To Whom Shall We Go
Homily for Saturday of the Fourth Week in Easter
Scripture scholars believe that St. John’s Gospel appeared toward the end of the first century. We also know that St. Peter died during the persecution initiated by the Emperor Nero in Rome. This means that the statement that we hear coming from St. Peter at the end of what is known as the Discourse on the Bread of Life is not so much a statement made by one person as it is a statement made by the Christian community toward the end of the first century.
The seventy years which come after the death, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus were momentous in the life of the Church. During those seventy years, the number of disciples has grown by thousands. In the first reading from the Acts of the Apostles, St. Luke mentions the growth of the church three separate times. He tells us that “with the consolation of the Holy Spirit she grew in numbers” in the opening verses of today’s reading. Just a few verses later, he writes: “all the inhabitants of Lydda and Sharon saw him, and they turned to the Lord.” Once again at the end of the reading, we hear: “many came to believe in the Lord.”
At the same time, the followers of Jesus had been thrown out of the synagogues by their Jewish brothers and sisters, and had experienced the first of what would be many persecutions at the hands of the Roman Empire. If that were not bad enough, we also know that by the end of the first century some of the followers of Jesus had begun to leave the community for various reasons which were later defined as heresies. All of these experiences shook the faith of the early followers of Jesus. When Jesus asks the Twelve if they also wish to leave, the response that is given by Simon Peter represents the faith of the early Christian community when faced with persecutions and desertions: “Master, to whom shall we go. You have the words of eternal life.”
This must be our response today. Though we are living more than two thousand years later, when faced with the alternative, the answer is quite simple. There is no one else who can take the place of Jesus in our lives. As we come to the end of chapter six of St. John’s Gospel, we are called upon to place our faith in the abiding presence of Jesus in our midst in the Eucharist, in the Word of God, and in one another.