We had a really good retreat this past weekend (despite the leak from the bathroom above our kitchen). Focusing on Jn 6.66-69:
Many of Jesus' disciples turned back and no longer went about with him. So Jesus asked the twelve, "Do you also wish to go away?"
Simon Peter answered him, "Lord, to whom can we go? You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe and know that you are the Holy One of God."
Heather wrote this fictional meditation to go with it:
I thought I knew what was happening. I don't anymore.
We were together, and strong. Following a man worth believing in—he woke us up, he brought us together. He made us strong. We used to sit by the fire, me and my friends, Joseph and James and Ben, talking about the latest thing he'd said, talking into the night. And we'd get up in the morning and there'd be new faces arrived with the dawn, crowding in and all talking at once, it's him, it's really him, and you had mothers crying for joy that they'd found him and they could get their little babies healed, and big men with gray in their beards talking seriously to each other: I thought I should come and hear him, how else could I decide if he's really from God?
Well, they heard him. And they decided no.
Now you wake up in the morning and you look around to see who left in the night.
He fed five thousand people on five loaves of bread. Can you imagine? No more hunger. They wanted to make him king, of course they did. I understand why he said no—I think—but I didn't think this would happen. I know he's said things some people didn't like. But it's like watching the wine leak out, after a wineskin has burst a seam. People simply turn around and go home. No, he's not from God. No, this is not the moment we have all been waiting for. Good-bye.
And how are we who've stayed supposed to keep on believing that it is?
I felt our strength, before; the vision we all saw together, the joy, the excitement. We had a destiny with him. How can you have a destiny when you're leaking people like a sieve? Now it's arguing, low voices, glances to the side. Because it gets worse. He has enemies. Rumors are spreading and this time it's not “He can cure anything.” There are people who say he's an enemy of God. We don't just travel the roads now like we used to. It's not safe.
I don't know what's happening anymore.
Joseph's gone. He walked out in the night, didn't even tell us. James went back to John the Baptist's group, where he came from—said he might have been wrong about Jesus—maybe not—but anyway John's got a clearer message, you know where you are with John. He said sorry, he needed to do this, and Ben and I watched him walk away, the road dust puffing up from his feet. Ben turned and looked at me.
“Don't tell me,” I said.
“Don't tell you what?”
“You're going too.”
“That's what I was going to ask you.”
We looked at the ground.
“I don't know,” I said finally.
I didn't sleep well that night. I kept waking. I dreamed of faces turned away from me, of walking down a long, long road that I never saw the end of, into nothing. I woke and saw the stars in the black sky above me and did not know why the sight made me so sad. I remembered what Peter had said two days before, when the Teacher asked if he and the Twelve were going to leave too. “To whom would we go?” I found tears in my eyes. I got up and slipped away, walked down the road by myself in the dark. The road went on and on in front of me and disappeared behind a hill. I walked, and I thought, to whom? where? I looked down the rest of my life, as if down that road. It's not that there was nothing in it exactly. I was pretty sure I could make my way.
But he wasn't in it.
When he spoke, I could see. All the confusion, all the wondering what my life meant, it was gone; like lightning flashing, and the night is turned to day. It was still that way, even after everything.
And it wasn't just that.
When I got back, Ben was awake. I could just see his open eyes, staring into the night. I sat down and heard him whisper, “I thought you'd gone too.”
“I had to think.”
He didn't say anything.
“I'm staying,” I said, and suddenly it seemed like I could breathe.
I didn't know how to talk about it. I never used to talk about that part and what it meant to me, because I don't like to brag. No use making other people resent you. See, he called me. Himself. He walked up to me and called me to join him. I know that doesn't happen for everybody. Lots of people find him on their own. Maybe he knew something about me. Maybe he knew the life I had wasn't what I wanted, though there were people who would've wanted it. Maybe he knew I wasn't ready to admit that. I never talked about it because I knew people wouldn't like it, so I never put words to the way I felt when I looked up and there he was and he said Come follow me. It was a shock. I was shocked that somebody knew me.
We were wrong, they say. There's no great destiny here. He's not from God, they say. I hadn't found the words before. Maybe I should've tried. Maybe I had to wait till God showed me what they were.
“People say this,” I told Ben, “and people say that. But if I admit it to myself, I know. I can't leave if I know. I can't lie. I can't go saying he's not from God. He brought God to me.”
I could barely see his eyes. I don't know what it was. Like the dark around us grew soft. A kind place to be. There was silence a long time. I lay down on my bed-mat again, and looked up at the stars. I was almost asleep again when I heard his whisper.
“Yeah,” he said. “I'm staying too.”