Found in all three of today’s readings are what I like to call “Christian Chestnuts.”

21st Sunday of Ordinary Time
Gospel of St. John 6:60-69

Found in all three of today’s readings are what I like to call “Christian Chestnuts.” Phrases or sayings from Scripture that we, as followers of Christ, share with one another typically in times of difficulty or struggle and are intended to encourage and uplift. These phrases oftentimes can be found on decorative wall art in our homes or on cards we share with one another on special occasions. They are part of our vocabulary and though the truth’s they contain are powerful and relevant, oftentimes their familiarity can diminish their meaning.

In today’s first reading we hear Joshua’s final address to the people of Israel as he challenges them and reminds them that serving God is a choice, “As for me and my household, we will serve the LORD.” In St. Paul the Apostle’s Letter to Ephesians he admonishes, “husbands, love your wives as Christ loves the church.” And in today’s Gospel, in response to Jesus’s inquiry regarding his disciple’s commitment, we hear Peter say, “Master, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.”

In these words, the challenge of Joshua, the admonition of St. Paul, and the profession of Peter, we find the elemental truth of our faith, that faith is first and foremost a choice. A choice to believe in a Truth that is quite contrary to the world and culture in which we live. A choice to love and serve with a sacrificial love that goes beyond reason. A choice to hope in something which we cannot yet see nor entirely grasp. Our faith is a choice. A continual choice that does not come without struggle, doubt, and sacrifice.

In light of recent events (I am referring to the Pennsylvania Attorneys General report on abuse in the Roman Catholic Church) I find today’s theme of choice, especially as it is presented in the words of today’s Gospel, particularly relevant. Once again we, as members of the Body of Christ, are confronted with the fallibility, sinfulness, and intentional harm caused by men who were and are supposed to represent the very best of us.

I have read and heard about the challenges that many are now facing as they struggle with the choice to continue to support a Church that has yet to fully disclose and rectify her secret sins. I myself struggle with the disappointment, anger, and frustration associated with this recent exposure of sin and its systematic denial. Yet, I encourage you all to find hope, just as I have, in Peter’s response to Jesus Christ, “Master to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.”

Today’s Gospel is the last in the series of the Bread of Life Discourse found in the Gospel of John. For the past five Sundays our Gospel has centered on the revelation that Jesus is the Bread of Life and today we read about the disciples’ reaction to this revelation. For some, his proposal that those who follow him must eat his flesh and drink his blood, was too difficult to understand and too difficult to follow. Consequently, as the Gospel writer so succinctly points out, “many of his disciples returned to their former way of life and no longer accompanied him.” However, Peter, speaking for those who remained, answers Jesus’s call by simply stating, “to whom shall we go?… we have come to believe.”

Our challenge today is to emulate the belief and the words of Peter. Recognizing that the struggles and difficulties that we face, as the Body of Christ, are a result of sin, of which none of us are innocent. We must endeavor to live out our faith boldly, confidently, and humbly recognizing that none of us, no not one, merits eternal life. Rather, as so pointedly became evident in the last few weeks, all of us are dependent upon the forgiveness of God, through his Son, Jesus Christ, given to us, his Body and Blood, so that we may live in fellowship with him and with one another.

I would like to share with you the words I shared with a companion earlier this week as we shared a cup of coffee. I was asked, “How? How can you still remain Catholic?” I responded, “Because all of the Gospel, it’s message in its fullness, is contained in the doctrine and the teachings of the Church and I cannot leave that.”

Now, if you would be so kind to let me expound on those words, I would like to add, It would be wrong to allow sin, no matter the sin and no matter the person, to drive us away from Eucharist, which is in fact, the very remedy for our sin. Do not let us suppose for one moment that anyone here in this place is without sin. However, let us not forget that through the forgiveness offered to us, through Jesus’s life, passion, death, and resurrection we too will find hope in the fulfillment of the promises of Christ offered to us through his Body and Blood.

I would ask each and every one of you, myself included, that we do not allow this latest revelation of scandal and sin deter us from our endeavor to live as holy men and women of God. We, now more than ever, have a responsibility to live our faith vibrantly and visibly in a corrupt world. Yet, some of you may be asking, “What can we do, the people of God, to facilitate change in our church and in our world?” I propose that we accept the challenge of Joshua and confidently proclaim in our homes, our church, and in our public spaces, “As for me and my household, we will serve the LORD.”

Author: Deacon Jason

Jason is an ordained Deacon in the Roman Catholic Diocese of Boise and works at Idaho State University. Kristina, his wife, is a public school teacher with over 20 years experience. They have been married since 1996 and have worked hard to overcome the struggles and hardships of stitching together a marriage and family from different starting points. Kristina and Jason possess a unique perspective on marriage and faith and willingly share that perspective in hopes of encouraging others. Their personal belief that sacramental life and marriage are the result of trial has enabled them to find comfort and joy in their vocation and in life. They live in Idaho Falls, Idaho and enjoy the outdoors, especially made better when experienced with family and friends.

3 thoughts on “Found in all three of today’s readings are what I like to call “Christian Chestnuts.””

  1. I am not a Catholic, but know myself to be a member of the body of Christ, I find the scandals referred to as deeply offensive and wounding to the whole body of Christ.. and would deplore the same offences in equal measure within my own church, I can understand why brothers and sister would choose to stay away from the Eucharist and church at this time however. For me the deepest scandal of this is that these offences are ‘against the body of Christ’ …. But, no, I would not allow sins of this kind, done by others, and others highly honoured and respected in the church to cause me to stop following my Lord. He does truly have the words of eternal life and we know that all Judgement has been committed to Him, since He tells us “woe to him by whom offences come” … I do not expect that they have been overlooked in heaven. I mean no offence by writing these words I am as I say not a Catholic and deeply regret the hurt done to the whole body of Christ.

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  2. To refuse Holy Eucharist now would be like refusing water in the desert because it came in a tarnished jug.

    Eucharist is about gratitude; not for things I like in my life, but for God Himselfn who He is, and the fact that he cares utterly for each and every human who ever was, is, or will be. He is love itself, and we are invited to be His Beloved. Now especially we need to appreciate the relationship God desires to have with us.

    The jug may be tarnished, but it still contains the water of life, and the bread too.

    Don’t make it be about the jug.

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