Carry the gospel with you

Posted in christian, Christianity, inspirational, religion, scripture by Mike on August 23, 2009

Gospel reading of the day:

John 6:60-69

Many of Jesus’ disciples who were listening said, “This saying is hard; who can accept it?” Since Jesus knew that his disciples were murmuring about this, he said to them, “Does this shock you? What if you were to see the Son of Man ascending to where he was before? It is the spirit that gives life, while the flesh is of no avail. The words I have spoken to you are Spirit and life. But there are some of you who do not believe.” Jesus knew from the beginning the ones who would not believe and the one who would betray him. And he said, “For this reason I have told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted him by my Father.”

As a result of this, many of his disciples returned to their former way of life and no longer accompanied him. Jesus then said to the Twelve, “Do you also want to leave?” Simon Peter answered him, “Master, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe and are convinced that you are the Holy One of God.”

Reflection on the gospel reading: We have taken a detour for the last several weeks from our trek through Mark’s gospel as we reflected on John’s account of the feeding of the multitudes and the discourse on the bread of life. Today’s gospel finishes this excursis: we take up next week with where we left off in Mark’s account of Jesus’ ministry.

Throughout the last few weeks, Jesus has spoken about feeding on his body and drinking his blood. Through this uncompromising metaphor, he has called us to radically commit ourselves to his values, vision, and way of life. We who believe in the Eucharist cannot fail to see intimations of the Eucharist in this passage and how it summons us to recognize the Eucharist’s influences on our acceptance of Christ’s call. The Eucharist is at once the possibility of our commitment and its seal. But what I would like to address is the failure to commit, which is the theme of a part of today’s gospel passage.

All of us fail more or less frequently to live as Jesus has called us to live. As today’s gospel account suggests, some of us simply abandon our companionship with Jesus and go our own way no longer to walk with the Lord. Since this is possible for all of us, it is worth some thought about how this choice can occur.

We all know that human beings are capable of things that are so awful that these acts make a radical statement about who we are and how we are in relationship with God. I think such clear cut choices are relatively rare. But the Church long has defined another, less serious kind of sin as venial. The Church has suggested that such sins do not result in a complete separation from God. We all know that venial sin is very common: it’s the stuff of our day-to-day transactions with one another.

Let me make a case why we ought not to be cavalier about such little sins. Imagine, if you will, that two best friends live next door to each other. They love each others’ company and spend many happy hours with one another from day-to-day. They can’t imagine their lives without the other.

One of the friends receives a wonderful job offer in another city, and the friend moves away. For a while, the two friends are on the phone with each other every day. Nothing has changed except that they don’t live next door to one another. Then one day, one of the friends comes home, weary at the end of a day of work: there’s a meal to prepare, laundry to be done, kids to be put in bed. The friend thinks of calling, but says, “To heck with it: I am too tired tonight; I’ll call tomorrow.” There’s nothing fatal in the decision: it’s a small action with little consequence in the great scheme of things.

The relationship continues, but with time, the calls become less frequent. For a while, they are once a week. Then they are once a month. There’s no big decision: no fundamental choice. But the relationship is slowing down as the choices about what is immediate and important less and less include the relationship. Finally, the relationship slips to a Christmas card once a year in December. Then comes a time when the one friend is on a trip elsewhere and the flight lays over in the city of the other friend. The friend who is traveling thinks about making a call but then decides, “Who cares. It isn’t worth the trouble.” Their friendship has ebbed away from hundreds of small decisions. It’s death by a thousand cuts. Not a single one of the cuts of itself is fatal, but their cumulative effect is to destroy the relationship.

It’s important to think about how important things die. It usually happens little bit by little bit. When the disciples walked away from Jesus, as today’s gospel records, it seems unlikely to me that it was a sudden decision that came over them in a wave. It probably was the accumulation of numerous decisions made over a long period of time.

This is why we are called to make a radical commitment. It is why we should pray that we can persevere until the end. It is too easy to let a thousand things come up during the course of a day and ease us away from the kind of commitment that Jesus asks of us, the kind of commitment that will allow us to remain his till the end.

Spiritual reading: You are afraid that your love for God is not true love, that you do not love God at all. Well, I urge you be quite at peace on this point . . . . . If the soul longs for nothing else than to love its God then don’t worry and be quite sure that this heart possesses everything, that it possesses God himself. (Letters by Padre [St.] Pio)

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