“Do you also want to leave?”

That’s the question that Jesus poses to Peter and the apostles at the end of the Gospel reading today. In light of the horrors detailed in the Pennsylvania Grand Jury Report of the unimaginable abuse of children and systematic cover up by bishops, many Catholics have recently been asking themselves this question. Beyond this present scandal though, this is a question that I would dare to say most Catholics ask themselves, sometimes on a regular basis. Whenever the demands of the Gospel seem unbearable and the commandments impossible to follow we ask ourselves why we stay.

So why do we stay?

I think there’s only one good answer, and it’s presented in today’s first reading. Joshua is giving a great speech to the the people of Israel asking them if they will stay faithful to The Lord or if they will leave to follow other gods. And the people answered:

“Far be it from us to forsake the LORD for the service of other gods. For it was the LORD, our God, who brought us and our fathers up out of the land of Egypt, out of a state of slavery.  He performed those great miracles before our very eyes and protected us along our entire journey and among the peoples through whom we passed. Therefore we also will serve the LORD, for he is our God.”

God’s people answered the question by recounting the great works of God in their past, remembering the saving work of God in their lives. Peter gave the same answer to Jesus when he was asked that question:

“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.”

In other words, “Jesus, we have seen too many miracles, too many great acts of healing, to leave your side. Where else would we go?” I hear a desperate tone in Peter’s response to Jesus. Not a cheerful, “Where else would we go, Lord?!” But rather the tone of someone who feels trapped. Jesus has just told the crowds that they must drink his blood in order to have eternal life. Peter is probably just as shocked and disgusted as the crowds that left Jesus, but he has seen too much to leave.

When God freed Israel from Egypt, the event being recounted by the Israelite in their response to Joshua, he commanded his people to never forget his saving work. Before he passed over Egypt, God told his people:

“This day will be a day of remembrance for you, which your future generations will celebrate with pilgrimage to the LORD; you will celebrate it as a statute forever” (Ex 12:14).

You will remember and celebrate this event forever. Don’t forget the great works I have done for you. Don’t forget how much I have done to save you.

I think that we all need to take this command seriously. We need to establish memorials in our minds of when we have seen the saving work of God in our lives, then we must cling to them. We must never forget those times when we were healed, those times when we were saved. That way, when we are faced with the question, “Do you also want to leave?” We can reflect on what Christ has done in our own lives and perhaps muster up enough willpower to respond, “Where else would I go? I’ve seen too much of God here for me to leave.”

[Photo Credit: eCatholic Stock Photos]

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Paul Fahey is a husband, father of four, parish director of religious education, and co-founder of Where Peter Is.  He can be found at his website, Rejoice and be Glad: Catholicism in the Pope Francis Generation

To whom shall we go?

5 Responses

  1. Peter Aiello says:

    Peter tell Jesus why the apostles won’t leave. They are sure that He is the Messiah, the Son of God. He did explain that His words were Spirit and life, even if they probably wouldn’t understand his explanation at that point. They understood at Pentecost.

    • Christopher Lake says:

      Hi, Peter,

      Jesus also says that His followers are to eat His flesh and drink His blood, and He tells them that if they do not do so, then they have no life in them. In the original language, the word that He used for “eat” is actually closer to our English word, “gnaw.” After hearing Jesus’s shocking statements on this matter, many of His followers left Him and went back to their former ways of life. It’s tragic that they made that choice, but at least they did take His words very, very seriously– exactly as He intended.

      I love and respect my Protestant brothers and sisters in Christ (I was a committed Protestant Christian for years myself), but I have never found any Protestant denomination which actually takes Christ’s words on eating His flesh and drinking His blood as seriously as the scandalized followers who left Him when they heard those words. They knew that He was not speaking symbolically, and notably, He did not run after them, seeking to *clarify* that He was speaking symbolically.

      The only Churches that I know of which take Christ’s words on eating His flesh and drinking His blood as seriously as He meant them are the Catholic and Eastern Orthodox Churches. This is one of many reasons that I left Protestant Christianity and will live and die as a Catholic Christian.

      • Peter Aiello says:

        Jesus was not speaking literally because even at mass we don’t actually taste flesh and blood. It certainly wasn’t possible after He ascended, which He speaks of when the disciples were perplexed about what He was saying.
        I believe that Jesus’ words were fulfilled at Pentecost when the Holy Spirit was poured out. He did say that His words were spirit and life, and that the flesh profits nothing.
        John says “No man hath seen God at any time. If we love one another, God dwelleth in us, and his love is perfected in us. Hereby know we that we dwell in him, and he in us, because he hath given us of his Spirit” (1John 4:12-13).
        He doesn’t say anything about the Eucharist in any of his writings. John’s gospel is the only one that doesn’t have the last supper.
        I think that we need interact more with the Holy Spirit because the fruit of the Spirit is where peace and strength reside. We receive the Holy Spirit prior to the Eucharist. The sacraments associated with receiving the Holy Spirit are Baptism and Confirmation.
        We receive the peace that passes all understanding by being anxious for nothing and casting all of our care on the Lord (see Philippians 4:6-7 and 1Peter 5:5-7). I took these verses literally and I haven’t been the same since I did what they said. This is OK even for Catholics.

      • jong says:

        Remember Peter character shine on this ocassion. All the apostles are confused and want to leave Jesus too.
        Good thing, there’s Peter timely reflection & intervention by uttering “to whom shall we go”. That’s why Jesus chose Peter as the Leader in the midst of confusion his faith never waiver.
        But it was severely tested during the Passions, but still only Peter had the courage to go out to follow Jesus Passions something of a remarkable traits, but unfortunately courage was not enough to follow Jesus to Calvary. Peter need the Holy Spirit which will only be experience later at the Upper Room.
        But, good thing too, Peter knew to whom he shall go to rise-up again, He seek the Theotokos, the Advocate.
        Like, Pope Francis proclaiming Mary the Mother of the Church in the thick of battle, Mama Mary is now watching the Church battle with satan & his human cohorts.
        I’m expecting Pope Francis to proclaim the 5th Dogma, when the battle get’s elevated to the dirtiest tactics by church enemies.
        Mary will now be proclaim the ADVOCATE, and Her timely rescue will be visible to all faithful & wicked souls alive.
        Genesis3:15, the Seat of Peter is the perfect place to crush the proud head of satan.
        In the End My Immaculate Heart Will Triumph.

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