This Sunday, we are given a choice. We can stay or we can go.
As we finish the Bread of Life discourse, we see the result of the hard teaching that Jesus has been preaching the last few Sundays. “As a result of this, many of his disciples returned to their former way of life and no longer accompanied him.” (John 6:66) Jesus turns to Peter to ask if he too will leave over this difficult and confusing teaching. Peter utters what should be on our lips these days: “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.”
To whom should we go?
When it is difficult to understand Church teaching…when it is difficult to obey what we do not understand…when the leaders of our Church fail us…when we don’t know who to trust or believe…when we have been hurt and ignored and scandalized.
To whom should we go? We go to Jesus. We go to Jesus, Who is waiting for us in the tabernacle of our parish church.
We are given a choice this Sunday – the same choice we are given every day. Will we stay with Jesus when it gets hard? When it gets confusing? The end of the Bread of Life discourse reveals that one of Jesus’ closest friends will betray Him (John 6:71), the first hint in John’s Gospel that one of the Apostles will not be the man he is called to be. Just after Jesus reveals His great act of love – that He will give us His flesh to eat – He also reveals that one of the first bishops will commit a grave sin against Him.
We have a choice.
In the first reading, we see Joshua addressing the Hebrews before his death. He gathers them together and he recounts all that has happened: from Abraham to Isaac to Moses. He reminds them of all that God has done for them – the great victories to take over the Promised Land, the defeat of Jericho, the defeat of the Amorites, Perizzites, Canaanites, Hittites, Girgashites, Hivites, and the Jebusites.
After reminding them of what God has done for them, Joshua reminds them that they still have a free choice: “If it does not please you to serve the Lord, decide today whom you will serve, the gods your fathers served beyond the River or the gods of the Amorites in whose country you are now dwelling. As for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.” (Joshua 24:15)
The people likewise choose to serve the Lord that day. Of course they do. They have enjoyed victories and now dwell in cities they did not build. It is easy to be faithful now. It is easy to obey the God who has delivered your enemies into your hands. It is easy to swear a covenant oath when you’re on the top of the world.
But the Lord knows the people will not be faithful. He knows the false gods that still reign in their hearts. He knows they will disobey and leave Him through acts of cowardice, selfishness, and sensuality. He knows they will abandon Him when it gets difficult.
We have the same choice. Who will we serve?
As for me and my household, I will serve the Lord. I will go to Mass this Sunday and, God willing, every Sunday for the rest of my life. Because the Lord is there in the Eucharist. And regardless of the sins of the priest or the bishop who ordained that priest, the Lord is there in the Eucharist.
The last few weeks have not been easy. The coming days will be harder. It will be difficult to identify as Catholic. But I will go to Jesus. I will stay with Jesus, regardless of the Judases who betray Him by their crimes and sins.
And I will have faith that, in the words of the Psalm we will hear on Sunday, “When the just cry out, the LORD hears them, and from all their distress he rescues them. The LORD is close to the brokenhearted; and those who are crushed in spirit he saves.” (Psalm 34)
Save us, Lord. You have the words of eternal life.