Making decisions is part of living! There are all kinds of decisions that we must make every day and all kinds of options in making those decisions. There are decisions that are quick and easy. Should I put the blue shirt on or the red one? Should I have steak or chicken for dinner tonight?
There are other decisions that are more difficult and have to be weighed and studied very carefully. Should I marry this person or not? Do I really love him/her? Should I purchase this new home or wait for two or three years and get something bigger and better? How can I give the best care to my aging or dying parent?
We spend our lives making decisions. Today’s scripture readings are about “faith decisions” and the need to make those decisions and live with the consequences of those decisions.
In our first reading, Joshua is addressing the people of Israel. He had become the leader of the people after Moses died. Joshua led the people into the promised land and now he was an old man getting ready to die. In his farewell address, Joshua reminded the Israelites of all that God had done for them, and he gave them an ultimatum. “If you do not want to serve the Lord, then decide what gods you do want to serve.” The people voiced their decision, “We will serve the Lord!”
In the Gospel we have been hearing for the last five weeks, Jesus’ instruction on the Eucharist was too much for the people to accept. All 25,000 people had been fed with five barley loaves and two fish, a miracle so impressive that the people wanted to make him king. These same people heard Jesus preach and witnessed his healings, they knew of his calming storms, walking on water, raising the dead. But when Jesus gave them the final ultimatum about the Eucharist, “I am the bread of life come down from heaven. My flesh is real food and my blood is real drink. If you do not eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you; for My flesh is real food and My blood is real drink.” it was too much for the people to take, and they made a decision to walk away from him once and for all.
Jesus made no attempt to soften what he had said or explain it away. He simply let the people go. It was their free decision. In that defining moment, Jesus turned to his apostles and asked the question, “It’s time for you to make a decision! Do you want to leave me too?” Peter, leader of the apostles, answered for all of them, “We have decided to stay with you. We are convinced that you are the Holy One of God.”
Again today, Jesus asks the question, this day the question is directed at us. Like the Jews in the days of Joshua, like the 25,000 followers of Jesus in today’s Gospel, and like the apostles who stood in amazement as the 25,000 people walked away from the Lord, we too are called upon to make a profound decision.
The question is simple: “Do you want to follow the teaching of Jesus or not?” If we choose to follow Him, then we must live as though He has an influence on our lives; we need to listen to Him and we need to follow the church which He established. “Do you want to leave me too?” The question echoes through the ages of time down through every generation, “Do you want to leave me too?”
There comes a time in every relationship when ultimate decisions have to be made. Friends must decide whether to remain friends or part company. College students must decide whether to study or to seek another path for their future. Spouses must decide whether to keep loving each other and communicating or let their marriage fall apart.
Today, it’s our turn. There are many false gods trying to pull us away from Jesus Christ and his church. Today, like the apostles, we too must decide. For the apostles, the answer was simple. They had left everything to accept Jesus’s invitation to “come and see”. There were some dark nights for them, but the promise of a new life dispelled their fear and gave them hope.
They had decided to make a permanent commitment to Jesus Christ. For the apostles and for us, faith is not a happy feeling, faith is a decision that we must make for ourselves. Faith is a gift offered freely by God, but only we can make the decision whether or not to accept it. Faith is not a once-in-a-life-time choice, some religious experience, in which we “see the light” and accept Jesus Christ as our personal Savior. Faith is an ongoing decision that we renew every day of our lives; it demands constant growth and attention.
As the Eucharistic discourse concludes today, Jesus demanded a response of faith from his listeners. Their response: “This sort of talk is hard to endure. How can anyone take it seriously?”
The gospel today states that: “Jesus knew from the start the ones who would refuse to believe; the ones who would no longer remain in His company”. He watched the 25,000 walk away he predicted Judas’s betrail and He knows us today.
Jesus asks each one of us again today “Do you want to leave me too?” May our response to his question be echoed in Peter’s response answering for the apostles and for all people of faith: “Lord, to whom shall we go? You alone have the words of eternal life.”