Choices. We all face so many choices each day.
Just think of how many choices led you to church today: Should I get out of bed now or stay here and snooze a little longer? Should I go golfing instead? Should I wear my “Sunday best” or is casual OK? How much will I put in the collection basket?
Any choice involves making a decision. A decision means saying “yes” to one thing and “no” to a lot of other things.
Choices are offered in all of today’s readings: Joshua asks the Israelites to choose between God and all the other gods they knew about from the lands they had travelled in. Paul asks spouses to say “yes” to each other, even at the expense of their own desires and even their own well-being — just as Christ did on the cross for us; Jesus asks his disciples if they would choose to leave, as so many others just had.
Most of our Sunday choices aren’t quite as tough: We can choose to sing the hymns, or not. We can choose not to shake hands with lots of people around us at the “sign of peace.” We can choose to add a little extra when the basket comes round. We can choose something to buy at the bake sale or brat fry after Mass.
But you can also face some tough choices too, if you really want to explore them: Do you choose to believe every word of the creed? Maybe you don’t fully understand everything professed in the creed. So will you choose to learn more about what the church teaches with those words we pray?
Speaking of what the church teaches: Do you know that the Catholic Church teaches that the bread and wine become the real body and blood of Christ at the consecration? According to a 2010 study by the Pew Forum, 45 percent of Catholic do not know this. However, that doesn’t mean they don’t believe it. In fact, a 2013 study — “American Catholics in Transition” — showed that, even though many Catholics don’t know this church teaching, most do believe it anyway. Nearly two-thirds of Catholics said that they do believe in Christ’s Real Presence in the Eucharist. Without knowing exactly what the church teaches, they still choose to believe.
Interestingly, today’s Gospel from John (6:60-66) doesn’t tell us why some of Jesus’ followers left him — only that they complained that “this saying is hard.”
What was Jesus saying? If you look back to last Sunday’s Gospel, you will recall that Jesus had just said: “For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me and I in him” (Jn. 6:55-56). Many people were shocked at his words, appalled at the idea of eating human flesh and drinking human blood. They left Jesus, who then turned to his closest disciples and asked, “Do you also want to leave?”
When you choose to say “yes” at Communion, you are making that same choice and echoing the words of Peter: “Master, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.”
Kasten is an associate editor of The Compass and the author of two books: “Linking Your Beads: The Rosary’s History, Mysteries and Prayers” and “Making Sense of Saints.”