Deacon Bob Evans
Will I Leave Jesus, or Will I Stay?
At first there were murmurs, in the back. Then it started: harsh voices here, a burst of laughter there – then, full scale uproar. “What did he say? He can’t mean that!” “Eat my flesh and drink my blood” … “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?" … “This is too hard, who can accept this” [John 6:52, 54, 60]. And with that they stormed out of the synagogue in disgust.
Soon the commotion filled the main plaza out front where an even larger crowd had gathered. Some had come to Capernaum in boats from as far away as Tiberias to see the “wonder worker.” Many more had come over from the hillside east of town where Jesus had fed thousands with only a few loaves and fish [cf. John 6:23]. But now this … this shocking statement! In the street, the expectations quickly turned to ridicule as that short-lived band of “followers” noisily made their way down the hill to the docks and marketplace.
Do you also want to leave me?
After a while it was quiet again in the synagogue – too quiet, really. Jesus and His twelve stood there, alone. For several of them, this is their hometown. They’d been coming to this synagogue since they were young boys. Today, they’re stunned, humiliated, mortified. And, they had felt so proud only a short while ago. They were in the company of the most captivating figure of their time … but, now what? Then, Jesus turned to His twelve and quietly asked the most haunting question in Scripture: “Do you also want to leave me?” [John 6:67].
“Do you also want to leave me?” that is what He said. For what must have seemed forever, each of them stood there silent struggling over the question. “Will I leave Jesus … or will I stay? I can’t make sense of this. If I stay, I will surely be ridiculed by my neighbors, called one who is 'closed minded,' one who 'believes in myths,' … or worse. He may ask of me more than I have. But, if I leave Jesus, I will lose all that matters most. What will I do?" Then, Peter spoke up, “Master, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life” [John 6:68]. “Yes, Peter is right.” As demoralizing as things were that day in the synagogue in Capernaum, not one of the twelve, not even Judas, headed for the door. Each of them knew what was at stake.
Will I leave Jesus … or will I stay?
Over the centuries since that day, many people have struggled with that same question. “Will I leave Jesus … or will I stay?” And today, staying with Jesus, being a faithful Catholic, is especially hard. We’re now openly ridiculed by many; we’re called "closed minded” about our beliefs on the sanctity of marriage, on gender identity, on abortion. In academia, we’re called “believers in outdated myths.” With scandals, bishops disagreeing on important issues, and more, there are lots of things that can make it all seem just “too hard” to accept. And, sadly, many are choosing to leave Him, to just walk away, not realizing what is at stake.
At times, many of us may have struggled with that same question: “Will I leave Jesus … or will I stay?” It may have seemed so much easier to just “head for the door.” In my lifetime, I don’t think there has ever been a time when it was more important for us to pray. Pray that we, and others, will realize that staying with Jesus is our only hope for what matters most, eternal life. Yes, when we stay, He does ask much of us; but not more than we have.
Friends, the Gospel passage from this past Sunday [see John 6:60-69] makes it very clear: we too are free to leave Jesus or to stay. But, if we leave, just walk away, remember that it’s only in the church founded by Jesus Christ that we find the sacraments, it's only there that we can receive the sanctifying grace we need for our salvation; it's only there that we can share in the Body and Blood of Christ. That is what is at stake.
“Till next time,
Dcn Bob Evans
August 23, 2021
John 6:23; John 6:52, 54; John 6:60-69