Aug. 26,2012 Twenty-first Sunday in Ordinary Time Joshua 24:1-2a,15-17,18b Ephesians 5:21-32 or 5:2a,25-32 John 6:60-69
When we hear today’s Gospel, few of us are surprised to learn that many of Jesus’ followers left him when they learned what Jesus expected of them. It was a new and radical teaching. In today’s context, Jesus is saying what most of us have grown up believing. Not for one second would it ever occur to most of us to doubt the real presence of Jesus in the Eucharist. But our institutions are flawed and we are frail. We look around and sometimes feel that we would be better believers if others were more faithful.
From time to time, people call me to say that they are leaving the Church. None of them tell me it is because they do not believe in the Eucharist. Instead they cite something the Vatican, a bishop, a priest, or someone representing the Church has said or done. They disagree and so they are leaving because they have made a judgment about someone else’s faith. It seems as if the deep truth of the Eucharist and the presence of Christ in the Church are outweighed by what we see in others. We have become so accustomed to acknowledging our faith in the Eucharist that we no longer think about what that faith means in the rest of our lives. Today, it seems to me, that it is much easier to believe that the Eucharist is truly the Body and Blood of Jesus than that life in Christ calls us to forgiveness, kindness, compassion and love.
Today’s Gospel is about fidelity. There are times when it is not easy to be Catholic and to let Christ be the center of our lives, not easy to remain faithful to the Church he established. Some will leave and some will stay and it will be the Eucharist that makes the difference. Some of Jesus’ followers had the same problem. Jesus’ words scandalized his Jewish audience and his followers were ashamed. They were too concerned with what others would think. Following Jesus demands total fidelity and commitment.
In the end, I suspect that it is all about faith—a gift that none of us deserves. Jesus tells us “…no one can come to me unless it is granted him by my Father.” The center of that faith is the Eucharist.
When we are surrounded by controversy, why should we remain faithful? Given what we believe, where else would we go? To leave the Church is not simply removing oneself from those with whom we disagree or separating ourselves from those we believe are unfaithful. Faith came from God. Those who walk away are leaving Christ. Those who remain stay because Christ’s words lead to eternal life and the Eucharist is the center of our lives.