DO YOU WANT TO LEAVE?

Saturday, 3rd Week of Easter            

            Today’s gospel reading is the last part of the long discourse on the bread of life. It all began with the miraculous feeding of a vast crowd; it ends with the people’s frustration with Jesus, who speaks of himself as “the bread of life.” Even many of his disciples find the teaching unacceptable, so they stop believing and following Jesus.

            Having been abandoned by many, Jesus confronts the Twelve with this piercing question: “Do you also want to leave?” Peter, speaking on behalf of the group, declares his unwavering faith in Jesus – saying: “Master, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.” Peter’s reply speaks of the group’s fidelity to Jesus.

            Even though they themselves hardly understand all of Jesus’ teachings, the Twelve remained in the company of Jesus – journeying with him. They are determined to hold on to Jesus. Jesus is their life and their hope. They will keep following Jesus whatever the cost.

            One gospel commentary has this to say about today’s gospel reading: “Jesus presents his position and makes perfectly clear to us what he expects from us. He does not compromise.” “He does not sugarcoat his words to suit our liking and our feeling.” “He speaks of the cross and crucifixion.” “With his cards laid out, Jesus leaves the decision to us: to go away or to stick it out with him.”

            Jesus’ question is also addressed to us: “Do you also want to leave?” Many of us are willing to follow “the Christ” who satisfies our hunger, who provides for our needs, who answers our prayers. How about “the Christ” who is hungry, who has real needs, who needs our help, who begs for our time and attention, who is abused, neglected, and rejected by many? Honestly, are we also that willing to follow such Christ? Jesus, who is in the poor, the needy and the neglected is asking each one of us: “Do you also want to leave?”

            Today’s gospel challenges us to ask ourselves: How committed are we to Jesus? How committed are we to him, especially when his teaching appears to be too idealistic to be practiced and too risky to be put into action? How far are we going to go with him? Let us renew in this Eucharistic celebration our commitment to keep following Jesus whatever the cost. May this Mass be also a profound expression of our faith… faith that enables us to truthfully say, as Peter did: “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.”

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