Sometimes I feel like quitting. It’s too hard to pray before bedtime; it’s much easier to turn on Netflix. It’s easier to press like on the latest post begging for donations to send to Haiti; it’s a lot harder to budget the money to send.too hard to speak up about controversial topics, I’d much rather just mind my own business. It’s more socially acceptable to laugh along with the gossip than to interject some blatantly kind words, or suddenly change the subject. Many times, every day, and every week, I am faced with the choice: follow Jesus, or turn away.
Today, Jesus, I consider the time when You challenged Your disciples to make the same choice: the choice between following You and following the crowd.
First Things First: the Backstory
First, let’s get some background. The day before this ever happened, You had been teaching the crowds. Five thousand people had gathered to hear Your sermons, Your testimony. You fed their minds with their words, their souls with the truth.
The crowd grew hungry. There was little food around. You gathered five loaves and two fish, and against all odds, You fed the five thousand with them, fed their bodies this time. You performed the miracle of multiplication of food to take care of the bodily needs of your followers.
Then You took some time alone to rest, to reconnect with the Father.
The Public Opinion
Next day: the crowds had followed You. You knew why they were there, and You called them out on it – it was not their faith in Your teachings and signs that drew them back to you, it was the food! They saw that You had great power which could provide a life of ease and luxury – if only they stayed with You, they would never have to work again! They would never go hungry!
You had given them Your word – food for their minds. You had given them bread and fish – food for their body. Now, You promised them an even greater food – Your body and blood, the food of everlasting life.
Lord, they did not understand.
They did not know that You would offer Yourself as a sacrifice on the cross – that Your body would suffer cruelest torture, that Your blood would be poured out – all to merit eternal life for them!
They did not know that You are the Lamb, the Paschal Victim, the fulfillment of all the prophecies, who gave Yourself for us completely during that Last Passover Supper.
They did not know that the Holy Eucharist, the bread we break, the cup we share, is the same total sacrifice of body and blood You gave on the cross. They were scared when You insisted that Your body is true food and Your blood is true drink.
They did not know that in Your mercy, You would disguise Yourself in the form of Bread and Wine, to make it easier for us to receive and consume this gift of Yourself.
They left You, Lord. Their faith was weak.
They wanted Your inspirational words, Your miracles of food aplenty. But they could not accept the difficult teaching of Your total self-sacrificing Love. They were afraid to trust You.
The Pivotal Choice For the Apostles, and For Me
My Jesus, now You turn to Your closest friends and ask, “Will you also go away?” I hear the sadness in Your voice, the regret over the loss of souls who could be so close to You – so intimate as to receive Your whole body and blood for their nourishment, but chose to walk away. I hear You ask this question to me, every time You offer me inspiration to pray, to come to You. You offer me the choice: “Will you join me? Or will you turn away?”
Will Your disciples walk away? No: “To whom should we go? You have the words of eternal life.” Just a small statement of faith, but it’s enough. They accept Your hard words; You will do the rest. Your sacrifice will give them eternal life!
My Jesus, give me the faith to stick by Your side for the tough teachings too. When Your way involves sacrifice and pain, and things that are hard to understand, strengthen me that I may turn to You, rather than towards the fleeting comforts of this world.
Give me the grace to choose prayer over Netflix, to choose giving over liking, to choose charity over gossip. Above all, give me a great love and appreciation for Your total self-sacrifice on the cross, made available to me through the Eucharist. Let me draw my strength from Your Precious Body and Blood, and safeguard my way to Heaven.
Thank You for giving me the grace to respond to Your call to prayer right now. Never stop calling me, never stop inviting me, and please never let me abandon You. Remind me, Lord, that there is no suitable alternative, no substitute for You and the Love You give me so freely.
My Jesus, when life gets tough, to whom should I go? Yours are the words of eternal life! Amen!
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