The Discovery of America By Christopher Columbus,
Painted by Salvador Dalí (1904-1989),
Painted in 1959,
oil on canvas
© Salvador Dalí Museum, St Petersburg, Florida

The Discovery of America By Christopher Columbus,
Painted by Salvador Dalí (1904-1989),
Painted in 1959,
oil on canvas
© Salvador Dalí Museum, St Petersburg, Florida

Gospel of 22 August 2021

What about you, do you want to go away too?

John 6:60-69

After hearing his doctrine many of the followers of Jesus said, 'This is intolerable language. How could anyone accept it?' Jesus was aware that his followers were complaining about it and said, 'Does this upset you? What if you should see the Son of Man ascend to where he was before?

'It is the spirit that gives life,

the flesh has nothing to offer.

The words I have spoken to you are spirit

and they are life.

'But there are some of you who do not believe.' For Jesus knew from the outset those who did not believe, and who it was that would betray him. He went on, 'This is why I told you that no one could come to me unless the Father allows him.' After this, many of his disciples left him and stopped going with him.

Then Jesus said to the Twelve, 'What about you, do you want to go away too?' Simon Peter answered, 'Lord, who shall we go to? You have the message of eternal life, and we believe; we know that you are the Holy One of God.'

Reflection on the Painting

The question Jesus is asking His disciples in today's Gospel reading is a troubling one: 'What about you, do you want to go away too?' He had just been abandoned by many of His followers. Today's reading is a reminder that we all have a choice, every day. Jesus doesn't want us to stay against our will. But if we do decide to stay, then just as with the Twelve Apostles, He has lots of work for us to do. Jesus didn't force the disciples into doing anything, he simply asked…and they responded.

Christ will indeed take us to incredible places if we remain with Him. Christ doesn't compel us to lead the catechism class, or to be a eucharistic minister, or to do the flowers for church, or to go to a seminary, or to pray with our families… It is all our free choice. So as the Summer is drawing slowly to a close, He asks us today 'Will you also leave when September arrives and all the new activities in our parishes start again?' If we continue to say yes to what He proposes to us, we are walking on this incredibly exciting adventurous path towards the greatness that He has in store for each of us. And that is what faith is: an incredible adventure, not knowing where Jesus may take us next!

In fact the word 'adventure' comes from the same Latin word that we get the word 'Advent' from.  It means 'going toward' something.  As Christians we are on a journey going towards closeness to God. A painting that depicts a similar sense of adventure and discovery, is 'The Discovery of America by Christopher Columbus' by Salvador Dalí. It is a fascinating painting as it combines Spanish naval history, religion, art, faith and myth into one ambition composition. We see Gala (Dalí's wife) depicted as the Virgin Mary; Columbus is depicted as an adolescent boy in a classical robe, to symbolise America as a young, newly discovered continent; the overall religious iconography conveys how the Spanish brought Christian faith to a new world, an important and holy accomplishment. Lastly, Dalí painted himself in the background as a kneeling monk holding a crucifix. 

Our faith is indeed a rich, wonderful adventure, to which we are asked to say 'yes' every day…

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