Today I was catching up with my good friend Ron. We were talking about many faith issues and he was telling me about his daughter who just graduated. She is a great young woman whom I’ve witnessed attend mass regularly even when her work schedule differs from the family schedule. I told my friend that he did a great job in raising her and he told me how most of the kids in his daughters class from a prominent Catholic High School don’t even go to church. As the discussion turned toward topics of catechesis and evangelization we spoke about how the first teachers of faith are the parents but that it is not an easy task especially when it comes to sharing our belief of Christ present body, soul, and divinity in the Eucharist. What I have found is that this truth continues to be a stumbling block because it’s a difficult understanding that takes a leap of faith. The father and I discussed that young people who are graduating high school are at a fork in the road when it comes to their faith and what we believe as Catholics. They can either believe it or leave it.
When I look at the world today and how divided we are about everything it seems that many have decided to leave like some of the disciples from the Gospel message because to truly believe in God we trust is hard. When we leave faith behind, we also leave trust in God behind as well. Because how can you trust what you don’t really believe in. When we lose trust, we loose faith and then it’s hard to feel or believe in God’s presence and abundant mercy especially when you’re in the midst of a battle, whether it be political or social or domestic or whatever, to accept things that are uncomfortable or would be seen as a loss. Everything from shoes, clothes, cars, furniture, jobs, and even relationships are good when they are comfortable.
For example: I know that when I was taking piano lessons as a kid, I hated it! All my friends were playing ball outside in the street and at the park and I had to go home and practice my piano. I felt like such a looser. But my mother knew what was best for me even though it was uncomfortable. She knew that having the skill to play music would be a great gift. But I seemed to be more concerned with being comfortable and things made easier. But through force I stayed with it and sure enough she was right. Once I started to see the benefit of the struggle and the practice I began to believe and have faith. It wasn’t easy for my mother who seemed to be so mean at the time to force this on me, but now as a parent I realize she did it because she loved me.
The Gospel reading this week is one that has baffled and confused so many since it was first written, yet it is central to our core belief as Catholics. One of the reasons it seems to befuddle the mind is because it is impossible to totally digest intellectually. It just doesn’t make any sense to so many and when I take a moment to ponder what the text says I can’t grasp it either and it creates a feeling of uneasiness when the word “eat” truly means to “gnaw” or “chew on”. To the people of Jesus’ time His statements about eating his flesh and drinking his blood were not only grotesque but were also in contradiction to the Laws of Moses to not eat flesh and drink blood. It made people uncomfortable and so many disciples left him after this and went back to their comfortable way of life. Except for the Apostles who at this fork in their road stayed with Jesus because even though they didn’t understand they believed that His word was truth they could not deny. They believed that Jesus loved them so much that even though it was hard to accept they trusted that he offered them the path to everlasting life.
In the second reading Paul is dealing with these issues of people who are stuck in the comfortable state of who is in the Body of Christ and who isn’t. In our church world today we still have the same issues of dividing based upon what’s comfortable or what I like based on one person preference verses choosing the path that gets us out of our comfort zones and awakens us to celebrate our differences and see how beautiful and colorful the Body of Christ is. It’s easy to think that by just going through motions and abiding by the laws that govern valid and licit worship is all that is required of us to give thanks and praise to God. That’s the easy road. The truth is that something more is required for us to become what we eat as the Body of Christ. In order to have full active and conscious participation in mass where we receive the Body of Christ we must have full active and conscious participation in life as the Body of Christ.
Being a parent for me hasn’t been about getting the most popular vote from my children. My goal now as they are approaching adulthood, is to help guide them through word and deed what I believe to be the truth beyond understanding. I want to show them that I believe that our God loves us so much and calls us to gather as the Body of Christ, to receive the Body of Christ, to go forth as the Body of Christ to love and serve the Lord through loving and serving each other especially those who are in need isn’t always easy or comfortable, but I want them to know that a life in Christ will not be easy but will always lead to greatness.
The forks in the road seem to happen our whole life and we don’t always choose the right path. But be assured God’s love and invitation into a relationship is present as there will soon be another fork in the road where we will be forced to choose to believe it or leave it. Pope Benedict said: “we are not made to be comfortable we are made to be great.” What do you believe and which path will you choose?