In 1975, with the fall of Sai Gon (now known as Ho Chi Minh City) the people of Vietnam were faced with the decision of staying in Vietnam, where they were born and raised, or boarding an airplane or heading out to the ocean to seek freedom. Sadly, the same image of Sai Gon has once again happened this week in Kabul, Afghanistan. People tried to hold on to the wheels of a US Air Force aircraft – they decided to leave rather than to stay. Have you ever experienced the difficulty of choosing between two important things; having to pick one and ignore the other? We have all found ourselves unceasingly challenged or confronted with decisions that we need to make and follow.
The Sunday gospels in August are encouraging us to rediscover the meaning of the Eucharist through chapter 6 of St John’s Gospel. This chapter mainly challenges us on Jesus as ‘Bread of Life’. The bread that actually gives life, the bread that brings peace and comfort. The important question that is placed in front of us is whether we decide to receive this bread of life or do we prefer the bread of violence, hatred and war?
In the gospel, Jesus had just completed His discourse on the Eucharist and the fact that he is the very life of God coming down from heaven and no one can live this life or eternal life without him. Moreover, the gospel presents us with an option: we need to decide whether to follow Jesus and his teachings or to ignore and return to our former lives without Jesus.
In our gospel today there is a real challenge; the difficult realities that many of His disciples left Him and returned to their former lives and no longer accompanied Him. Remembering, the Jews were so impressed by Jesus’ words and actions. Wherever he went, they were looking for Him and listening to His teachings. But Jesus started talking about “eating His flesh and drinking His blood” as food for eternal life. They started to leave or run away from this crazy man, they could not accept this type of teaching, because they did not receive what they wanted to hear.
Jesus has so many sayings which could make His disciples leave Him like: “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,” “Forgive your enemies not only seven times but seventy times seven times,” “those who want to be the first must serve the rest,” ‘if you want to inherit eternal life sell everything, give to the poor and follow,” and so on and so forth.
It is easy to accept the teachings or rules of Jesus as long as they don’t go against us or as long as we are not hit by it. However, what are we going to do if the teachings or rules are confronting us? Are we going to leave the church or to break the rules? Or are we going to be patient with the church? What is the good spirit inspiring us to do now?
Coincidentally, the readings and gospel today somehow run parallel with the current situation of our lives, there are rules and regulations that impose on our lives which none of us really like. The challenge for us – followers of Christ – what is the good spirit telling us to do for ourselves and for each other at this time?
Let us reflect more frequently on the Word of God and let it penetrate into the deepest part of our hearts. Let us have some time to listen to the Holy Spirit who is always stirring our hearts with many good decisions.
By Fr Trac Nguyen