Thursday, August 23, 2012

"Do you also want to leave?"

We are now in the final section of the 6th chapter of John’s gospel, John 6:60-69. The Sunday Gospel for Aug. 26, 2012 concludes with the challenge of the Lord to his disciples – “Do you also want to leave?” – after many walked away, unable to accept his teaching. The apostles, however, remained; for they believed in him whose words are “spirit and life.” Our Discussion Questions will guide your Sunday Bible Study with family, friends and church groups.

A Hard Saying

Up until the end, people continued to question the teaching on the Bread of Life. The Lord Himself recognized this difficulty. But, instead of backing off, He reinforced His point: “The words I have spoken to you are spirit and life.” For some of the disciples, this was too hard to accept. Fr. Joseph Pellegrino say these disciples left the island of trust. They were convinced that the spiritual would not make such outlandish demands on their senses. They left Jesus and returned to their previous lives.

A sad scene, and puzzling too. But why is Jesus saying such things to his followers, Fr. John Foley, S. J. asks, and how are we supposed to understand them? The truth, Fr. Ron Rolheiser explains, is that God is ineffable. What that means is that God cannot be captured in our thoughts or pictured inside our imaginations.

And so the Twelve told Jesus what was happening. Perhaps they were implying that Jesus tone down His teaching some. Maybe they were just pointing out that the Lord was losing followers. Whatever. The fact is that Jesus was not going to take back a single word. Fr. Phil Bloom says Jesus is drawing a line in the sand - and inviting us to cross it, to come with him. And this brings us to the fifth and final instruction. To receive Communion we cross a line - make a commitment to stand with Jesus, no matter what.

“Your words are spirit and life.”

Faith is a gift from God. And true biblical faith, Dr. Marcellino D'Ambrosio explains, entails faithfulness or a lifelong commitment, come what may. Difficult as it was, Peter spoke on behalf of the apostles. They were committed to stay with Him. Even though they, too, might not have fully grasped his very difficult teaching, their faith in His person came first; even before what He taught. Fr. Orly Sapuay, MS details how the quality time the apostles have spent together with Jesus has disposed their hearts and minds to develop trust in Him and to be open to the Truth.

Yes, there are times that it is difficult to follow Christ. This Gospel passage alerts us to the fact that faith is not primarily assent to a creed about God but a personal covenant with God. His followers of weak faith did leave him. Fr. Campion P. Gavaler, OSB points out that Judas betrayed Jesus and Peter denied that he had ever known Him.

Following Christ means taking up the cross. Fr. Joseph Pellegrino says it means denying ourselves the passing joys of immorality for the eternal joy of living in His Presence forever. The story of Judas and Peter is both a warning and a source of hope. Like Judas, we too can finally choose to place ultimate, suicidal trust in something other than God. Like Peter, we too may grievously sin; yet trust that if we return, the Lord will welcome us with the joy of steadfast love.

Our Church is A Community of Faith

Fr. Omer Prieto tells us that it is our faith in the Lord that enables us to believe and accept His words. Such belief is not easy. Many times we are confronted by the same challenge to remain faithful to the teachings of our faith, even when we find them hard. Many find this stupendous reality a "stumbling block" and so reject the King of Kings who John salutes correctly in Sunday's Gospel as "the Holy One of God." But at some point our procrastinating and the rationalizing have to end. Fr. Ron Rolheiser, OMI reminds us that we have to choose, accept the painful renunciations inside that choice, and will the one-thing, God and faithful service of others, because ultimately our sadness comes from the fact that we are not yet saints.

The Church is a community of faith. The Catholic Faith is the faith of the Apostles. We look to them as the first group of Christians trained by the Lord himself and mandated by him to be the authentic interpreters of His teaching. And, Alex McAllister SDS adds, we believe that our Bishops are their direct successors and are also so mandated by Christ. We say in the creed that we believe in the one, true, catholic, and apostolic church.

This truth can never change. The Mass is the apex of the entire Christian life. Father Cusick emphasizes that the Eucharist is indeed the Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity of Jesus Christ. And blessed are those called to the Supper of the Lamb. In the "Guidelines for Reception of Communion," the bishops underscore this commitment. Communion they say involves "oneness of faith, life and worship." In other words, Communion involves our total being, our entire lives. Thus, explains Bishop Philip Boyce, each celebration of the Mass should be an experience of God and of faith, and a prayer.

Spreading the Good News

While some are called to be missionaries in foreign lands, for most of us, evangelization of inactive or non-Catholics begins in our own homes and communities. Some of these are the ones you might hear complain that the “Mass is boring”, “the priest is difficult to understand” or “the priest didn’t wow us with an exciting homily.” The list of complaints is likely much longer, but I think you get the picture. We must realize this is not healthy behavior. How do we change? Randy Haim offers key points he summarized into “Six Steps to Cure Catholic Boredom.”

Jim Graves also recently spoke with five prominent Catholic evangelists. And they offered suggestions to us Catholics on ways we can evangelize those they encounter day-to-day. And for a quick primer, Matthew Warner reports that John Paul the Great Catholic University is offering a FREE online crash course in the Catholic Faith. In the span of just 13 weeks - one session per week - you'll get lessons on different Catholic topics right in the comfort of your home.

Let’s reflect on how we feel right now about the Mass, priests, Church, etc. If we feel bored or critical, let’s follow a sound road map to bring us back from this dangerous territory.

Catholic Social Teaching

Solidarity? The Church is all for it. Subsidiarity? The Church couldn't be more enthusiastic about it. Not one or the other, nor some bland compromise between the two, but both, advocated with equal vigor. Rev. Robert Barron thinks it would be wise for everyone to keep this peculiarly Catholic balance in mind as the debate over Paul Ryan’s policies unfolds.

And meanwhile, an alliance of Catholic Hispanic leaders in the United States released Monday a guide for the 2012 elections, comparing the positions of the presidential candidates to Catholic social teaching. The document from the San Antonio-based Catholic Hispanic Leadership Alliance (CHLA) considers 23 specific questions, centered around the priority issues of the United States Catholic bishops. Immigration reform, same-sex "marriage" and the Affordable Healthcare Act are three of the issues on the list.

Men, Marriage & Men

When Msgr. Charles Pope speaks on marriage or do marriage preparation work, he sometimes get accused of being tough on men. He pleads guilty, with an explanation, or two. His advice to husbands on how to handle a woman? Love her.

Cheryl Dickow, meanwhile, admits that she is a weakling. But she points out that God has given her incredible strength through women who have become friends in the deepest sense of the word. They have surrounded her with love and have moved her forward, past pain and into God’s arms and his grace. She says Christ did not abandon her but strengthened her through these women, these friends. But there is one woman she does not know personally whom sets as the gold standard - Ann Romney. Take away the money thing, Cheryl jokes that she and Mrs. Romney have a lot in common. But she says it is Mrs. Romney's chronic MS condition that sets her on a level playing field with her. Cheryl explains why.

Dental Health and Dementia

Finally be made aware that people who keep their teeth and gums healthy with regular brushing may have a lower risk of developing dementia later in life, according to a U.S. study. Researchers at the University of California who followed nearly 5,500 elderly people over an 18-year-period found that those who reported brushing their teeth less than once a day were up to 65 percent more likely to develop dementia than those who brushed daily.

Another eventful week in our Catholic World. Have a great and blessed new week.

Keep the Faith. Peace.

Wally Arida
Publisher & Editor in chief

BURNING QUESTION: Must we believe the Church 100% to be Catholic?
FEATURED BLOG: John's picture of Jesus
PASTORAL HISPANA: Nuestra respuesta al regalo de la Eucaristia

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1 comment:

  1. Thanks for sharing with us your wisdom.

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