Do You Also Want To Go Away?
Dear Brothers and Sisters:
This week we finish this fantastic chapter from St. John’s gospel (6: 60-69). At the beginning of it we saw this amazing miracle of Jesus feeding some 15,000 people with the lunch of one small boy. It is a good reminder that when we face a difficulty to give it to the Lord; he will take care of it. Also the small things you do for others God will multiply them and if many in the parish did them each day or week the atmosphere in the area would change.
The week after the multiplication of the loaves and fish Jesus said to the crowds, and to us, “Come to me!” You who are hungry and thirsty, you who do not know the meaning of your life, come to me and you will thirst no more. This gospel is an invitation, not a command. God leaves us free to respond to him or not. Jesus yearns to give himself to us with all the passion of a lover, but he does not force us.
Two weeks ago we heard about Elijah who was running for his life and was ready to give up. The angel told him twice to get up and eat and drink. Elijah obeyed and he was able to run for forty days and forty nights. We too when we are under pressure or at the end of our rope, Jesus says, come and eat. Not at Biggie’s but eat the Word of God. Come regularly to a weekend Mass or even one during the week; open the Bible and spend some quiet time with the Lord. The journey of life is long and we need sustenance, not just to make it but to help many people along the way. Junk food doesn’t sustain us; we need the true Bread of Life, Jesus Christ.
Last week what struck me is that there are many things we can go without, especially as we age. We can go without a vacation, a walk in the park, great eyesight, but we cannot go without eating. Jesus’ analogy is a good one. Put him first. Put the Word of God before our free time, ahead of chores in the house, even ahead of friends and family. Without it we just exist.
This week we hear Peter’s profession of faith in Christ. He is speaking for all of the apostles, and hopefully for us. They are on the way to a deeper faith. They are not perfect and will abandon the Lord in his passion but they believe in him. Flesh is not enough, Jesus says. It is my words and belief in them that gives life. Many people say I came to Mass sad and anxious and I left lifted up and at peace. That’s what God wants to do for us and for every man and woman. The Sacraments are not magic they give us help but you need to cooperate with that grace.
Jesus asks a pointed question to the twelve: do you also want to go away? He gives them freedom. They need to make a choice, and so do you. Are you receiving life when you come here, or not? How is God helping you these days, especially in the things you cannot accept? If this parish did not exist in the last few years there would be dozens of babies not born, couples who would have never married in the Church, others who would have divorced, many kids who would not have received the sacraments. Especially now with the scandal it is important to see the full picture. Yes, some people did some really horrific things and others covered for them. But many, many are giving life to others and this affects all of society.
Peter says, where would we go if we went away? Good question. Where would you go? Would you watch Netflix or go to the beach or mountains every week? Where would you go to receive life? Peter says I have come to believe and I am convinced that you are the Holy One of God. Wow, what a statement! He believes that this guy from Nazareth, who is not a Rabbi, has no social standing, the son of a carpenter, and he is the Holy One of (the) God! Jesus says in another gospel, flesh and blood have not revealed this to you, and you can say this only because my Father helps you. It is not because Peter is smart or has a lot of experience; it is only because the Lord helps him to make that profession. The same is true for us. Don’t be afraid to say what you believe and if you cannot ask the Lord for his help. He came to feed us, and he does so every day, free of charge!