“Master, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life” (John 6:69).
I have quoted the lyrics from a song from the musical "Cotton Patch Gospels" in this blog before, and I quote them again because they capture the moment described in today’s Gospel. Jesus has finished his discourse on the Bread of Life, ending with the incredible invitation to his disciples to eat his body and drink his blood if they want to have life. Many of the disciples shake their heads and turn to leave. Jesus looks at his apostles and asks, “Do you also want to leave?”
The song by Harry Chapin is called “Jubilation” and has these lines: “Everybody wants to touch his dream just one time, I know I’ll never ever get this close again.”
Peter, speaking for the other apostles, expresses the same anxious feeling. We have been with you all this while and something has captured our hearts. “To whom shall we go?” We have touched our dream, and if we walk away now, we will never ever get this chance again. “You have the words of eternal life.”
This moment in the Gospel is hard to explain to anyone who has not touched a dream or felt the deep longing to pursue a mystery that has appeared in his or her life. Those who have fallen in love and realized that if they turn away this may never happen again—they know the poignant urgency that characterizes the kind of life moment Peter and the others faced with Jesus.
Each time we receive Communion, we are touching and being touched by God. In Jesus, the divine source of all life comes so close to us it is more intimate than our heartbeat or breath, for it is the cause of our very existence, our reason for being. Even the most intense human experience of love is only a prelude and metaphor to this encounter with God in Christ.
The challenge of faith is that this mystery remains hidden until we are ready to receive and respond to it. We must be awakened to it, say yes to it freely before the grace can embrace and transform us. If communion is a kiss, we are invited to it again and again before love comes alive and leads to commitment, for the implications of this relationship are great and irreversible. We will not find it anywhere else, and if we turn away, we may never get this close again.