“What can we do?”

Jn 6:28 So they said to him, “What can we do to accomplish the works of God?” [1]

Faced with the world falling apart around me, I am bewildered, frozen, totally without any idea of how to answer this question in today’s world.

You have just told the crowd who came seeking You because You fed them bread and fish: Do not work for food that perishes but for the food that endures for eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. [Jn 6:27a]. Their question, and my question, is “What can we do to accomplish the works of God?

There are two ways I ask this: (a) one is of the overwhelming helplessness at my inadequacy to accomplish what God lays out for me to do; and (b) the other is the “playing dumb” posture of pretending that I don’t already know what God wants of me.

The first position, the answer of which could leave me with great humility and awe and comfort that God does work out my greatest happiness even though I am not able to do so, instead usually leads me to frustration and anger at the impossible task and goal God has given, aka dumped, on me! I mean, how can I be expected to “accomplish the works of GOD,” for heaven’s sake [literally]?

The second, the answer of which could fill me with joy and relief that God has placed in my heart how I am to serve him, instead usually has me saying: “Forget that!” and wandering off the reservation, seeking to do everything “my way,” without paying any attention to what God wants nor what you, my “supposed” brothers and sisters, are due and need.

Both exhibit a supreme lack of trust and faith. Both raise the same specter of pride and control, the first from the position of inadequacy and desire for control, the second of self-reliance, self-salvation, the flaunting of “control.” Both are viewing Your creation, the universe, the world, as orbiting around my ego; in the first, I’m on the pity-pot, in the second, on a pedestal.

You have made it extremely simple and blatantly clear what You expect in the next verse: Jesus answered and said to them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in the one he sent.”[Jn 6:29] Granted, the crowd was having a bit of difficulty identifying Jesus as “the one He sent,” i.e. their Messiah, the Son of God Himself. But from the perspective of 2000 years of pondering “these things in her heart,” [Lk 2:29] the Church, following Mary’s example, has had a great deal of time to come to understand and accept You, Jesus, for what You are, the Christ, the Son of God.

Indeed, even having been put so simply, so succinctly, when I think about it, true faith, deep, abiding faith, faith to move mountains, is totally beyond me. I wish I were Thomas, uttering “My Lord and My God.” [Jn 20:28]

Instead, I am one of your disciples who am unable to drive out the mute spirit from the boy. You are truly justified, Jesus, when you berate me: O faithless generation, how long will I be with you? How long will I endure you? I throw myself with the boy’s father at Your feet: if you can do anything, have compassion on us and help us, explicitly expressing the doubting “if.” You call me on it: ‘If you can!’ Everything is possible to one who has faith. With the father, I cry out: I do believe, help my unbelief! [Mk 9:19-24]

What a Miserable one I am![Rom 7:24] I cannot achieve the very faith for which You chastise me for not having. I am between a rock and a hard place…a no-win situation!

You gently remind me to be humble, for human beings it is impossible, but not for God. All things are possible for God. [Mk 10:27; Lk 18:27; Mt 19:26]. As the NABRE note says: “Achievement of salvation is beyond human capability and depends solely on the goodness of God who offers it as a gift.”

What am I to do in the meantime? How am I to survive this total meltdown? How do I face the next father with a possessed son, aka a dying spouse, no job, ebola, undocumented, living in poverty, hooked on coke? Your solution, here and always: start with prayer and move on from there! [see Mk 9:29]

A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.  Lao-tzu

[1] Scripture texts in this work are taken from the New American Bible, revised edition © 2010, 1991, 1986, 1970 Confraternity of Christian Doctrine, Washington, D.C. and are used by permission of the copyright owner. All Rights Reserved. No part of the New American Bible may be reproduced in any form without permission in writing from the copyright owner.


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