for Sunday, August 23, 2009
"To whom shall we go: You alone have the words of eternal life. We
have come to believe and are now convinced that you are God's holy
one." So the Apostles said to Jesus.
Moving words indeed, but all the more moving if we see what proceeds
them. The grumbling and carping of the Pharisees who said: No one in their
right mind could believe in this. What they were talking about was Jesus
teaching on the Eucharist. But I think that in a way they were summing up
and making a judgement on Jesus whole life and teaching.
It is Jesus who questions the Disciples and asks them if they are going
to leave him too and we hear their memorable reply.
The Catholic Faith is the faith of the Apostles and the answer we
Catholics give to Jesus question is exactly the same as that given by the
It seems to me that in the western world, especially in the protestant
countries, there are two clear types of church-goer: Fundamentalist and
We all see and hear the Fundamentalist Evangelists on TV who take a
very narrow and literal interpretation of the Bible. It seems to me that
their main concern is to divorce their faith from the world, to separate
it from anything real.
The other group is an "anything goes" type of Christianity. A
version of Christianity which in the name of tolerance permits abortion,
divorce and a great many other negative aspects of our society. It seems
to me that their effort is to accommodate Christianity to the norms and
fashions of Society.
The Catholic Church, although it contains elements of these two
extremes of Christianity, steers a different course. What we are
interested in is the person of Jesus, what he said and did. We take his
words as true for all time and see in his actions the example we must
And we are interested in the Apostles. We look to them as the first
group of Christians trained by the Lord himself and mandated by him to be
the authentic interpreters of his teaching. And we believe that our
Bishops are their direct successors and are also so mandated by Christ.
This gives our Church a great strength; we say in the creed that we
believe in the one, true, catholic, and apostolic church. And we believe
in each one of those words with equal weight.
So how are we to live in our society, from what are we to take
guidance. I say simply this: Live as an Apostle of Christ. Read the
Gospels, see what Christ said and did, and how the Apostles lived and then
live like that. You can do no more.
There are a lot of grumblers around. There are a lot of people who say
just as those Pharisees did: Who can believe in this nonsense. They
challenge your faith, whether in your work-place, or socially or at
school. But look at the Apostles in today’s Gospel reading, what did
they do in response to the critics of Jesus. They said nothing in reply,
they just carried on believing.
And, you know, that is the greatest witness of all. Not responding to
the critics. Letting them go on all they like and then just saying nothing
but continuing to do what you have always done, going to mass regularly,
saying your prayers each day, and trying to live life like an Apostle of
They will get the message. Do you know that probably the greatest act
of witness that you give this week is coming to mass today. Your
neighbours may not talk to you, but they know exactly where you are now.
While I was reading this Gospel passage and giving careful attention to
the words being used, I noticed that in response to Jesus question: Do you
want to leave me too? The Apostles gave a roundabout reply, they did not
say: No, of course we won't leave you; but: To whom shall we go.
This is very interesting, because I think that a lot of us feel exactly
like that. We are Christians, we are Catholics and when at times we wonder
about our faith and our commitment to Jesus we find it hard to give a
whole-hearted enthusiastic affirmative Yes to our faith.
We are more like the Apostles and say There is no where else for us to
be. There is no where quite so satisfying, there is no other Church which
has a claim on the truth like the Catholic Church, there is no other
Church which offers us a spirituality like this one, there is no other
faith which challenges us to the core quite like this one.
Maybe that is the key for us, the hallmark of the Catholic faith, faith
in Jesus Christ and the fullness of his message, is that it challenges us
to the core of our being. It challenges us to live a life of truth, a life
of prayer, a life of justice, a life in harmony with Jesus Christ himself.
It challenges us, if we but recognise it, with the Cross. That is what
causes the hesitation and the nervousness, but we need not be afraid to
follow the path our Saviour walked.
Maybe we are well on in that journey already and recognise that it is
perhaps at times a hard journey but it is the most rewarding journey that
any human being could ever undertake for Christ himself is our companion
on the way.
We can truly say: where else can we go, we have already gone so far
with you Lord, that we know no other kind of life, nothing else will
satisfy us. For we have glimpsed eternity and know that nothing else will
Readings of the day:
Reflections are available for the following Sundays: