Sunday, August 23, 2009

21st Sunday in Ordinary Time

In today's Gospel many of Jesus' disciples leave him because they find His teaching on the Bread of Life too hard to understand. To be a follower of Christ is not easy, He never said it would be. Thus also why He doesn't call the disciples that leave to come back. In today's world it is very hard to be a follower of Christ and many, many people do leave the Church because they find one or more teachings hard to understand or follow. This week's question is a good one.

The link to the readings this week on the USCCB website.

Question: When have I reached out to someone who has left the church?

Alternate Questions for Kids: Do I know someone who doesn't go to Church?

"The first announcement of the Eucharist divided the disciples, just as the announcement of the Passion scandalized them: 'This is a hard saying; who can listen to it?' The Eucharist and the Cross are stumbling blocks. It is the same mystery, and it never ceases to be an occasion of division. 'Will you also go away?': the Lord's question echoes through the ages, as a loving invitation to discover that only he has the words of eternal life, and that to receive in faith the gift of his Eucharist is to receive the Lord himself" (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1336). Let us always be ready to express that invitation!

I got a chance this morning to read the question and the Catechism excerpt before Mass started. It was nice to have the question in my head as I listened to all the readings. I couldn't help but see the importance of the Old Testament reading in relation to the Gospel. So I want to bring some thoughts in on that reading as well.

First, though, I do know several people who have either outright left the Church or don't attend Mass but maybe on Christmas, Ash Wednesday, and Easter but still consider themselves Catholic. I don't know that I have directly reached out to any of them, but maybe I have in some indirect ways. In many cases the indirect methods are often better ways to reach out anyway.

I am conscious of the fact that many of my loved ones who have either left the Church or choose not to participate fully read this blog, see my status updates on Facebook, and have other regular contact with me. Thus when I talk about my faith, my participation in the Mass whenever possible, my attendance at the Adoration Chapel, and other things I do, I hope and pray that I am showing a loving example of what it means to be Catholic. In the past I have also used this blog to explain parts of the Catholic faith in the hopes that maybe it will at the very least plant a seed in someone's mind that could grow and be pondered on and may eventually bring them fully back to the Church and her sacraments. I may never know if I have any effect on anyone, but I will keep trying.

In other respects, I do try to answer questions when people bring up aspects of the faith. This has happened among friends, with family members, and even in the workplace. I know I'm not going to change someone's mind about something right then and there, but when I discuss things I try to be as true as possible to Church teaching. I also try to live by example. My use of NFP, my attendance at Mass weekly if not daily, my open acknowledgement of the deaths of my children, and much more are all examples of how I am openly living my faith to be an example to others.

One of my favorite quotes is from St. Francis: "Preach the Gospel always, and when necessary use words."

So I don't know that I have ever directly reached out to someone who has left the Church, but I hope I have preached the Gospel by example and maybe had an indirect influence on someone's reconsideration of the Catholic Church.

Real quick, I find the dichotomy of the Old Testament reading from Joshua placed next to this Gospel reading from John quite interesting. In the first, Joshua asks all the tribes to commit to serving the Lord as he and his family do. Without hesitation they all uphold their own allegiance to the Lord because of all He has done for them. If you didn't read the whole reading at the link above, go do so now. It is quite powerful!! One thing that came to my mind in this reading with the various ways people in today's society worship other things or people and not the One who gave them life and loves them and only wants love back. We worship movie stars and material things, we saw what I can only describe as worship of politicians last summer during the presidential campaign. Our society tells us that it is okay to worship material things. Think about when the economic crisis first started. We were told to go out and shop. If Joshua were to ask people in today's society I don't think they would have chosen as the tribes of Israel did.

In contrast to this, in the Gospel of John the disciples find the Bread of Life discourse too hard a saying and they leave. What happened to the people between the time of Joshua and the time of Jesus?? Suddenly they were faced with something much harder. This was more than just following Jesus and being a good person. Now He was asking them to eat His flesh and drink His blood. Only the Twelve stayed with Him.

As I have said in some other recent posts, this teaching is still very much misunderstood today and/or rejected by many. This is one of the great mysteries of the Church and an amazing and intimate way of expressing our love for Jesus. I can't imagine a more intimate way of being close to Christ while on the Earth than to be able to physically consume Him.

Getting back to the Question for this week, I do plan in the future when talking with someone who has left the Church or doesn't attend on a regular basis (if we're already discussing Church teaching, of course) to ask them if they miss the Eucharist. Really, I would miss all the sacraments if I were away from the Church, but most especially the awesome and amazing gift of the Eucharist!

On that note, I must head to bed now and get some sleep so I can get up bright and early tomorrow. Okay, not so much "bright" since I know it will still be dark at 4:30am. I will be heading out early to spend time in adoration in front of the blessed Eucharist. Jesus did ask us: could you not keep one hour with me? I will be, tomorrow morning and every Monday morning for as long as I am able.

Finally, when have you reached out to someone who has left the Church?

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