Who will stay and who will go?

22 August 2021 - 21st Sunday Year B

For these last five weeks we have listened to gospel readings from John Chapter 60, readings about bread and, most importantly of all, the Bread of Life. Jesus teaches “I have come to give you the Bread of Life.”

This sequence of readings from John (Ch 60) began with the miracle of the feeding of the 5000. Starting with just five little barley loaves and two fishes, they all ate until they were filled, with 12 baskets of food remaining.  

And yet here in today’s gospel, just a little while after witnessing that miracle, we find many of Jesus’ followers murmuring, complaining and disgruntled. For many of them, Jesus’ teaching and preaching is proving too hard, too tough, to shocking to accept. Many of them then left and no longer accompanied him.

Jesus asks the Twelve who remain, “Do you also want to leave?”

Sometimes, when frustrated or disappointed or distressed about the failures of our Church, we too might wonder if we can or should leave and walk away. Many of our friends and family have already left. Like those followers who left Jesus, many in our community have found it his teachings too hard. But Peter’s words are as true for us as they were for him and for the Twelve: “Master, to whom shall we go?” Much and all as we too can find Jesus’ teaching challenging, it is Jesus who has the words of eternal life. It is Jesus, the Holy One of God, who offers us the Bread of Life. There is no other.

So, today’s readings present us with questions of decision and commitment.

In the first reading, Joshua, who succeeded Moses and led the Israelites into the Promised Land, challenges the Chosen People, newly settled in that new land, to decide on whether it is God or some other deities they will serve and worship? The people recall the great wonders that the Lord God had done for them and re-commit themselves to serving the Lord.

In the second reading, the Apostle Paul insists that being a Christian does indeed demand choices and commitments of us, some of them hard. He urges us to live in love, as Christ loved us. 

The gospel then challenges each of us, today and indeed every day of our lives: shall we follow him or shall we leave.

Jesus didn’t promise that it would be easy. Not at all. But what he does promise is food for the journey, the Eucharist of his flesh and blood, eternal life, and undying love.

So, what is your response to Jesus’ question: Do you also want to leave? Let us pray for the strength and the courage to hold on to our faith in Jesus. Let us remember and give thanks for the many things that the Lord has done for us. Let us come and find nourishment in the Eucharist. And let us support and encourage each other on the journey.

Anne Hunt

© Majellan Media 2021