For the past Sundays, we have been encountering Jesus in his Bread of Life discourse, his teaching on the significance of his Body and Blood for the life of the world. It is a powerful message on the Eucharist as Jesus understood it and as he wanted his disciples also to grasp it. The paradox in all these is that however much Jesus proved that his sharing of his Body comes out of the depths of God’s love for us, still not just some, but “many of his disciples” decided to leave and no longer walk with him. They did not understand the meaning of the Lord’s words. It was just all too difficult for them to swallow and digest.

In a way, the Eucharist today has its many successes. We Catholics still come (not the majority of us, or course) every Sunday and on special days of our lives to worship and thank the Lord in the Eucharist. Even non-Catholics begin the process of their conversion because of a yearning to taste the sacramental life that finds its summit in the Mass.

But as on that day the Lord gave his teaching, it is sad to see the procession of people moving out of the church into other communities, even in those that do not have a Eucharist at all. It seems that the Mass, for them, is not something that’s hard to miss. We have grown accustomed to family members who never go to Mass and to friends that suddenly join a church, fellowship or sect in spite of their being cradle Catholics. Sometimes we just dismiss this as corollary to each one’s freedom of choice. Often we just mindlessly condone this move as long as the person converts to where he is happiest.

It may be good to look into the reasons why people move away from the Eucharist and the church. For the majority it is not about doctrines at all. Of course, the doctrines are not easy to understand but somehow they are tolerable and non-threatening. In fact, the doctrines on the Eucharist are very charming and attractive – God so close; God giving himself; God building up his people.

It is the way the Eucharist is performed that makes what is supposed to be God’s proximity seem questionable. The homilies we hear, some too formal and others too flippant, are a guaranteed cure to insomnia. The congregation acts in an orchestrated and mechanical way. There is no familiarity, warmth or sense of belonging inside the church. Anonymity and privacy prevail over a sense of community. The leaders at the top push people away with their nonchalance and uncaring attitudes while they try to draw near the wallets, purses and checks that bring in the donation.

These and other weaknesses drive people to undergo their own unguided search for God, thus landing them in territories beyond our fence. There they feel challenged, nourished, loved, and needed. They do not leave because they rationally and intellectually reject the Eucharist. They did so in search of an environment that nurtures the atmosphere the Eucharist was supposed to have. When people leave, let us not readily judge them. Instead let us ask the Lord to help us reflect on the way we cherish his gift and the way we exhibit it in our lives.