Earlier this summer, I did a spiritual exercise of sorts where I read through the first ten chapters of the Gospel of John slowly, one chapter on each day of my vacation, and then jotted down the one thing from each that stood out. A modified version of Lectio Divina, I guess. All of the readings were familiar, but one stood out in those ten days, the one we heard in today’s Gospel from Chapter 6. It is the latter part of the Bread of Life discourse, where Jesus has told his followers that they must eat his body and drink his blood in order to have everlasting life.
“As a result of this, many of his disciples returned to their former way of life and no longer accompanied him. Jesus then said to the Twelve, “Do you also want to leave?” Simon Peter answered him, “Master, to whom shall we go?”
I am intrigued –and in some ways, comforted — by the fact that many left and went back to their former lives. The Eucharist is such a shocking concept to them. “The saying is hard; who can accept it?” Even then, even in the presence of Jesus actually saying that we must eat his body and drink his blood, many disciples couldn’t accept it. So no wonder it is hard for us to grasp it fully and allow it to change our lives.
And Peter’s response — “To whom shall we go?” — isn’t exactly a ringing endorsement of what Jesus has just said. He doesn’t say that he “gets” the teaching on Eucharist, does he? Just that he cannot imagine leaving Jesus. Yet another reason to love Peter. His honesty is refreshing. Despite his tendency to say or do the wrong thing at the wrong time, he believed. He doubted and denied, but at the end of the day, despite his shortcomings, he was the one Jesus entrusted with his Church.
To whom shall we go? Sometimes I think that fits my relationship with my faith so perfectly. I’m constantly trying to find my place, to really understand what I’m called to do and be. And yet so often I fall short. But where else would I go? If I’m going to believe in something, why would I go searching for anything else. Jesus is here.
That’s why I find such comfort in Peter in this Gospel reading. He’s not saying, Yes, Lord, I understand. He’s saying, “Where else am I going to go?” And that’s enough, isn’t it? Jesus asks us to follow. He recognizes that it’s not always easy. He doesn’t demand that we completely understand every single teaching but that we believe and trust in him. “Lord, to whom shall we go?” There is no place else but here, with Jesus. For Peter, for us, for all time.