What hard things has the Lord said to you?

GOD'S WORD TODAY - Francis D. Alvarez S.J. - The Philippine Star

They said, “This teaching is difficult; who can accept it?” Because of this, many of his disciples turned back and no longer went about with him (John 6: 60, 66).

A Eucharistic minister I met in a parish retreat once told me the miraculous story of how he became a Eucharistic minister. He had not always been religious, and he was far from being pious. (As if to prove it, he kept on saying how a swig of gin could lubricate his vocal chords and help him tell the story better.)

So what set him on the straighter and narrower path? Several years ago, his only daughter was diagnosed with cancer. It was detected late and had already spread throughout her young body. The desperate father then sought out faith healers and even took his beloved little girl to Lourdes to ask for a miracle, promising our Lady that he would devote his life to serving the Church once his daughter was cured.

Because I met him when he was already a Eucharistic minister and because he said this was a “miraculous story,” I expected a happy ending. But then he told me that shortly after they returned from Lourdes, his daughter died. Where was the miracle? Where was the happy ending? Why was he a Eucharistic minister? I wanted to ask him all these questions, but I could not find the words sensitive enough to address a grown man who was fighting so hard not to cry. (Suddenly, I was the one craving for a swig of gin to drown the lump that was forming in my own throat.)

They said, “This teaching is difficult; who can accept it?” (John 6: 60)

Those words from our Gospel today specifically pertain to the statements Jesus had made about how he was offering his flesh for us to eat and his blood for us to drink. But Jesus, in the course of his ministry, made many other statements that would be hard to swallow even with more than one swig of gin: “Love your enemies; pray for those who persecute you” (Matthew 5: 44). “Forgive those who hurt you seventy times seven times” (Matthew 18: 21-22). “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me” (Mark 8:34). And probably the hardest saying for me is the one in Luke 17: 7-10. After working hard and serving the Lord, we should not expect great rewards. As Jesus proclaims, “When you have done everything you were told to do, you should say, ‘We are unworthy servants; we have only done our duty.’”

The hard statements continue today in the Gospel of our lives: “No, the boy you like does not like you back.” “No, you did not get the promotion.” “No, the special petition for which you have been making this novena will not be granted.”

Because of this, many of his disciples turned back and no longer went about with him (John 6: 66).

But not all of Jesus’ disciples left him. Jesus challenged the Twelve and asked them, “Do you also want to leave?” Simon Peter answered him, “Master, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life” (John 6: 67-68).

Why did the grief-stricken father still become a Eucharistic minister? Would not many of us put in the same situation desert the Lord, as many of his disciples did?

“No, your daughter will not be cured.”

Perhaps, even in God’s “No,” our Eucharistic minister somehow still discerned a “Yes.” Perhaps, this is the miracle in his story. His daughter may not have gotten the happy ending he wanted, but perhaps she received a happier one he could never have imagined. Perhaps, though his daughter did not live, he still heard the words of eternal life.

What was the last hard thing the Lord told you? Did you get angry? Did you feel he disappointed you? Were you tempted to leave him? Go back to the last time God told you, “No.” Step into the sandals of Peter, walk in the shoes of our Eucharistic minister, and see if you can say with them, “To whom shall I go? Help me cling to you more and believe that you have the words of eternal life.”

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