By Father Alonzo Q. Cox
I think it would be safe to say that most of us have had one teacher in our lives that made a tremendous impact on us. Whether it was in grammar school, high school, college or graduate school, I’m sure there was one teacher that made us say “wow!” That person inspired us to work hard and to always reach our potential. Teachers are meant to motivate, encourage and even at times, challenge us. The best teachers are the ones who challenge us to be better people.
One of the many images of Jesus that I love is of Him as teacher. I can picture Our Lord sitting before His disciples, teaching them, bestowing words of wisdom upon them, encouraging them, but most especially, challenging them. That image comes to mind as we reflect upon today’s Gospel passage.
Jesus is telling His disciples that His words are Spirit and life. It is through the Spirit that we are to live our lives. As Jesus was teaching His disciples, they begin to ask questions. Of course, as any good teacher would do, Jesus addresses their questions, but He does so in a way that challenges His followers. He says, “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” (John 6: 63-64). Jesus knows that there are some who are not going to believe what He is trying to teach them, which leads them to walk away.
Just as Jesus taught His disciples 2,000 years ago, so He continues to teach us that His words are truly Spirit and life. Jesus challenges us each and every single day to keep His words in our minds and hearts. Unfortunately, we live in a society that combats the teaching that Jesus is imparting to us.
In today’s second reading, St. Paul highlights the teachings of marriage. He tells us of the bond that husband and wife have, but most especially, he speaks of their deep connection to the Church. That special bond is rooted in love.
St. Paul says, “Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ loved the church and handed himself over for her to sanctify her, cleansing her by the bath of water with the word, that he might present to himself the church in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish” (Ephesians 5:25-27).
We must always hold on to the teachings that Christ has bestowed upon us, even in the midst of what our society may believe to be true. As disciples of the Risen Lord, we truly believe that His words are Spirit and life. Jesus teaches us to be faithful and holy witnesses of His word, bringing Him to all we encounter. As members of the Body of Christ, that is the Church, we all have a responsibility to teach the truths of Church, even when it is difficult to do so.
As a good teacher, Jesus challenged His disciples, and unfortunately, some parted ways with Him. Let us keep the words of Simon Peter in our minds, in our hearts and on our lips: “Lord, you have the words of eternal life. We have come to know and believe and are convinced that you are the Holy One, the Son of God.”
Readings for the 21st Sunday in Ordinary Time
Joshua 24: 1-2A, 15-17, 18B
Psalm 34: 2-3, 16-17, 18-19, 20-21
Ephesians 5: 21-32 or Ephesians 5: 2A, 25-32
John 6: 60-69
Father Alonzo Q. Cox is the pastor of St. Martin de Porres parish, Bedford-Stuyvesant, and the diocesan coordinator of ministry to African-American immigrants.