Sunday, August 26, 2018

To Whom Shall We Go?

August 26, 2018 –– 21st Sunday in Ordinary Time
Joshua 24:1–2a, 15–17, 18b / Psalm 34 / Ephesians 5:21–32 / John 6:60–69
To Whom Shall We Go?

Christian Faith would be easy if we never faced the challenges of pain and temptation and doubt. Of course, without those things Christian Faith as we know would not exit. The essence of Christian Faith is the hope we have in spite of hard things because of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

There are all kinds of hard things. There are the hard things we bring on ourselves when we make choices that have bad repercussions. There are times when hard things “ricochet” on us when other people close to us make bad choices. There is also a hard side to nature; St Paul tells the Romans the creation was subjected to futility (8:20) when Adam and Eve abdicated their role in the Garden as vice-regents of God. This means we are subject to things like disease and accidents, floods and drought, hurricanes and tornadoes, earthquakes and volcanoes.

Perhaps the hardest thing of all is our difficulty with spiritual understanding. Until we are willing to lay aside the autonomy of wanting to think for ourselves (which strikes at the heart of the Original Sin), we will not be able to hear God and understand what he says.

God often says and does the opposite of what we, in our brokenness, expect. In the Sermon on the Mount Jesus describes an “upside-down kingdom.” At the core of Christian Faith is the belief that we win by giving up and we live by dying. That is hard, and even in the Church it is rather easy to find some teachers who explain it all away. But if we change the essence of Christian Faith to something that is more palatable––less radical, we no longer have Christian Faith.

From the beginning Jesus, and then the Church, said hard things…. loving our enemies and being willing to lay our own lives in love for others. And then there is today’s Gospel where many of the first disciples reacted against Jesus when he said: The man who eats my flesh and drinks my blood enjoys eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day. My flesh is real food, my blood is real drink. He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood lives continually in me and I in him (Jn 6:56–58). John tells us they said, This saying is hard; who can accept it? Then many of his disciples turned away.

If we are honest, too often we want God to come to us on our terms rather than us continually coming to God on his terms. We come up to something hard; our weak humanity cries out and we are tempted to turn away.

So Jesus asked the Twelve, Do you also want to leave? Forever the leading spokesman, Simon Peter answered him, Master, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe and are convinced that you are the Holy One of God.”

Eternal life…. The Life of God is always out to shatter death. If we choose something that leads to death (thinking it will make our lives more easy and pleasant), we will find ourselves fighting against the very Life of God. There is ultimately nothing harder than that.

We are facing some horribly hard things in the Church right now because some people, as leaders in the Church, embraced things that cause death instead of Life. So we go to the heart of our Faith and turn again and again to Jesus.

Jesus knows the pressures and discouragements we face. It with great tenderness that he asks us the same thing he asked the Twelve so long ago: Do you also want to leave?

Let’s recognize the truth of what Peter said: Master, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. Let’s give the answer that Joshua so boldly proclaimed to all of Israel: As for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.

I have no idea what our many hurts are, but I know we all have them. I also know all our questions will not be answered, but out of all the options in this world none are better than what Jesus offers us.

I know that serving the Lord will not shield us from all hardships, but we follow the One who died and came back from the dead to show that this world is no match for God.

Our hope is not in anything merely human. As the Psalmist said, Taste and see the goodness of the Lord.

To whom shall we go? As for me and my household, we will serve the Lord. He alone has the words of eternal life.

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