The Gospel tells the story of the throngs giving up on Jesus after he said they would have to eat his flesh. Jesus stood sadly by, watching them leave. He also seemed helpless as regards holding the loyalty of the Apostles. He sadly asked, “Do you also wanted to leave? They did stay with him, only because they had no better place to go. The level of their enthusiasm was immensely lower than what it would be on Pentecost when they went out into the crowd, shouting the good news.
Today’s Gospel comes from the end of Chapter Six of John’s Gospel. In the following chapter, Seven, verse thirty-nine, we see the reason for their low level of enthusiasm. Verse thirty-nine there says that as yet there was no Holy Spirit, “because Jesus had not yet been glorified.”
The first reading from the Acts of the Apostles reminds me of a slightly similar incident in my life. I hope you don’t mind my recalling it. The story in the Acts of the Apostles tells of Peter finding the room crowded with women friends who were there when he went to the bedside of a beloved woman who had just died.
My story begins at the end of Mass one Saturday morning in the Korean parish where I was pastor fifty years ago. Coming away from the morning Mass, I was planning a big breakfast,; but I was stopped by people saying I had to hurry to a village up the valley where an old man was dying.
Grumbling to myself, I found the village, the house, and the death scene. It was crowded with old women who had prepared the dying man for Baptism and Holy Communion. I took care of that, then I sat back on the floor to listen to the Catholic women chanting prayers for the dying man.
Suddenly the old fellow half sat up. Looking at him in surprise, we heard him ask, “Has the Father had his breakfast?” That turned all eyes on me, and I muttered that it didn’t matter. However, the old man insisted, “Father, you have done everything needed for me. I won’t be happy unless you go and have your breakfast.”
Everyone joined him on that, so I hurried home; and later, I heard that the man had died just after I left his village. I have always treasured my memory of him, seeing him as an example of the marvelous thoughtfulness of the Korean people.