Sacred Heart

Catholic Church

Imlay City, Michigan  Tel: (810) 724-1135

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Fr. Paul Ward

Sunday, August 23, 2015
21st Sunday in Ordinary Time, Cycle B

No, Jesus, We Will Not Abandon You



   Today’s readings make us face a question Jesus asks every man of every time and place: “Do you also want to leave me?” Let us consider the question and its challenge especially in these modern times.

   But first some reminders about parish life. First, catechism for the children is starting when the school year starts. If your child is in 1st to 8th grade, they should be in catechism, if they are not already in a formal course of Catholic studies; it would only be the gravest, culpable omission for parents to neglect the continuous religious education of their children. Also, please remember to set aside an hour or so for the simple parish picnic after the Masses of Sunday, September 13. I further encourage everyone to consider participating in Jeff Cavin’s next course, now that we have finished his first one on the Old Testament – it is about the life of Christ, using the Gospel of Matthew as a guide; and in the next year, we’ll do his third and final course on the Acts of the Apostles. You can attend any of these courses without having seen the previous ones; please feel encouraged.

   Now to the topic of following Christ, even when he gives hard teachings.

   Today’s Gospel reading puts us at the end of John chapter 6. The Lord has just completed a most marvelous doctrine, that of the Holy Eucharist. He has taught us that he is the bread of life; that he is the new manna for his pilgrim Church; that we have to eat his body and drink his blood; and that in doing so, we have the pledge of eternal life, and we enter into communion with him. Instead of seeing these doctrines as a marvelous work of love of the Sacred Heart, men judged God, and deemed his doctrine undesirable. They rejected his teaching, and then St. John writes a very sad verse, “many of his disciples returned to their former way of life and no longer accompanied him.” Thereupon Jesus turned to the apostle. As St. John writes, “Jesus then said to the Twelve, ‘Do you also want to leave?’”

   This small exchange between Jesus, the Twelve, and the mass of disciples at large, carries quite a deep content for those looking for spiritual wisdom.

   How many Catholics today return to the non-Catholic way of life after rejecting the Church’s teachings? This rejection has become so commonplace, it no longer even impresses us anymore. People reject the Church’s infallible teachings about contraception, about divorce and remarriage, about the discipline required in the sacred liturgy, the infallibility and authority of the papacy, the truths regarding judgment and hell in particular, the existence of purgatory, the truth and historicity of the Bible especially the four Gospels, the saving message of the Cross of Christ, the resurrection of the flesh, the reality of the miracles of Christ and of saints, or even the value of doctrines for one’s salvation. This dissent can be theoretical, as in positions held in the mind, or maybe also practical, as the Catholic politician who votes in favor of abortion or defends homosexual unions. So many scoff at the Church, even the baptized, even many Catholics; and in doing so, they put God on the judgment seat, ridicule him, scoff at His teachings, and shout out, “Crucify him!” That is, coming across a teaching they dislike, instead of converting their hearts, instead of conforming themselves to God, they return to their former way of life. And so we are surrounded by them, and their example just might pose a temptation on otherwise fine Catholic souls.

   Therefore Jesus turns to you, and asks you this question: “Do you also want to leave?” Note that he does not apologize for his doctrines, backpedal to please the crowd, restate things to make them more palatable. Jesus will never change his teachings; and the Church’s teachings on faith and morals are one and the same as Jesus’. So many shout out at the Church, demanding that the Church change her teachings; but the Church cannot do so, as she did not author them, but received them from the very author of truth, God himself. Therefore, every soul faces a dilemma, a choice upon which his or her own personal salvation depends. It is a line that crosses every conscience, and the side of the line taken cannot be done in groups, but only in absolute individuality. The choice is this: to accept the teachings of Christ, or to leave Christ. But the teachings of Christ, and those disciplines essential to the faith, cannot and will not ever change. We can only accept them, accepting heaven; or reject them, rejecting heaven. There is no third possibility.

   So what will each one of us do? What will you do? Will you take Christ entirely, without exception, unconditionally? Or will you reject him? My answer today is that of Joshua, “As for me and my household, we will serve the Lord!” (cf. Jos. 24). And let my household be my parish, you very dear souls who call me “Father.” We will serve the Lord. Or as Ruth expressed her loyalty to Naomi, we can use these words promising our fidelity to Jesus; that is, to question, “Will you also leave?”, let us quote Ruth, “Do not ask me to abandon or forsake you! For wherever you go, I will go, wherever you lodge I will lodge, your people shall be my people, and your God my God.”

   May the Blessed Virgin Mary obtain for us that resolution of heart to unconditionally embrace Christ with that absolute trust and faith most pleasing to the Lord. Amen.


























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