Commetary on the Word of Life:

Lord to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life
(Jn 6:68)

To the crowds that followed him, Jesus spoke about the kingdom of God (see Lk 9:11). He used simple words, parables taken from everyday life, and yet his words had a special fascination. People were struck by his teaching because he taught with authority, unlike the scribes. Even the temple guards who went to arrest him, when asked by the chief priests and Pharisees why they had not carried out their orders, replied: ‘Never has anyone spoken like this!’ (Jn 7:46).

John’s gospel also tells of conversations full of light that Jesus had with individuals, such as Nicodemus and the Samaritan woman. Jesus explained things still more deeply to his Apostles and he spoke openly of the Father and of heavenly things, without using figures of speech. His words convinced them and they did not draw back even when they did not fully understand or when his words seemed too demanding.

‘This teaching is difficult,’ (Jn 6:60) some of his disciples remarked, when they heard him say that he would give them his body to eat and his blood to drink.

Seeing that many of his disciples pulled back and no longer went with him, Jesus said to the Twelve Apostles: ‘Do you also wish to go away?’ (Jn 6:67)

Peter, who by now was tied to him forever and who had been fascinated by the words he had heard from Jesus since the day they met, replied on behalf of them all:

Lord to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.

Peter had understood that the words of his Teacher were different from those of other teachers. Their words came from the earth and returned to the earth; they belonged to and had the destiny of the earth. Jesus’ words are spirit and life because they come from heaven: a light that comes down from Above and has the power of Above. His words have a quality and a depth that other words do not have, whether they be philosophical, political, or poetic. They are ‘words of eternal life’ (Jn 6:68), because they contain, express, communicate the fullness of the life that never ends since it is the very life of God.

Jesus is risen and lives, and his words, although spoken in the past, are not merely a memory, but words he addresses today to all of us and to each person in every time and culture: they are universal, eternal words.

The words of Jesus! They must have been his greatest art, as it were. The Word who speaks in human words: what content, what intensity, what expression, what a voice!

Basil the Great[1] tells, for example, how ‘once upon a time, like a man roused from deep sleep, I turned my eyes to the marvellous light of the truth of the Gospel, and I perceived the uselessness of “the wisdom of the princes of this world.”’[2]

Thérèse of Lisieux in a letter of 9 May 1897 wrote: ‘Sometimes, when I read books in which perfection is put before us ... my poor little head is quickly fatigued. I  close the learned treatise, which tires my brain and dries up my heart, and I turn to the Sacred Scriptures. Then all becomes clear and light – a single word opens out infinite vistas, perfection appears easy’.[3]

Yes, divine words satisfy the spirit which is made for the infinite; they give inner light not only to the mind, but to the whole of our being, because they are light, love and life. They give peace – the kind Jesus calls his own: ‘my peace’ – also in moments of anxiety and anguish. They give complete joy, even in the midst of the pain that at times torments the soul. They give strength, especially in the face of dismay and discouragement. They set us free, because they open the path to Truth.

Lord to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life

The Word of Life this month reminds us that the only Teacher we want to follow is Jesus, even when his words may seem hard or too demanding. This means to be honest at work, to forgive, to be at the service of others rather than think selfishly of ourselves, to remain faithful in our family life, to help a terminally ill person without yielding to the idea of euthanasia…

There are many ‘teachers’ who invite us to adopt easy solutions, to make compromises. We want to listen to the one Teacher and follow him, who alone speaks the truth and who has ‘words of eternal life’. Like this we too can repeat these words of Peter.

In this Lenten season, as we prepare for the great celebration of the resurrection, we must truly join the school of the one Teacher and become his disciples. A passionate love for the word of God must come to life in us too. Let’s be ready to welcome it when it is proclaimed in church, let’s read it, study it, meditate on it…

But above all we are called to live it, as scripture itself teaches: ‘Be doers of the word, and not merely hearers who deceive themselves’ (Jas 1:22). That is why each month we focus on one word in particular, letting it penetrate us, mould us, ‘live us’. By living one word of Jesus we live the entire Gospel, because in each word of his he gives the whole of himself, he himself comes to live in us. It is like a drop of the divine wisdom that belongs to him, the Risen One, which slowly sinks into the depths of us and replaces our way of thinking, wanting and acting in all the circumstances of life.

Chiara Lubich


1 Basil (330-379), Bishop of Caesaria, one of the Fathers of the Church.

2 Epistle CCXXIII, 2

3 (trans. revise)


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