‘Do you also want to leave?’ | Lifestyle.INQ

OCTOBER 27, 2022

After several Sundays of reading the Bread of Life Discourse in the Gospel of John, we come to the part in which Jesus’ apostles must make a choice.


With the backdrop of some disciples expressing disbelief at His teachings and leaving Him, this week’s crucial scene comes in a subtle but deep confrontation.


He turns to the Twelve: “Do you also want to leave?”


Simon Peter answers him, “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.”


The dramatic scene is reminiscent of Elijah’s encounter with God. “There was a strong and violent wind rending the mountains and crushing rocks before the Lord—but the Lord was not in the wind; after the wind, an earthquake—but the Lord was not in the earthquake; after the earthquake, fire—but the Lord was not in the fire; after the fire, a light silent sound.


“When he heard this, Elijah hid his face in his cloak and went out and stood at the entrance of the cave. A voice said to him, ‘Why are you here, Elijah?’” (1 Kings 19: 11-13)


First important day


One of the most difficult choices we will make is whether to say “yes” to God’s mission and pursue a way of life that will bear witness to this mission. The dynamics of such a choice will lead us to our core as a person.


Mark Twain says the first important day in our life is the day we are born; and the second is when we find out why. Similarly, a person’s first important life task is to discover his/her mission; and the second is to live it out with great love and passion.


At every Eucharistic celebration or the Holy Mass, this is the choice and the grace laid before us: to stay with Christ and to follow Him, or to leave Him and the grace to say “yes.”


It is a very personal encounter with Christ which is the grace of the Eucharist.


Call of the Eternal King


The Second Week of the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius of Loyola is often called the Election Week.


It focuses on the life and mission of Christ; the central grace that one is asked to pray for is to “see Christ more clearly, love Christ more dearly, follow Christ more nearly.”


One of the key meditations of the week is The Call of the Eternal King. In the first part, Ignatius prescribes that one should consider an earthly leader to emulate and follow the call to service and mission to make this world a better place.


I remember how, during a 30-day retreat in 1983, many of us looked to Fr. Pedro Arrupe, SJ, as a leader.


Gandhi was equally popular, as was Ninoy Aquino who had just been martyred. And there was Pope John XXIII, Martin Luther King, Mother Teresa and Ignatius of Loyola.


In the second part, Ignatius says that if one were to respond generously and wholeheartedly to this earthly leader worthy of emulation, how much more can we and ought to respond to the call of Christ, the Eternal King?


Ignatius writes about The Call of the Eternal King: “My will is to conquer the whole world and all my enemies, and thus to enter into the glory of my Father. Therefore, whoever wishes to come with me must labor with me, so that through following me in the pain he or she may follow me also in the glory.”


The choice is to follow Christ—“come with me”—and to live a life of mission with Christ, “labor with me,” in a way that will make a difference in the world.


The choice we face


This is the choice we face, the grace offered by the Eucharist: to turn to Christ and say “yes” to his invitation to come and follow him. At every moment we receive his body and drink his blood during Mass, we say “yes” and follow him.


All moments of saying “yes” to follow Christ mean living a life of mission, and the mission is always to share in Christ’s


In other meditations in the Second Week of the Spiritual Exercises—The Two Standards, The Three Classes of Men, The Three Degrees of Humility—the dynamics is a growing awareness of the self, who we are, what our values are, and what the meaning is of the life we have embraced.


I propose that our first choice is to accept the truth of who we are. The acceptance of our truth sets us free and gives us freedom from all that falls short of the truth or blurs this truth.


With this freedom, it becomes possible to attain greater freedom to commit to follow Christ in mission.


As for the question, “Do you also want to leave?”—one point to reflect on is our choice.


The Gospel of John mentions that many of Christ’s followers abandoned Him after choosing not to believe in his words. But there is a more subtle way to “leave” Christ, that is, to stay in the periphery or to keep one’s distance from Him.


Many names


We call this by many names—fence-sitting, playing it safe, detached, distant, reticent, indecisive.


But essentially it’s the unwillingness to get out of one’s comfort zone or to be afraid to take risks—that God is in charge and will bring to completion what He calls us to.


An aversion to risk-taking is not just about playing it safe but is actually an attempt to take control or manipulate the situation.


It is this “leaving” of Christ that is more insidious. Sometimes, or often enough, we seem to follow, but not more nearly.


The beauty and grace of a devotion to the Holy Eucharist is that it gives us an opportunity to be ready when we are confronted with the question, “Do you also want to leave?”


It beckons us to look into our self, be aware and accept things that keep us away from Christ, in an active or passive sense.


We pray for the grace to respond in the words of Peter, “Master, to whom shall we go … we have come to believe … ”



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