The Gospel this Sunday tells us that the people following Jesus had a hard time accepting His teachings such that they withdrew and no longer followed Him. (Jn. 6: 60–69). Jesus didn’t stop them from leaving. They were free to go and they wouldn’t be punished for leaving their Teacher. As one author wrote, “Jesus would not play nanny to those whose faith was weak to absorb the shock of knowing who Jesus was.”. Similarly at the present time, God in His goodness wouldn’t stop us from exercising our free will, from doing what we want.
Jesus asked the Twelve, “Do you also want to go leave?” Simon Peter answered Him, “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.” (Jn. 6: 67-69)
After the Bread of Life discourse these past weeks, when people left; the Lord now made the disciples choose. However, the path to destiny would be changed forever and they who left would be missing the opportunity of a lifetime that only those (like the Twelve) who choose to remain and persevered till the end, would be given. The lives of the Twelve and the others following Jesus were (and are) radically changed, but they have made the decision to follow Jesus till the end. For them it is enough: to bet on Jesus, even with an uncertain and difficult future.
Similarly, this question is asked of everyone, including you and me. In the First Reading, Joshua summoned the twelve tribes of Israel and asked them to choose between Yahweh God, and the lesser gods that the people served before. Joshua delivered a great oratory reminding the Israelites of how Yahweh delivered them to “where they’re now”. In the end, he uttered the famous declaration, “As for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.” (Jos. 24: 15)
Perhaps this is also a good opportunity to reflect on our own life, whether we are just like the rest who obey blindly without making the conscious decision to follow Jesus. Then when the next wave of oppressions and challenges come, we just withdraw and fall by the wayside. On the other hand, once we have made the conscious decision to be a follower of Christ, we will have the willpower to overcome the trials as these come along.
But the Lord, in His infinite goodness didn’t stop there: in order to succeed in our journey, He knows we need to be sustained and renewed. We need renewal because of our unfaithfulness and stubbornness. Everytime we sin, we have to go to Sacramental Confession to renew our commitment and faithfulness to the Lord. He left us His Body and Blood in the Holy Eucharist, the concrete manifestation of the Bread of Life to provide a lifeline to God in our continuing journey of faith.
So this is the significance of the Bread of Life, made real with the Holy Eucharist in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. Together with the Sacraments, these sustain us in our journey.
May the Holy Spirit of the Lord continue to enlighten our minds and hearts so that we come to know Jesus more and more, so that we can better sustain our commitment to Him. May we firmly decide to Prioritize the Spirit. Always.