August 22 - Twenty-First Sunday of Ordinary Time, Year B

August 19th, 2021

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First Reading   Joshua 24:1-2a,15-17,18b
Joshua and the people declare that they will serve the Lord.

 

Responsorial Psalm    Psalm 34:2-3,16-17,18-19,20-21
The Lord hears the cries of the just.

 

Second Reading   Ephesians 5:21-32 (or shorter form Ephesians 5:2a,25-32)
Husbands and wives should love one another as Christ loves the Church.

 

Gospel Reading
John 6:60-69
Simon Peter confesses his faith that Jesus alone has the words of the eternal life.

 

Background on the Gospel Reading

For our Gospel today we hear the conclusion of the “Bread of Life discourse” in the sixth chapter of John’s Gospel. In the preceding verses, which we have heard proclaimed in our liturgy over the past few weeks, we have heard Jesus explain that he is the Bread of Life, given so that those who believe may have eternal life. This discourse follows the miracle in which Jesus fed more than five thousand people with five barley loaves and two fish. As Jesus has been teaching these things, John’s Gospel describes a murmuring crowd unable to accept Jesus’ words. In today’s Gospel, the crowd has dwindled in number, and John no longer references them, or the Jews. Instead John describes the questioning of those considered to be Jesus’ own disciples.

Today’s Gospel first records the response of those in the crowd who are described as Jesus’ disciples. Just as the larger crowd had struggled with Jesus’ teaching, these disciples also cannot accept Jesus’ words. Jesus is said to know about their murmuring. He responds by acknowledging their unbelief and by reiterating that only those chosen by the Father will follow Jesus to the end. John’s Gospel reports that many of those who had been Jesus’ disciples ceased to follow him at this point. The number of people following Jesus dwindled from a crowd of more than 5,000 to only 12 people. And it is to these Twelve that Jesus now turns his attention.

Simon Peter’s response to Jesus’ question as to whether those closest to him will also leave, reminds us of the reports of Peter’s confession of faith in the Synoptic Gospels. Peter announces, on behalf of all the Twelve, that they have come to believe all that Jesus has taught about himself: Jesus is the one from God in whom they have found the path to eternal life.

This conclusion of the Bread of Life discourse focuses on personal faith in the life of Christian discipleship. Each person must make his or her own judgment about who Jesus is and in doing so determine the way of life that he or she will follow. God’s grace invites us to be Jesus’ disciples, but each person must respond to the grace of God and confess as his or her own the belief that Jesus is the one from God. This faith then commits us to the path of life, leading us to eternal life.

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