Consider This… Being a Disciple Can be Difficult.
Our faith can be challenging and difficult when what we believe comes in direct conflict with what is happening in our lives or in the world. Today, I find that relativism has taken over so many people; where they believe what they believe because it either benefits them personally, or makes them happy without any care of what that belief does to someone else. The Gospel this weekend presents such a situation. The followers of Jesus are having an extremely difficult time believing that the bread and wine are truly Jesus’ flesh and blood. They complain to one another, complain to Jesus and say ‘who can believe this?’
Jesus’ response is not one that many of us like to hear. Jesus doesn’t change what he means, he doesn’t say one day you’ll understand, he lets those who question be, and they choose to go back to their former way of life.
When we look at our Catholic Church today, as a priest, I can’t begin to tell you how many stories, people, families have shared experiences in which they have difficulty with church teaching, or a specific priest, or something that happened to them and their faith life. The stories I hear often lead to an explanation of why that person no longer can attend the Catholic Church, their faith is crushed and they left. The challenge this weekend is to see that if our faith is really in Jesus, then we need the Catholic Church. No individual priest, circumstance, or adverse experience should ever define our relationship with Jesus Christ. We have to remember that the human element of the church has flaws, but at her core we find the true presence of Jesus in the Eucharist. Jesus doesn’t make excuses but asks us the same question he asks his disciples in today’s Gospel, ‘Do you also want to leave?’ Even our teachings in the Catholic Church, while we may not personally agree, are meant to lead us into a deeper understanding of God’s intended plan for our lives. That doesn’t always mean we leave our faith because we don’t agree. Do we take the time to really understand what might be challenging us? Do we try to appreciate truths other than our own?
None of this is easy, but the struggle of trying to understand even the most challenging experiences, people and teachings in the church can lead us closer to the person of Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ never changes, he is the same yesterday, today and forever. His call to you and I to follow him isn’t easy. The question to us is, no matter how difficult or complicated our faith journey is right now, are we going to try?
I pray and encourage you to try! If you know someone who is struggling in their faith life, or has left the church and has a desire to talk about it, encourage them to contact myself, Fr. Luke, Fr. Ryan or Deacon Rick. We would be honored to listen, pray and talk if they have a desire to.