My Dear Sisters and Brothers! Today we conclude listening to the Chapter 6 of John’s Gospel. Next Sunday we will resume reading the Gospel of Mark. The chapter 6 of John’s is fascinating. As you go through its 69 verses you see the popularity of Jesus growing rapidly, particularly after the Lord fed thousands of hungry people with five barley loaves and two fish. How impressed Peter and other Apostles must have felt. As they saw the thousands of excited people who followed Jesus wherever he went they must have thought that they themselves were at the right time in the right place. They must have thought that the world was at their feet. However the final verses of the chapter 6 bring what looks as a failure. When Jesus speaks about his Body as the Bread to be broken and shared for salvation of the world the crowds are getting thinner and thinner and finally only the Twelve are left with Jesus. What should the Apostles have done then? Should they have run after the departing crowds to explain that after all Jesus didn’t mean what he said, that it didn’t need to be taken literally? Or maybe they should have had a serious chat with Jesus to stop him saying these things about his Body broken and given for consummation. However as we hear today about Jesus losing more than 99% of his fun club we also hear about a miracle which happened in the ‘leftovers’ of Jesus’ fun club, in Peter and other Apostles. St Peter seeing the collapse of that popularity of Jesus didn’t pull hair out. St Peter said the words which indicated that the Holy Spirit had been changing their perspective: ‘Lord, who shall we go to? You have the message of eternal life, and we believe, we know that you are the Holy One of God.’
This sixth Chapter of John’s which we conclude reading this Sunday is a summary of the Church’s history. There have been times when the numbers of Christians were impressive but there have been the times when the crowds were getting thin. Our time is not the first time of crowds getting thin. It has happened before. However in our time, when we mourn closing our churches, like Sacred Heart in Erica and St Brigid’s in Yallourn North Jesus asks you and me the same question he asked his Apostles in today’s Gospel: ‘What about you, do you want to go away to?’ Probably literally and metaphorically our heads are moving like those of the Apostles from Jesus to the departing crowds and back to Jesus and back to the crowds going away and back to Jesus. However this time when we may want to mourn our religious loses we fix our gaze on this Lord of ours who is not going away. He will keep offering his Body and Blood for us and for our salvation, like he will do it again at the end of this Mass, and therefore let us join St Peter at saying: ‘Lord, who shall we go to? You have the message of eternal life, and we believe, we know that you are the Holy One of God.’ Let us cling to this confession. Let us treasure and love this confession. From our clinging, treasuring and loving it new life will emerge; a new generation of Catholics will spring up.