The human story is one filled with broken dreams. Created in the image of God, we can fashion marvelous possibilities of success, fame and pleasure, and spend much of our time and effort trying to make at least some of these dreams come true. But we will always encounter along the way people or circumstances that will shatter those dreams. Our dreams will or will not be realized based on the decisions that we make which determine the course of our lives. We are faced with these decisions every day.The human story is one filled with broken dreams. Created in the image of God, we can fashion marvelous possibilities of success, fame and pleasure, and spend much of our time and effort trying to make at least some of these dreams come true. But we will always encounter along the way people or circumstances that will shatter those dreams. Our dreams will or will not be realized based on the decisions that we make which determine the course of our lives. We are faced with these decisions every day.
Today, we witness a very important "moment of decision" faced by Jesus' disciples. Will they continue to follow him in a way that will bind them into a covenanted community - diverse, yet one people? Or will they, too, return to their former life and walk away? Their decision will not only connect them to Jesus, but to each other and will also affect each and every day of their lives.
During the last few weeks, our gospels have invited us to reflect on Jesus' "Bread of Life Discourse.” And today we are told that "many" of Jesus' disciples found his teaching too hard to take. Some couldn’t accept Jesus’ words and many others of his disciples simply returned to their former way of life.
What exactly has Jesus been teaching? First of all, he has spoken about coming down from heaven and returning there. His listeners would not have missed his claim to be a heavenly being. He says he is the bread that has come down from heaven. But more immediately, he has told them that they must eat his flesh and drink his blood.
Jesus doesn’t make any attempt to soften his words or to make his message easier for his listeners to hear. Making the meaning of the words symbolic would soften the impact they have on all of us; but in the original language, he literally is speaking about eating flesh and drinking blood and not some symbolic meal. So Jesus not only scandalizes those gathered to listen to him, he also offends his own followers.
It is a lot for anyone to absorb.
Jesus was never into the "numbers game" - he started with an enthusiastic crowd that wanted to make him king. Now he has Peter, who speaks for the Twelve and who tells Jesus that they will not leave him because, "You have words of eternal life." What enabled Peter to make this confession of faith? It was certainly not because of anything intrinsic to himself. He has faith because God has given it to him, because "...no one can come to me unless it is granted by my Father." Peter and the Twelve are committed to Christ; they will stay with him because, as Peter puts it, "We have come to believe and are convinced that you are the Holy One of God."
They only have partial vision at this point - they see through a glass darkly. Jesus is so much more than the Messiah Peter and others are expecting. He is so much more than we think he is. We believe that Jesus is the Word made flesh, God's total act of communication with us. This gift continues to grow and mature as we hear again the Word proclaimed to us today and as we do what Jesus has asked us to do – to eat his flesh and drink his blood.
Like the disciples, we face that same decision - from this moment on... at every moment. We are a diverse group of folks, and yet if we make the right decision, we can become one people, grounded and united in our religious identity as children of the covenant. Once again we are asked to make a life-decision that will not only bind us together but will also affect how we will live each day of our lives.
We celebrate this act of faith together, grateful for the Spirit that continues to give us life. With Peter and his companions, "We have come to believe..." and we trust that the Spirit will continue to deepen this gift of faith that we have.