When I was a sophomore in high school, I joined the spiritual team, a group of students who worked with the campus ministers at my Catholic high school to plan school masses, prayer services, and other events that had to do with the spiritual life of the students and the school. In retrospect, I am not quite sure why I joined. Besides going to mass with my family each week, I was not a particularly religious or spiritual person at the time. But I was struggling to fit in, and I guess I thought I should keep trying out groups until I found a place to fit in.
Our team was in charge of the All Saints’ Day mass for the entire school. One of our responsibilities was walking in the opening procession, helping to lead the school in song. As I walked past row upon row of the sophomore students I considered to be my cool classmates, my first reaction was mortification. I certainly would never fit in now that I had been seen singing religious songs in front of everyone. Yet then a revelation came to me: I would never fit in, if fitting in meant being one of the “cool” students, and that was okay. I was okay as I was. In fact, it might even be better for me if I did not fit in and found a place on the margins where there would be more room to be myself.
In that moment, I had a choice to make. I could go back to all the worrying I had done about not fitting it. Or I could allow this revelation to change how I thought about myself. I could move forward into a future with a transformed vision of myself. It was a moment of both terror and amazing freedom. I was scared to see myself in a new way, yet I felt the power of God in that moment and knew that there was no going back.
This week’s Gospel reading from John 6:60-69 tells of a crossroads moment for Jesus’ disciples. In order to better understand this crossroads moment, we need to go back to last week’s Gospel, in which Jesus teaches something extraordinary. There Jesus tells the disciples, “Unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood have eternal life and I will raise them up on the last day.” Instead of offering the disciples the sustaining power of ordinary bread and wine, he tries to explain to them that it is entering into new life with him that will sustain them.
Imagine if you had been with the disciples hearing this proclamation. How would you have reacted? How easy is it to put aside everyday worries to think about big questions like eternal life? Isn’t it easier to think about where our next meal is going to come from?
In this week’s Gospel we hear about the aftermath of this proclamation from Jesus. This is the crossroads moment, the moment of truth. Will those who have been following Jesus understand his teaching and allow it to change their lives? Or will they go back to their old lives as if they had never encountered Jesus and his truth?
Many of the disciples think Jesus’ teaching is too difficult and eventually turn their backs on Jesus. They return to their old ways, to their ordinary lives, to seeing the world as they have always seen it. Jesus asks those who stay with him whether they want to leave as well. Simon Peter replies, “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.” Even though Jesus’ claims seem outlandish, Simon Peter and others have come to believe that Jesus is the Holy One of God. No longer can they be content with worrying about feeding their physical hunger with ordinary bread. Their way of seeing the world has been broken up through their relationship with Jesus, and there is no going back. To whom else could they go? Who else could they follow, now that the mystery of God’s gift in Jesus Christ is being revealed to them?
Have you had a crossroads moment in your life, a time when your vision was changed and you no longer saw the world in the same way?
In that crossroads moment, what helped you embrace a new future rather than to cling to the past?Photo courtesy of summerbl4ck via Creative Commons License