21st Sunday in Ordinary Time
August 26, 2018
John 6, 60-69
Then many of his disciples who were listening said, “This saying is hard, who can accept it?” Since Jesus knew that his disciples were murmuring about this, he said to them, “Does this shock you? What if you were to see the Son of Man ascending to where he was before? 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.” Jesus knew from the beginning the ones who would not believe and the one who would betray him. And he said, “For this reason I have told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted him by my Father.” As a result of this, many of his disciples returned to their former way of life and no longer accompanied him. Jesus then said to the Twelve, “Do you also want to leave?” Simon Peter answered him, “Master, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe and are convinced that you are the Holy One of God.”
He was clearly no leader like Joshua, yet Bro. Ralph Felix ruled with an iron fist. Seminarians remember him as a stickler for rules regarding order in the dormitory and study hall. Many also recall how he insisted on punctuality in activities as well as sportsmanship in athletic competitions, no matter how hard they competed.
Showing his softer side, this American missionary loved to teach songs; among his favorite had this refrain: “For united we stand, divided we fall.” It was his way of imparting to the young men aspiring to the missionary and religious life the value of unity in the Church as well as in the Society.
He was aware of the painful episodes marked by pockets of strife in the history of the Body of Christ caused by Arius, Nestorius, Calvin, Luther, Zwingli, and a host of brilliant but misguided men who rocked the unity in the Church with their tempting but dangerous heresies. Battles were fiercely fought to preserve the unity of the Church led by men like Athanasius, Cyril of Alexandria, John Duns Scotus, Erasmus, and for a time, even Henry VIII. In Jesus’ time, people who could not accept established and scripturally based truths, sadly went away.
The story of dissension and non-acceptance leading to a sad break of unity already took place in the lifetime of Jesus. Confronted with the truth that he was the bread of life, that his flesh was real food, and his blood was real drink, many of his disciples went away from his company. For this reason, Jesus sadly asked those who stayed behind, “Will you also go away?”
Many centuries earlier, Joshua (his name is an older version of “Jesus”) challenged the Israelites who were wavering in their loyalty to the covenant, thereby endangering the unity among the people. Joshua challenged his people to choose between serving the Lord or serving the gods of the Amorites. To a man the Israelites declared, “We will serve the Lord, for he is our God.”
Paul wisely told the early Christians at Ephesus who were also on the brink of losing that vital unity, to preserve oneness by being “subordinate to one another out of reverence for Christ.”
Years of training under Bro. Ralph equipped those who later became religious missionary brothers and priests with the discipline which steeled them for the rigors of rough and tough mission assignments. Above all, they remembered the wisdom of the words, “For united we stand, divided we fall,” when confronted with the right truths (orthodoxy), when frictions regarding the right praxis (orthopraxy) arose.
By Fr. Flor Lagura SVD