“Now that is the wisdom of a man, in every instance of his labor, to hitch his wagon to a star, and see his chore done by the gods themselves.” Ralph Waldo Emerson, “American Civilization”
We may not always like the direction our leaders take, but once we have committed to being part of something, we follow it through to the end. The disciples had marveled at the miracles and absorbed the wisdom of Jesus’s teachings. Just at the height of his popular, following the feeding of the 5000, he turned and faced the cross. “Unless you eat my flesh and drink my blood, you cannot be my disciples.” This cannibalism was too harsh for the crowds and many left him. Only those who understood that they were in the presence of God stayed with him. “Are you leaving, too?” he asked. “Lord, to whom shall we go? You alone have the words of eternal life.”
John 6:52-59; 66-69
52 The Jews then disputed among themselves, saying, “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?” 53 So Jesus said to them, “Very truly, I tell you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. 54 Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood have eternal life, and I will raise them up on the last day; 55 for my flesh is true food and my blood is true drink. 56 Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood abide in me, and I in them. 57 Just as the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so whoever eats me will live because of me. 58 This is the bread that came down from heaven, not like that which your ancestors ate, and they died. But the one who eats this bread will live forever.” 59 He said these things while he was teaching in the synagogue at Capernaum. 60 When many of his disciples heard it, they said, “This teaching is difficult; who can accept it?” 66 Because of this many of his disciples turned back and no longer went about with him. 67 So Jesus asked the twelve, “Do you also wish to go away?” 68 Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom can we go? You have the words of eternal life.
We were trapped in a holding area in the basement of the Eurostar station waiting for the next train from Paris. Construction on the rails had delayed its arrival by three hours, and the backlog of passengers filled the room to capacity. Some had left the line before they even got to this point, but we had stubbornly committed to the process four hours previously and weren’t about to walk away. There was no other way to get to Paris that night, so we had to wait.
The number of followers of Jesus swelled as word of his miraculous healings and teachings spread throughout the countryside. He was like no one else. The act of feeding five thousand from five loaves and two fishes fit with their vision of the promised Messiah. Yet, just at the moment when his popularity was at its peak, he turned towards Jerusalem and started talking about suffering and death. The crowds were separated by their response to his dogmatism: “Unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man (the Messiah), and drink his blood, you have no life in you.” This was too harsh a saying and many left.
Those who stayed didn’t understand what he meant any more than those who left, but they were committed to Jesus and they had nowhere else to go. Later, at the last supper, they heard these words again. His prophecy was fulfilled in his death and resurrection. Those who remained formed the nucleus of God’s plan for the whole world, and the Eucharist (communion) became an essential component of that movement. In hindsight, we understand what he meant; those who were with him that day, didn’t. This side of eternity, we live by faith and not by sight, but God is trustworthy.
Lord, we trust you even when we don’t understand your ultimate plan. Our faith is in you, because experience has taught us that you alone hold the keys to an abundant and eternal life. Assure us that you are with us while we await your final coming. Amen