Recently, I came cross a quite interesting story, that I would like to share with you in my reflection for this Sunday. There was a legend about the Spanish explorer, Francisco Pizarro. In 1530 Francisco Pizarro commanded a small fleet that mapped the Pacific Coast of South America. Pizarro had no formal education. He could neither read nor write. At the age of fifty – quite old for an explorer back in the sixteenth century – he decided to lead an expedition.
His soldiers thought he was crazy and said they would not go. Standing on a beach in Panama, Pizarro drew a line in the sand. He said, “those who want to go with me cross this line. I cannot promise you anything but hardships – and possibly death. Those who wish comfort can return to Europe. But you will lose a great adventure – and maybe great riches.” There were 169 soldiers who crossed the line. And they did conquer a vast, brilliant civilization – the Inca Empire.
Making choices is also a theme running through our readings this Sunday. In our first reading, Joshua asks the Israelites to make a choice. He challenges the Israelites who have entered the Promised Land to make a choice and to affirm their Covenant relationship with Yahweh. Their decision for God was reflected in their fidelity to the terms of Covenant, the Law. Then Joshua sets the example for the rest of Israelites: “As for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.”
Our Gospel reading this Sunday continues from Chapter 6 of the Gospel of John which Jesus challenges his Jewish audience to make their choice of accepting him as the true Bread from Heaven, accepting him the New Covenant he offers in his Body and Blood. Jesus says: “If you want eternal life,” “you must eat my flesh and drink my blood.” Many people hesitate and walk away. Then Jesus turns to the Twelves and asks, “Do you also want to leave?” In saying that, Jesus is drawing a line in the sand – and inviting his disciples to cross it, to come with him.
In this Eucharist today, we, too, are asked whether or not we choose to remain in discipleship to Jesus. He invites us to cross the line and come to him when we come and receive the Holy Communion. When we receive Communion, we make our choice for Christ. We accept the challenge of following the way of Christ.
While giving Holy Communion, the priest says, “The Body of Christ” and we respond with a total, “Amen” or “Yes!” That “Yes!” is not just an act of faith in the Real Presence of Jesus in the form of bread and wine but also a total commitment of ourselves to Jesus.
When we say the word Amen, it means that we accept the invitation, we cross a line, we make a commitment to stand with Jesus, no matter what. We express without any conditions or reservations our total commitment to him. Christ’s thoughts and attitudes, his values, his life-view must become totally ours. Above all, we are to identify with him in the offering of his Flesh and the pouring out of his Blood on the cross by spending our lives for others.
So, this Sunday, Jesus draws a line in the sand and he asks us to make a decision. May each one of us give heed to this invitation and have the grace and courage to respond like St Peter in the Gospel today: “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.”
(This reflection is inspired by the scriptural interpretations by Fr Anthony Kadavil at www.vaticannews.va)