Think Chapter 6 of John’s Gospel. One day, Jesus asked Peter and his closest followers a vital question about staying with Him or leaving. Jesus had been talking about giving His flesh for them to eat and His blood to drink. His opponents pressed Him harder and harder about this unbelievable message. After hearing His words, some of Jesus’ disciples stopped walking with Him. “This is intolerable language,” they said. “How could anyone accept it?” (Jn.6. 60, 66)
Then Jesus turned to the Twelve. “What about you,” he asked. “Do you want to go away, too?” (Jn.6.67)
The ultimate decision: to stay with Christ or to leave Him. Peter then spoke and hopefully, we dare to make his words our own. “Lord, to whom shall we turn? You have the words of everlasting life. We have come to believe that You are the Christ, the Holy One of God.” (Jn. 6. 68)
The decision “to stay or to leave” looms before human beings of every age, nationality and outlook. People facing political unrest or change in their very nations ask themselves: Do I stay or leave? Refugees are crossing the world because of how they respond to that question. Married people, priests, members of religious orders, weighing personal needs and church developments ask: Do I stay or leave? Women who find resistance in the Church to our ministerial priesthood ask: Do I stay or do I leave? Workers in every field of human endeavor and expertise ask: Do I stay or do I leave? Stay in the field at all? Stay in the field here? Remember a few years ago, the sketch of the little girl, holding tight to the flags of the United Kingdom and England, while the flag of Scotland floated freely away? The caption read “Must you go?” Our questions of staying or going affect others, too. In consideration of them, we weigh our choices.
How do we deal with questions of leaving or staying as they rise in us? Surely it’s a question of judgment, values, convictions, of vision and hope. There is no absolutely right or wrong answer. But there are ways of weighing these questions with wisdom and insight.
I will stay, if there is more life than death in staying? I will stay, if I have something to offer and it can bear fruit? I will stay if there in me a sense of rightness about staying that I can’t shake?
Or I will go, if there is more death than life in staying. I will go, if there is nothing I have to offer that will bear fruit or if what I have to offer is unacceptable and cannot bear fruit. I will go if I believe that God bids me to go elsewhere.
Not very clear or measurable criteria are they? We can argue with them and create our own criteria.
Still, they are a start for our thinking and encouragement to face one of life’s more challenging questions. Who knows. Perhaps, up the road, clarity will confirm our decision and make firm our way.
~ Sister Joan Sobala