•Joshua 24:1-2a, 15-17, 18b • Ephesians 5:21-32 • John 6:60-69•
Weekly Scripture Readings:21st Sunday in Ordinary Time
In Lewis Carroll’s story: Alice In Wonderland there is a very interesting exchange between Alice and the Cheshire Cat:
“Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?”
“That depends a good deal on where you want to get to,” said the Cat.
“I don’t much care where” said Alice.
“Then it doesn’t matter which way you go” said the Cat.
“— so long as I get somewhere,” Alice added as an explanation.
“Oh, you’re sure to do that,” said the Cat, “if you only walk long enough.”
Perhaps the author is calling us to identify the meaning and purpose of life. If most folks “don’t know where they are going,” — I feel blest, for at the age of 80 I have a deep conviction that the purpose of my life is clear and simple: to become fully human and fully alive. For me, Jesus of Nazareth — “the Bread of Life,” is both model and mentor of what that means. Being fully human means nurturing wholesome relationship with self, with others and with God.
For five weeks we have been occupied with the sixth chapter of John’s gospel — the Bread of Life Discourse. According to John, “many of his disciples … found his teaching hard and no longer followed him.”
That describes the experience of many of my family and friends who now self-identify as “Recovering Catholics.” They “found his teaching — or what they thought was his teaching– hard and no longer follow him.” When “Jesus asked the Twelve, do you also want to leave me?” Peter responded, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We believe and know you are the Holy One of God.”
Although we also struggle, the fact you are reading this or are gathered here with us for liturgy tells me Christ remains important for you. In some way you have come to believe that Christ provides direction and purpose for your life.
I continually question my own acceptance of the gospel and my relationship to Christ. I suggest you do the same. Allow time for some serious introspection. If Jesus and the gospel do not disturb something within me, perhaps I am not listening or not connecting the gospel to my lived reality. Be honest. Is there anything about Jesus Christ or the gospel that upsets you?
Here is an example from my own struggle. I live in the wealthiest nation in history and enjoy all the benefits of that. Our beloved Bishop of Rome speaks directly to me when he repeatedly refers to the poor and marginalized in our world. He is preaching the gospel when he asks “why is it news when the stock market drops two points, but is not considered news when a homeless family dies?” He is speaking to me and his message –the gospel, disturbs me, makes me uncomfortable — and it should!
Christ and the gospel challenge us, but his “teachings. are not “hard.” Many cultural rules or laws of the institutional church are “hard teachings.” The doctrine of papal infallibility, contraception, liturgical prescriptions that exclude, regulations governing marriage and similar issues are “hard teachings.” They hinder our yearning to be fully human and fully alive. In my life, teaching and preaching I avoid such issues and keep my focus on Christ and the gospel.
We become authentic people of faith as we doubt, question, and search. I urge you to seriously examine what about Jesus Christ and the gospel upset you. The life of faith is a life-long process in which we clarify, grow and mature in our understanding of self, of who God is, and what we are for one another. My struggle has brought me to a deep conviction that the purpose of my life is to become fully human and fully alive. For me, Jesus of Nazareth — “the Bread of Life,” is both model and mentor of what that means. His “teachings” are not “hard.” However he and his teachings can enable you to clarify the purpose and direction of your life more clearly.