, teachers, and Bible study leaders clear and compelling insights into the entire Bible that will equip them to understand, apply, and teach the truth in God’s Word.



Jesus is the Answer to Our Every Need

John 6:68 NLT
Simon Peter replied, “Lord, to whom would we go? You have the words that give eternal life.

John 6:68-69 Sales pitches for enticing products assault us daily. Publishers’ sweepstakes, lottery games, television specials, political causes, religious gurus all call for our time, money, and devotion. They promise to give us what we need and desire. When all is said and done, however, we are left with Peter’s question, “Lord, to whom would we go?”

Jesus is the answer to our every need—including recovery. He alone can deliver us from our powerful addiction or compulsion. He alone deserves our total commitment.

SOURCE: Content taken from THE LIFE RECOVERY BIBLE notes by Stephen Arterburn & David Stoop. Copyright © 1998, 2017. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, a Division of Tyndale House Ministries. All rights reserved.

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The Real Presence of Christ in Believers

They are getting caught up in the same great christological controversies that will later captivate the early church

JOHN 6:60-69 The real presence of Christ, whether in the liturgy of sacrament or in the sacramentality of everyday life, is the only real power available to us in pastoral ministry. We do not wield this power as an instrument, but we allow ourselves to be wielded by it. The spiritual presence of the living Christ, in and through the body of—and the bodies of—believers, is life-giving to the world. The descending of the Son of Man into the flesh (sarx) demonstrates that the flesh is not useless when animated by the Spirit (pneuma). If we were to see the Son of Man ascending to where he was before (v. 62), we would know him to be the Word that was in the beginning, through whom all things came into being, and by whom all flesh is infused with eternal life (1:1–4, 14).

What may often feel to us like useless, powerless flesh contains more than meets the eye, more than is felt in the bones. We demonstrate the reality of this living Word through the pastoral ministry of the church and through the earthly, fleshly presence of the body of believers in the world, when we enter into places of suffering where life is ebbing away, or is stagnant, or has been permanently scarred or brutally ended. The church does not enter these contexts so much with clear statements of meaning as with a profound personal presence, with a spiritual life that flows in a region deeper than rational comprehension. The living Word begets belief that is more relationship than comprehension, more trust than intellectual assent.

SOURCE: EXCERPT taken from FEASTING ON THE GOSPELS—JOHN. All rights reserved.

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21st Sunday of Year B

JOHN 6:60-71

60. Many therefore of his disciples, when they had heard this, said, This is an hard saying; who can hear it?

61. When Jesus knew in himself that his disciples murmured at it, he said unto them, Doth this offend you?

62. What and if ye shall see the Son of man ascend up where he was before?

63. It is the spirit that quickeneth; the flesh profiteth nothing: the words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life.

64. But there are some of you that believe not. For Jesus knew from the beginning who they were that believed not, and who should betray him.

65. And he said, Therefore said I unto you, that no man can come unto me, except it were given unto him of my Father.

66. From that time many of his disciples went back, and walked no more with him.

67. Then said Jesus unto the twelve, Will ye also go away?

68. Then Simon Peter answered him, Lord, to whom shall we go? thou hast the words of eternal life.

69. And we believe and are sure that thou art that Christ, the Son of the living God.

70. Jesus answered them, Have not I chosen you twelve, and one of you is a devil?

71. He spake of Judas Iscariot the son of Simon: for he it was that should betray him, being one of the twelve.


Third Century

  • Origen – Alexandrian biblical critic, exegete, theologian, and spiritual writer; analyzed the Scriptures on three levels: the literal, the moral, and the allegorical
  • Cyprian – pagan rhetorician converted to Christianity; acquired acquired a profound knowledge of the Scriptures and the writings of Tertullian; elected bishop of Carthage; martyred in 258

Fourth Century

  • Eusebius – Bishop of Caesarea; author of Ecclesiastical History, the principal source for the history of Christianity from the Apostolic Age till his own day; also wrote a valuable work on Biblical topography called the Onomasticon
  • Athanasius – Bishop of Alexandria; attended the Council of Nicea; opposed Arianism, in defence of the faith proclaimed at Nicaea—that is, the true deity of God the Son
  • Hilary – Bishop of Poitiers; the earliest known writer of hymns in the Western Church; defended the cause of orthodoxy against Arianism; became the leading Latin theologian of his age
  • Gregory of Nazianzus – one of the “Cappadocian Fathers”; a great influence in restoring the Nicene faith and leading to its final establishment at the Council of Constantinople in 381
  • Gregory of Nyssa – one of the “Cappadocian Fathers”; Bishop of Nyssa; took part in the Council of Constantinople
  • Ambrose – Bishop of Milan; partly responsible for the conversion of Augustine; author of Latin hymns; it was through his influence that hymns became an integral part of the liturgy of the Western Church
  • Jerome – biblical scholar; devoted to a life of asceticism and study; his greatest achievement was his translation of the Bible into Latin (the Vulgate); also wrote many biblical commentaries
  • Nemesius – Christian philosopher; Bishop of Emesa in Syria
  • Augustine – Bishop of Hippo (in northern Africa); a “Doctor of the Church”; most famous work is his Confessions; his influence on the course of subsequent theology has been immense
  • Chrysostom – Bishop of Constantinople; a “Doctor of the Church”; a gifted orator; his sermons on Gen, Ps, Isa, Matt, John, Acts, and the Pauline Epistles (including Hebrews) established him as the greatest of Christian expositors
  • Prosper of Aquitaine – theologian; supporter of Augustinian doctrines; closely associated with Pope Leo I (“the Great”)
  • Damasus – pope; active in suppressing heresy
  • Apollinaris of Laodicea – Bishop of Laodicea; close friend of Athanasias; vigorous advocate of orthodoxy against the Arians
  • Amphilochius of Iconium – Bishop of Iconium; close friend of the Cappadocian Fathers; defended the full Divinity of the Holy Spirit

Fifth Century

  • Asterius of Amasea – Arian theologian; some extant homilies on the Psalms attributed to him
  • Evagrius Ponticus – spiritual writer; noted preacher at Constantinople; spent the last third of his life living a monastic life in the desert
  • Isidore of Pelusium – an ascetic and exegete; his extant correspondence contains much of doctrinal, exegetical, and moral interest
  • Cyril of Alexandria – Patriarch of Alexandria; contested Nestorius; put into systematic form the classical Greek doctrines of the Trinity and of the Person of Christ
  • Maximus of Turin – Bishop of Turin; over 100 of his sermons survive
  • Cassion (prob. Cassian) – one of the great leaders of Eastern Christian monasticism; founded two monasteries near Marseilles; best known books the Institutes and the Conferences
  • Chrysologus – Bishop of Ravenna; a “Doctor of the Church”
  • Basil “the Great” – one of the “Cappadocian Fathers”; Bishop of Caesarea; responsible for the Arian controversy’s being put to rest at the Council of Constantinople
  • Theodotus of Ancyra – Bishop of Ancyra; wrote against the teaching of Nestorius
  • Leo the Great – Pope who significantly consolidated the influence of the Roman see; a “Doctor of the Church”; his legates defended Christological orthodoxy at the Council of Chalcedon
  • Gennadius – Patriarch of Constantinople; the author of many commentaries, notably on Genesis, Daniel, and the Pauline Epistles
  • Victor of Antioch – presbyter of Antioch; commentator and collector of earlier exegetical writings
  • Council of Ephesus – declared the teachings of Nestorious heretical, affirming instead the unity between Christ’s human and divine natures
  • Nilus – Bishop of Ancyra; disciple of St John Chrysostom; founder of a monastery; conducted a large correspondence influencing his contemporaries; his writings deal mainly with ascetic and moral subjects

Sixth Century

  • Dionysius Areopagita (aka Dionysius the Pseudo-Areopagite) – mystical theologian; combined Neoplatonism with Christianity; the aim of all his works is the union of the whole created order with God
  • Gregory the Great – Pope; a “Doctor of the Church”; very prolific writer of works on practical theology, pastoral life, expositions of Job, sermons on the Gospels, etc.
  • Isidore – Bishop of Seville; a “Doctor of the Church”; concerned with monastic discipline, clerical education, liturgical uniformity, conversion of the Jews; helped secure Western acceptance of Filioque clause
  • Eutychius (Patriarch of Constan­tinople) – consecrated the church of Hagia Sophia in Constantinople; defended the Chalcedonian faith against an unorthodox sect; became controversial later in life
  • Isaac (Bp. of Nineveh) (aka Isaac the Syrian) – monastic writer on ascetic subjects
  • Severus (Bp. of Antioch) – Syrian Orthodox Patriarch of Antioch; the leading theologian of the moderate Monophysites
  • John Climacus – ascetic and writer on the spiritual life; later Abbot of Mt. Sinai; best known for his Ladder of Divine Ascent which treats of the monastic virtues and vices
  • Fulgentius – Bishop of Ruspe in N. Africa; scholarly disposition; follower of St. Augustine; wrote many treatises against Arianism and Pelagianism

Seventh Century

  • Maximus ( of Constantinople, 645.) – Greek theologian; prolific writer on doctrinal, ascetical, exegetical, and liturgical subjects

Eighth Century

  • Bede (131CESK) – “the Venerable Bede”; a “Doctor of the Church”; pedagogue, biblical exegete, hagiographer, and historian, the most influential scholar from Anglo-Saxon England
  • John Damascene – Greek theologian; a “Doctor of the Church”; defender of images in the Iconoclastic Controversy; expounded the doctrine of the perichoresis (circumincession) of the Persons of the Trinity
  • Alcuin – Abbot of St. Martin’s (Tours); a major contributor to the Carolingian Renaissance; supervised the production of several complete editions of the Bible; responsible for full acceptance of the Vulgate in the West

Ninth Century

  • Haymo (of Halberstadt) – German Benedictine monk who became bishop of Halberstadt; prolific writer
  • Photius (of Constantinople) – Patriarch of Constantinople; a scholar of wide interests and encyclopedic knowledge; his most important work, Bibliotheca, is a description of several hundred books (many now lost), with analyses and extracts; also wrote a Lexicon
  • Rabanus Maurus – Abbot of Fulda in Hess Nassau; later Archbishop of Mainz; wrote commentaries on nearly every Book of the Bible
  • Remigius (of Auxerre) monk, scholar, and teacher
  • Paschasius Radbertus – Carolingian theologian; wrote commentaries on Lamentations and Matthew, as well as the first doctrinal monograph on the Eucharist, he maintained the real Presence of Christ

Eleventh Century

  • Theophylact – Byzantine exegete; his principal work, a series of commentaries on several OT books and on the whole of the NT except Revelation, is marked by lucidity of thought and expression and closely follows the scriptural text
  • Anselm – Archbishop of Canterbury; a “Doctor of the Church”; highly regarded teacher and spiritual director; famous ontological argument for the existence of God as “that than which nothing greater can be thought”
  • Petrus Alphonsus – Jewish Spanish writer and astronomer, a convert to Christianity; one of the most important figures in anti-Judaic polemics
  • Laufranc (prob. Lanfranc) – Archbishop of Canterbury; commented on the Psalms and Pauline Epistles; his biblical commentary passed into the Glossa Ordinaria


AUGUSTINE. (Tr. xxvii. 2) Such is our Lord’s discourse. The people did not perceive that it had a deep meaning, or, that grace went along with it: but receiving the matter in their own way, and taking His words in a human sense, understood Him as if He spoke of cutting of the flesh of the Word into pieces, for distribution to those who believed on Him: Many therefore, not of His enemies, but even of His disciples, when they heard this, said, This is an hard saying, who can hear it?

CHRYSOSTOM. (Hom. xlvii. 2) i. e. difficult to receive, too much for their weakness. They thought He spoke above Himself, and more loftily than He had a right to do; and so said they, Who can bear it? which was answering in fact for themselves, that they could not.

AUGUSTINE. (Tr. xxvii. 2) And if His disciples thought that saying hard, what would His enemies think? Yet it was necessary to declare a thing, which would be unintelligible to men. God’s mysteries should draw men’s attention, not enmity.

THEOPHYLACT. When you hear, however, of His disciples murmuring, understand not those really such, but rather some who, as far as their air and behaviour went, seemed to be receiving instruction from Him. For among His disciples were some of the people, who were called such, because they stayed some time with His disciples.

AUGUSTINE. (Tr. xxvii. 3) They spoke, however, so as not to be heard by Him. But He, who knew what was in them, heard within Himself: When Jesus knew within Himself that His disciples murmured at it, He said unto them, Doth this offend you?

ALCUIN. i. e. that I said, you should eat My flesh, and drink My blood.

CHRYSOSTOM. (Hom. xlvii. 2) The revelation however of these hidden things was a mark of His Divinity: hence the meaning of what follows; And if ye shall see the Son of man ascend up where He was before; supply, What will ye say? He said the same to Nathanael, Because I said to thee, I saw thee under the fig tree, believest thou? Thou shalt see greater things than these. He does not add difficulty to difficulty, but to convince them by the number and greatness of His doctrines. For if He had merely said that He came down from heaven, without adding any thing further, he would have offended His hearers more; but by saying that His flesh is the life of the world, and that as He was sent by the living Father, so He liveth by the Father; and at last by adding that He came down from heaven, He removed all doubt. Nor does He mean to scandalize His disciples, but rather to remove their scandal. For so long as they thought Him the Son of Joseph, they could not receive His doctrines; but if they once believed that He had come down from heaven, and would ascend thither, they would be much more willing and able to admit them.

AUGUSTINE. Or, these words are an answer to their mistake. They supposed that He was going to distribute His body in bits: whereas He tells them now, that He should ascend to heaven whole and entire: What and if ye shall see the Son of man ascend up where He was before? ye will then see that He does not distribute His body in the way ye think. Again; Christ became the Son of man, of the Virgin Mary here upon earth, and took flesh upon Him: He says then, What and if ye shall see the Son of man ascend up where He was before? to let us know that Christ, God and man, is one person, not two; and the object of one faith, not a quaternity, but a Trinity. He was the Son of man in heaven, as He was Son of God upon earth; the Son of God upon earth by assumption of the flesh, the Son of man in heaven, by the unity of the person.

THEOPHYLACT. Do not suppose from this that the body of Christ came down from heaven, as the heretics Marcion and Apollinarius say; but only that the Son of God and the Son of man are one and the same.

CHRYSOSTOM. (Hom. xlvii. 3) He tries to remove their difficulties in another way, as follows, It is the spirit that quickeneth, the flesh profiteth nothing: that is to say, You ought to understand My words in a spiritual sense: he who understands them carnally is profited nothing. To interpret carnally is to take a proposition in its bare literal meaning, and allow no other. But we should not judge of mysteries in this way; but examine them with the inward eye; i. e. understand them spiritually. It was carnal to doubt how our Lord could give His flesh to eat. What then? Is it not real flesh? Yea, verily. In saying then that the flesh profiteth nothing, He does not speak of His own flesh, but that of the carnal hearer of His word.

AUGUSTINE. (Tract. xxvii. s. 5) Or thus, the flesh profiteth nothing. They had understood by His flesh, as it were, of a carcase, that was to be cut up, and sold in the shambles, not of a body animated by the spirit. Join the spirit to the flesh, and it profiteth much: for if the flesh profited not, the Word would not have become flesh, and dwelt among us. The Spirit hath done much for our salvation, by means of the flesh.

AUGUSTINE. For the flesh does not cleanse of itself, but by the Word who assumed it: which Word, being the principle of life in all things, having taken up soul and body, cleanseth the souls and bodies of those that believe. It is the spirit, then, that quickeneth: the flesh profiteth nothing; i. e. the flesh as they understood it. I do not, He seems to say, give My body to be eaten in this sense. He ought not to think of the flesh carnally: The words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life.

CHRYSOSTOM. (Hom. xlvii. 2) i. e. are spiritual, have nothing carnal in them, produce no effects of the natural sort; not being under the dominion of that law of necessity, and order of nature established on earth.

AUGUSTINE. (Tr. xxvii) If then thou understandest them spiritually, they are life and spirit to thee: if carnally, even then they are life and spirit, but not to thee. Our Lord declares that in eating His body, and drinking His blood, we dwell in Him, and He in us. But what has the power to affect this, except love? The love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Spirit, which is given to us. (Rom. 5:5)

CHRYSOSTOM. (Hom. xlvii. 2) Having spoken of His words being taken carnally, He adds, But there are some of you that believe not. Some, He says, not including His disciples in the number. This insight shews His high nature.

AUGUSTINE. (Tr. xxvii. s. 7) He says not, There are some among you who understand not; but gives the reason why they do not understand. The Prophet said, Except ye believe, ye shall not understanda. (Is. 7:9) For how can he who opposes be quickened? An adversary, though he avert not his face, yet closes his mind to the ray of light which should penetrate him. But let men believe, and open their eyes, and they will be enlightened.

CHRYSOSTOM. (Hom. xlvii. 2) To let you know that it was before these words, and not after, that the people murmured and were offended, the Evangelist adds, For Jesus knew from the beginning, who they were that believed not, and who should betray Him.

THEOPHYLACT. The Evangelist wishes to shew us, that He knew all things before the foundation of the world: which was a proof of His divinity.

AUGUSTINE. (Tr. xxvii. 7) And after distinguishing those who believed from those who did not believe, our Lord gives the reason of the unbelief of the latter, And He said, Therefore said I unto you, that no man can come unto Me, except it were given him of My Father.

CHRYSOSTOM. (Hom. xlvi. 2) As if He said, Men’s unbelief does not disturb or astonish Me: I know to whom the Father hath given to come to Me. He mentions the Father, to shew first that He had no eye to His own glory; secondly, that God was His Father, and not Joseph.

AUGUSTINE. (Tr. xxvii. 7) So then (our) faith is given to us: and no small gift it is. Wherefore rejoice if thou believest; but be not lifted up, for what hast thou which thou didst not receive? (1 Cor. 4:7.) And that this grace is given to some, and not to others, no one can doubt, without going against the plainest declarations of Scripture. As for the question, why it is not given to all, this cannot disquiet the believer, who knows that in consequence of the sin of one man, all are justly liable to condemnation; and that no blame could attach to God, even if none were pardoned; it being of His great mercy only that so many are. And why He pardons one rather than another, rests with Him, whose judgments are unsearchable, and His ways past finding out.

And from that time many of the disciples went back, and walked no more with Him.

CHRYSOSTOM. (Hom. xlvii. 3) He does not say, withdrewb, but went back, i. e. from being good hearers, from the belief which they once had.

AUGUSTINE. (Tr. xxvii. 8) Being cut off from the body, their life was gone. They were no longer in the body; they were created among the unbelieving. There went back not a few, but many alter Satan, not alter Christ; as the Apostle says of some women, For some had already turned aside after Satan. (1 Tim. 5:15). Our Lord says to Peter, Get thee behind Me. He does not tell Peter to go after Satan.

CHRYSOSTOM. (Hom. xlvi. 2) But it may be asked, what reason was there for speaking words to them which did not edify, but might rather have injured them? It was very useful and necessary; for this reason, they had been just now urgent in petitioning for bodily food, and reminding Him of that which had been given to their fathers. So He reminds them here of spiritual food; to shew that all those miracles were typical. They ought not then to have been offended, but should have enquired of Him further. The scandal was owing to their fatuity, not to the difficulty of the truths declared by our Lord.

AUGUSTINE. (Tr. xxvii. 8) And perhaps this took place for our consolation; since it sometimes happens that a man says what is true, and what He says is not understood, and they which hear are offended and go. Then the man is sorry he spoke what was true; for he says to himself, I ought not to have spoken it; and yet our Lord was in the same case. He spoke the truth, and destroyed many. But He is not disturbed at it, because He knew from the beginning which would believe. We, if this happens to us, are disturbed. Let us desire consolation then from our Lord’s example; and withal use caution in our speech.

BEDE. Our Lord knew well the intentions of the other disciples which stayed, as to staying or going; but yet He put the question to them, in order to prove their faith, and hold it up to imitation: Then said Jesus unto the twelve, Will ye also go away?

CHRYSOSTOM. (Hom. xlvii. 3) This was the right way to retain them. Had He praised them, they would naturally, as men do, have thought that they were conferring a favour upon Christ, by not leaving Him: by shewing, as He did, that He did not need their company, He made them hold the more closely by Him. He does not say, however, Go away, as this would have been to cast them off, but asks whether they wished to go away; thus preventing their staying with Him from any feeling of shame or necessity: for to stay from necessity would be the same as going away. Peter, who loved his brethren, replies for the whole number, Lord, to whom shall we go?

AUGUSTINE. (Tr. xxvii. s. 9) As if he said, Thou castest us from Thee: give us another to whom we shall go, if we leave Thee.

CHRYSOSTOM. (Hom. xlvii. 3) A speech of the greatest love: proving that Christ was more precious to them than father or mother. And that it might not seem to be said, from thinking that there was no one whose guidance they could look to, he adds, Thou hast the words of eternal life: which shewed that he remembered his Master’s words, I will raise Him up, and, hath eternal life. The Jews said, Is not this the Son of Joseph? how differently Peter: We believe and are sure, that Thou art that Christ, the Son of the living God.

AUGUSTINE. (Tr. xxvii. s. 9) For we believed, in order to know. Had we wished first to know, and then to believe, we could never have been able to believe. This we believe, and know, that Thou art the Christ the Son of God; i. e. that Thou art eternal life, and that in Thy flesh and blood Thou givest what Thou art Thyself.

CHRYSOSTOM. (Hom. xlvii. 3) Peter however having said, We believe, our Lord excepts Judas from the number of those who believed: Jesus answered them, Have not I chosen you twelve, and one of you is a devil? i. e. Do not suppose that, because you have followed Me, I shall not reprove the wicked among you. It is worth enquiring, why the disciples say nothing here, whereas afterwards they ask in fear, Lord, is it I? (Matt. 26:22) But Peter had not yet been told, Get thee behind Me, Satan; (Mat. 16:23) and therefore had as yet no fear of this sort. Our Lord however does not say here, One of you shall betray Me, but, is a devil: so that they did not know what the speech meant, and thought that it was only a case of wickedness in general, that He was reproving. The Gentiles on the subject of election blame Christ foolishly. His election does not impose any necessity upon the person with respect to the future, but leaves it in the power of His will to be saved or perish.

BEDE. Or we must say, that He elected the eleven for one purpose, the twelfth for another: the eleven to fill the place of Apostles, and persevere in it unto the end; the twelfth to the service of betraying Him, which was the means of saving the human race.

AUGUSTINE. (Tr. xxvii. s. 10) He was elected to be an involuntary and unconscious instrument of producing the greatest good. For as the wicked turn the good works of God to an evil use, so reversely God turns the evil works of man to good. What can be worse than what Judas did? Yet our Lord made a good use of his wickedness; allowing Himself to be betrayed, that He might redeem us. In, Have I not chosen you twelve, twelve seems to be a sacred number used in the case of those, who were to spread the doctrine of the Trinity through the four quarters of the world. Nor was the virtue of that number impaired, by one perishing; inasmuch as another was substituted in his room.

GREGORY. (Moral. 1. xiii. c. xxxiv.) One of you is a devil: the bodyb is here named after its head.

CHRYSOSTOM. (Hom. xlvii. 4) Mark the wisdom of Christ: He neither, by exposing him, makes him shameless and contentious; nor again emboldens him, by allowing him to think himself concealed.

SOURCE: eCatholic 2000 Commentary in public domain.

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