As a result of this, many [of] his disciples returned to their former way of life and no longer accompanied him. (John 6:66)
Because they couldn’t accept His teaching on eating His Body and drinking His blood, many of Jesus’ disciples stopped following Him and “returned to their former way of life”. According to John’s Gospel, they took this action because they couldn’t accept what Jesus had to say. It was “too hard”.
It’s difficult to put myself in the place of those who were hearing this for the first time, but I think I have some idea of what they were going through. The idea of consuming the flesh and drinking the blood of Jesus must have been insanely hard to accept. If they hung around until the Last Supper, however, it would have become a little less “hard”. It would have still been difficult to comprehend, but the disgust of eating human flesh and drinking blood would be gone. Unfortunately, they were in such a hurry to leave that they didn’t give Jesus time to explain the details.
At some point in time, many of us have “left” Jesus and will probably do so again. We may not formally leave the Faith, but often leave Jesus by choosing to stop praying, doing what feels good instead of what God wants or lapsing into worry and hopelessness. Whether we “leave” Him for a few minutes, several hours or many years, we still do what those disciples did on that fateful day.
Why do we leave Jesus? Typically, it’s because He does something we don’t like or asks us to do something we’d rather not do. Maybe He isn’t answering our prayers fast enough or He responds in a way that doesn’t please us. Sometimes it’s a Church teaching that gets in the way of our enjoyment. Whatever the reason, it usually comes down to a conflict between our version of Jesus and the real Jesus.
I’m not proud of it, but I will probably “leave” Him again. It might even happen today. I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but you’ll probably leave Him too. But here’s the good news. Even though it’s always a mistake to leave Jesus even for an instant, it’s not the worst thing that could happen. Despite the fact that he talked a good game, Peter deserted Jesus not once, not twice but three times. It’s sad, but the cloud definitely has a silver lining. Yes, he definitely left when it got too “hard”, but he came back. That’s the key. Pray for the grace to never leave Jesus when it gets “hard”, but always resolve to come back when you do leave. In the end, that’s what really matters.
Let not your heart be troubled!