“Lord, to whom shall we go?” : Faith in Jesus in time of pandemic

The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Sunday XXI-B in Ordinary Time, 22 August 2021
Joshua 24:1-2, 15-17, 18 ><}}}'> Ephesians 5:21-32 ><}}}'> John 6:60-69
Inquirer’s Friday front page tells us in essence the message of this Sunday’s Gospel – “Lord, to whom shall we go?” in this time of crisis. Photo from inquirer.net.

We conclude our series on the Lord’s discourse on bread of life with the same question he had posed to his disciples more than 2000 years ago at Capernaum, repeatedly asking us the same question daily, especially on Sundays: “Do you also want to leave?” (Jn. 6:67).

This is the first time in John’s gospel that the people have rejected Jesus Christ whom they have always admired and followed to listen to his teachings and most of all, to be healed of their sickness. When they were fed to their satisfaction at the wilderness, they wanted to take Jesus and make him their king but he evaded them, going to Capernaum where he was found the following day. All this time, religious leaders were the only ones against Jesus, challenging his authority especially when he cleansed the temple and healed on a sabbath day.

But today, in a sudden twist, people rejected and abandoned Jesus because they could not accept him as the Bread of Life who came down from heaven who would give his flesh as food and blood as drink for eternal life. Worse, this was led by those supposed to be close to him, his disciples.

Often used as a generic term for a follower or a believer, the word “disciple” is from the Greek word discipulos that literally means “one who comes after or follows the master” (also the root of discipline). In the gospels, disciples were the common followers of Jesus, distinct from the apostles often referred to as “the Twelve”. From another Greek word apostolein meaning “one who is sent forth ahead of a master”, an apostle is one who is close to Jesus, who personally knows him and have also seen him. That is why Paul insisted his being an apostle too.

This distinction between a disciple and an apostle is found in all four gospel accounts. It is important to know this especially in our gospel today which is the first time John had introduced to us the presence of disciples among the crowd with Jesus at Capernaum. They have all been silently listening to his discourse until Jesus said, “Whoever eats my flesh and drink my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him on the last day. 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.6:54-56).

It was from here where our gospel this Sunday picks up the story:

Many of Jesus’ disciples who were listening said, “This saying is hard; who can accept it?” Since Jesus knew that his disciples were murmuring about this, he said to them, “Does this shock you? What if you were to see the Son of Man ascending to where he was before? 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?”

John 6:60-62, 66-67
Photo by Fr. Howard John Tarrayo, National Shrine of Our Lady of Fatima on the eve of the ECQ, 05 August 2021.

Aversion vs. Conversion

Here we find a painful truth we all experience when following Jesus as our Lord and Master. Sometimes it can happen that those closest to us are the ones who cannot accept and understand us like those disciples of Jesus who have left home and family to listen to his teachings after witnessing many of his healings. Then all of a sudden, they abandoned him because he had said it is his flesh he shall give as food to eat and his blood as drink for eternal life.

They were thinking in the literal sense, more preoccupied with what they knew, with what they have in their minds, without any room for Jesus nor for others. They would rather stick with what they have heard and learned from the Old Testament, of Moses and the manna from heaven.


Refusing Jesus is always a refusal 
to grow and mature not only in faith 
but most of all in life and in our relationships. 
 It is pride and self-centeredness, 
a form of self worship and idolatry 
when one believes more to one's self
 than with God through others.

Refusing Jesus is always a refusal to grow and mature not only in faith but most of all in life and in our relationships. It is pride and self-centeredness, a form of self worship and idolatry when one believes more to one’s self than with God through others.

Jesus came to deepen our faith by experiencing himself, inviting us all to be converted back to God. But instead of conversion or turning back to God in the light of Jesus, we choose aversion, that is, turning away from God, returning to blindness and darkness like those disciples: As a result of this, many of his disciples returned to their former way of life and no longer accompanied him” (Jn.6:66).

They cannot accept and take Jesus personally and wholly as his very words implied the Eucharist where we receive Jesus, Body and Blood under “the perceptible signs of bread and wine” as explained by Vatican II’s Sacrosantum Concilium #7.

Every Sunday when we gather as the Body of Christ in the celebration of the Holy Eucharist prefigured in the time of Moses in the wilderness until their entry into the Promised Land under Joshua’s leadership, we likewise reaffirm and renew our commitment to love and “serve the Lord, for he alone is our God” (Jos. 24:18).

Photo by Ms. Ria De Vera, March 2020.

Yes, “this saying and teaching of the Lord is hard to accept” (Jn. 6:60) especially in this time of the pandemic when many among us have lost family and friends including sources of income and savings while things are expected to worsen before getting any better at all.

Then there is also the familiarity with the Holy Mass breeding contempt among us these days when all we have are virtual Masses.

It is very sad that many of us these days have “returned to our former way of life and no longer accompanied Jesus” like those disciples at Capernaum; there are some who have stopped believing in Jesus due to the many pains and sufferings of this prolonged pandemic!

We are in a time of severe crisis not only in faith but also in every aspect of life due to the worsening COVID-19 pandemic. As we moved Saturday to lower level of quarantine controls, new records were set in new infections and deaths while ICU’s and hospitals are almost if not at full capacity already.

Lest we forget, there is the severe stress on our medical frontliners and their families too, with some literally passing out of exhaustion.

Some major decisions really have to be made not only by leaders but by everyone. That is the literal meaning of the word “crisis” which is from the Greek krisis that means time for decision-making to prevent (more) disasters from happening.

Disasters are due to poor or wrongful decisions.

One of that is removing God from every equation in life, including in our political and social life, giving rise to a culture of impunity where corruption has become a way of life.

Despite our being a Christian nation, we have chosen to remain in our morally bankrupt style of politics based on popularity, compadrazgo system, and vote selling. No wonder that even while we are in a pandemic with thousands getting sick or dying and millions are suffering, public officials continue to plunder our nation’s coffers blatantly while candidates shamelessly campaign early with their giant tarpaulins and television ads to ensure they all remain in power.

To whom shall we go? With the corrupt officials and trapos who do not care at all for us?

The good news today is that even if we have abandoned Jesus many times in our lives and in our nation’s history, he remains with us, still asking us like the Twelve, “Do you also want to leave?” (Jn.6:67).

Let us tell Jesus like Peter, “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” (Jn.6:68-69)?

Remaining in Jesus like Peter

Last Friday, the Inquirer eloquently showed on its front page the sad plight of our nation with a banner story on corruption at the DOH following the recent reports by Commission on Audit as well the arrogant display of powers-that-be in Cebu.

Then, a breath of fresh hopes with this photo by Grig C. Montegrande on how the QC General Hospital had converted its chapel into a COVID-19 ward to accommodate the growing number of patients. The photo summarizes our Sunday readings, that we are in a critical moment not only in our history but also in our lives, calling us to conversion or turning to God instead of aversion which is turning away from God.

From inquirer.net.

Remember the “I AM” declaration by Jesus first used in this bread of life discourse two weeks ago when he said “I am the bread that came down from heaven” (Jn.6:41)?

That must have lingered in Peter. His faith did not deepen right away but it had surely grown and matured while listening to Christ’s discourse on the bread of life which became clearer to him after Easter.

Let us try “to feel at home” in Peter’s company during this pandemic to be led to a similar faith insight and commitment in Jesus no matter how difficult it may be.

Faith is like love: we believe and love not because we are sure of ourselves but because we are sure of the one we believe and love. That is why we commit our lives to our beloved. It is not primarily because of us at the center but of the other. Like Jesus. Or a loved one.

This is Paul’s reminder to us in the second reading of having Jesus as the basis of our relationships: Brothers and sisters: Be subordinate to one another out of reverence for Christ (Eph. 5:21).

It is not a call to dominance over one another but mutual-subordination in Christ by imitating his self-sacrificing love for everyone in the giving of his total self, Body and Blood. This we can do these days by observing health protocols like social distancing, wearing masks, and washing hands frequently. Best is to stay home as much as possible by giving ourselves more to our family and loved ones. Amen.

Have a safe and blessed week, everyone!

2 thoughts on ““Lord, to whom shall we go?” : Faith in Jesus in time of pandemic

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