In the Gospel for this Sunday, concluding our readings from the sixth chapter of John, the Bread of Life discourse, we are told that many of Jesus’ disciples abandoned him and “returned to their former way of life.” The idea that they must eat his flesh and drink his blood was repulsive and blasphemous to them. How must this have broken Jesus’ heart. Every one of those who walked away from them were dear to him. He loved them and wanted to bless them.
He then turns to the Twelve. “Do you also want to leave?” Perhaps they were tempted to do so, for this teaching would have certainly disturbed them as well. It was shocking.
Peter, speaking on behalf of all of them, responded, “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.”
There may be times in our lives when we experience some kind of crisis in our following of Christ. Perhaps it is because he is asking too much of us, as he did with the rich young man. “Go, sell all that you have, and give it to the poor. Then come and follow me.” Or when he says, “When someone strikes you on your right cheek, turn and offer him the left.” It may be that we are caught up in some kind of sin that we are not ready to give up, which leads us away from Christ. It may be that our failure to nurture our faith by prayer and study and service of others causes our faith to become lukewarm, or to die altogether.
In those moments, we may hear Jesus say to us, “Do you also want to leave?” Certainly many Catholics have left Jesus. I am not talking about those who left and joined some other denomination but the large number who have simply become part of the secular culture, to whom religion is of no real consequence or concern. We want to make sure that we do not become those who walk away.
Following Jesus is a decision that we must make on a regular basis. It is not enough to say at one time or another that we will be his disciple. We must choose day after day. “Today I will live as a disciple of Jesus Christ!” And we must feed that decision with prayer, study and service of others, or it will weaken and diminish over time.
—Fr. Mike Comer