John 6:60-69 August 26,2018
In the first reading we hear Joshua telling people if they want to leave and not be loyal to God they are welcome to go but, decide. St. Paul invites people to be loyal to one another as Jesus is to His Church; that Jesus is the head of the church and we are the members of His body. Today’s Gospel is that last part of Jesus’ discourse about the ‘body and blood of Christ’.The teaching goes on in the longest 6th chapter of John’s gospel where many people leave Jesus. It was not a glorious ending to the long discourse. A teaching that was so hard and life that is so hard to live is presented to us. And it ends with a challenge before all of us. Peter the head of all the disciples is posed with the question by Jesus as many left Him, “Do you also want to leave?” And Peter answers by saying, “Master to whom we shall go? You have the words of eternal life.”
Today, we are faced with an even greater challenge that shocks us and challenges us. It makes it so hard to live, face, accept and preach the word of God. I also hear a lot of positive voices in spite of the challenges. I was listening to Fr. John Hollowell about his experience in the seminary. While he was in the seminary a group of priests came to Rome for a visit. He said that he, along with other seminarians, were not so edified with their presence. The way they went about touring the city and doing things that were not so exemplary. So these seminarians thought that they are much more holy, prayerful and convincing. But he says about the last day’s speech from one of the priest’s thinks differently from the prejudices he had. This priest who came up to thank them told that he wants to congratulate all of them who have chosen to remain faithful to Christ and His church in spite of the difficult and challenging times the church is going through. He told them that you young seminarians have chosen to enter a building that is on fire and want to save it.
Today our church is on fire and the scandals that pop up again and again are making us feel broken, hurt and miserable. We are all suffering and are in pain. We need to change and acknowledge and heal and draw strength from the cross. There is evil in the church and the devil is very powerful and we need to weed out sin from the church. There was Judas in the company of Jesus and he remained with Jesus and became the cause for his betrayal and path to that cross. If you go through the history of the church you will see the times fire burnt and went through the church again and again. In the 3rdcentury, St. John Chrysostom wrote, “The road to hell is paved with the skulls of erring priests, with bishops as their signposts.” It is difficult to accept and live by. It was difficult then, when we were challenged by schisms and corruption and gone through the dark ages. It was not easy to see thousands left with Martin Luther.
We live by hope given by Christ Himself being present in the Eucharist and coming to us in and through the scripture. We pray for healing today, pray that we face this storm of fire with courage and strength from the Lord Himself who has redeemed us through the cross. We do know that the way the Catholic Church does charity, known for its credibility, known for standing for the poor, exploited, and forsaken, and in education, in health services, in giving life for His mission and in many other ways is becoming a witness to his love. Having practiced celibacy for hundreds of years and by thousands of dedicated men and women and things done and achieved which no other organization can and do claim will keep us moving ahead with greater zeal and commitment for having survived for 2000 years and standing strong like no other. Jesus is asking us once again the way He asked Peter, “Do you also want to go away?” In spite of the challenges, we dare to say with Peter, “Master to whom we shall go? You have the words of eternal life.”
Some years back I was speaking about the church and its laws regarding marriage, worship and spirituality. He was surprised and could not believe it was so traditional, it takes at least six months to get married in the church; couples must go through a marriage preparation program. To become a catholic or to be baptized you need to go through RCIA for a year, and it takes 11 years to become a priest. When we strive for perfection we are challenged by being wounded and hurt as well. So let us not go by what the media paints and suggests rather go by what Jesus wants us to be and scripture inspires us to be. We turn to Jesus and not to individuals, I am a sinner and along with each member of the church, feel so difficult to raise my head and walk. Let us face it the way Christ taught us by accepting this cross and not running away from it. We do not go by the individuals who are sinners but keep gazing Christ on the cross who suffers due to our sins. He tells us, “So you must be careful to do everything they tell you. But do not do what they do, for they do not practice what they preach.” Mt 23:3 It is not for justification but to acknowledge that we are sinners and weak who need forgiveness.
We pray and turn to God for healing and look forward to His Nourishment in the Eucharist. Offer all that pain and cross to His eternal sacrifice.