Monday, August 24, 2015

To Whom Shall We Go? Discipleship in the Midst of Doubt

Twenty-first Sunday in Ordinary Time
Lectionary: 122


Reading 1JOSHUA 24:1-2A, 15-17, 18B

Joshua gathered together all the tribes of Israel at Shechem,
summoning their elders, their leaders,
their judges, and their officers.
When they stood in ranks before God,
Joshua addressed all the people:
“If it does not please you to serve the LORD,
decide today whom you will serve,
the gods your fathers served beyond the River
or the gods of the Amorites in whose country you are now dwelling.
As for me and my household, we will serve the LORD.”

But the people answered,
“Far be it from us to forsake the LORD
for the service of other gods.
For it was the LORD, our God,
who brought us and our fathers up out of the land of Egypt,
out of a state of slavery.
He performed those great miracles before our very eyes
and protected us along our entire journey
and among the peoples through whom we passed.
Therefore we also will serve the LORD, for he is our God.”

Responsorial PsalmPSALM 34:2-3, 16-17, 18-19, 20-21

R. (9a) Taste and see the goodness of the Lord.
I will bless the LORD at all times;
his praise shall be ever in my mouth.
Let my soul glory in the LORD;
the lowly will hear me and be glad.
R. Taste and see the goodness of the Lord.
The LORD has eyes for the just,
and ears for their cry.
The LORD confronts the evildoers,
to destroy remembrance of them from the earth.
R. Taste and see the goodness of the Lord.
When the just cry out, the LORD hears them,
and from all their distress he rescues them.
The LORD is close to the brokenhearted;
and those who are crushed in spirit he saves.
R. Taste and see the goodness of the Lord.
Many are the troubles of the just one,
but out of them all the LORD delivers him;
he watches over all his bones;
not one of them shall be broken.
R. Taste and see the goodness of the Lord.

Reading 2EPHESIANS 5:21-32

Brothers and sisters:
Be subordinate to one another out of reverence for Christ.
Wives should be subordinate to their husbands as to the Lord.
For the husband is head of his wife
just as Christ is head of the church,
he himself the savior of the body.
As the church is subordinate to Christ,
so wives should be subordinate to their husbands in everything.
Husbands, love your wives,
even as Christ loved the church
and handed himself over for her to sanctify her,
cleansing her by the bath of water with the word,
that he might present to himself the church in splendor,
without spot or wrinkle or any such thing,
that she might be holy and without blemish.
So also husbands should love their wives as their own bodies.
He who loves his wife loves himself.
For no one hates his own flesh
but rather nourishes and cherishes it,
even as Christ does the church,
because we are members of his body.
For this reason a man shall leave his father and his mother
and be joined to his wife,
and the two shall become one flesh.
This is a great mystery,
but I speak in reference to Christ and the church.

OrEPHESIANS 5:2A, 25-32

Brothers and sisters:
Live in love, as Christ loved us.
Husbands, love your wives,
even as Christ loved the church
and handed himself over for her to sanctify her,
cleansing her by the bath of water with the word,
that he might present to himself the church in splendor,
without spot or wrinkle or any such thing,
that she might be holy and without blemish.
So also husbands should love their wives as their own bodies.
He who loves his wife loves himself.
For no one hates his own flesh
but rather nourishes and cherishes it,
even as Christ does the church,
because we are members of his body.
For this reason a man shall leave his father and his mother
and be joined to his wife,
and the two shall become one flesh.

This is a great mystery,
but I speak in reference to Christ and the church.

AlleluiaJohN 6:63C, 68C

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
Your words, Lord, are Spirit and life;
you have the words of everlasting life.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

GospelJN 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.”

To Whom Shall We Go? Discipleship in the Midst of Doubt
Homily for 21st Sunday in Ordinary Time

Our readings today are challenging. They all include a decision to live beyond the prevailing culture, human passions, and peer pressure. In the Old Testament reading from Joshua, they are a challenge to live above the sexually promiscuous gods of the Amorites in Canaan; in the 2nd reading by St. Paul, to be above the prevailing imperial Roman treatment of women as nothing more than objects, and in our Gospel reading today, to be more than a fair-weather follower of Jesus.


(Slide)
Joshua responds, “As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.”

(Slide)
St. Paul challenges husbands to do what Rome thought was ludicrous—love their wives, mutually submit to them, and pour themselves out like the sacrifice of Christ to make them holy.

(Slide)
Finally, Jesus tells some of his disciples some hard truths—about Communion—about eating the Lord’s flesh and drinking his blood—and MANY of them walk away. Not just a few.



Christians are called to a counter-cultural people. We are not like the promiscuous Amorites in Canaan; we don’t have our names on the Ashley Madison website, unlike others in the state of Colorado, which has the dubious distinction of having the 2nd highest % of people on this evil website. We are not like the women-abusing culture of Rome, and we do not follow Jesus just when we like it, as if we could be cafeteria disciples.
Like St. Peter, we say, “to whom shall we go?” You have the words of eternal life.

I am still not sure if Jesus would be able to cut it as a religious figure today….all these people decide to leave…what does he do “do you want to leave, too?” No, it would be “wait, let’s talk, we can make a deal for you; this communion thing isn’t that important. There’s another place, right down the street, and they have better music.”

(Slide) Some of the disciples said “this is a hard teaching.”
You know, only true disciples accept hard teaching. In America we have grown up in comfort, in luxury, in slavery to our appetites and passions and feelings, and if anyone gets into our grill with a challenging teaching of Jesus we start complaining “this is a hard teaching; who can accept it?” I’m outta here!

I want to share something with you that may trouble you, may even anger you. Actually, I hope it does.

(Slide) God has no grandchildren.
In other words, we are one generation from the Church disappearing in our world. You want proof? Go to Western Europe on a Sunday and walk into a Catholic Church. You want data? It’s already happening in America.

(Slide) for every 1 Catholic convert….








(Slide) Catholicism loses….
If Apple Computer had six people who threw away their iPads for every one they sold; CEO Tim Cook would stop everything and figure out what was wrong.



(Slide) 13% of all Americans
Does that bother you? Does that disturb you? We sit up and talk, Father and Doug and the staff gather, and we agonize about this—how many adults did we baptize last year? How many are still with us? How are we doing? How many fallen-away Catholics are there in this town, and what are we doing to go out and bring them back to the faith? We even know where they are….


(Slide)
I have some news for you. I’m not delighted. I don’t think Jesus is delighted.
(Slide) …“New Life’s pastor”
To go to a church where you can just pray Jesus into your heart, which is not found in the scriptures, where they believe that it’s just crackers and grape juice, not the real presence of Christ . . . I think that’s important. That allows some pastor who is sexually immoral to just go down the street and set up another church—there is no discipline out there. Say what you want about the Catholic clergy scandals--at least there were some priests who got fired. There is no courage to call sin a sin, and deal with it. And to hear teachers—actual Catholic teachers in this city—say that it doesn’t matter what church you go, I know one thing—they would be walking away would those other would-be disciples, not standing there with Peter.

But Peter’s not complaining, he’s not leaving, he’s not quibbling. He’s has got his weaknesses, doesn’t he? But one thing he is not—and that’s being half-hearted. That headstrong, blabbermouth, lying, cowardly fisherman says, “to whom shall we go?” YOU have the words of eternal life.

That’s what we need.

Why are we doing so poorly as an American church? I think there are some exciting things going on at OLP, but we have to look honestly at the world and at the American Catholic Church and be candid here.

(Slide) Hosea said “my people are destroyed from lack of knowledge.” You look at lives destroyed because families wander from the faith, how many kids wander off when they leave home, good Catholic kids who get all chewed up in college, who don’t know how to answer their professors, folks who can’t explain why they are Catholic, or who can’t simply discuss the faith. Catholics who don’t get married in the Catholic Church anymore. Catholic marriages having no greater statistical chance of making it as the general culture. People who know more about Kim Kardashian and Paris Hilton than they know the Catechism. They know the words to every rock n roll song, but the idea of memorizing a passage of scripture seems like it’s too extreme. And they don’t think it’s important to stay on top of their knowledge. Their learning about the faith stopped at Confirmation. If you are not busy learning and being formed, continuously formed, in the faith, you are dying.

So what can we do? What’s the most important thing to do?

(Slide) Here are the most important things for a real Christian to do.

Greatest Commandment, and the Greatest Commission…..nothing else is more key to our thriving.


(Slide)
Answer the Call!

Despite the challenges that face the American Catholic Church, I am thrilled to be a part of this faith family—and I am excited that this year we are moving up to a higher level of commitment. It might be a bit challenging—I’ve never been challenged like this before—but is it from the Scriptures? Do I need this? We want you to search your heart. We want you to get involved. We want you to make more time in your schedule than you make now—to pray, to study, to learn, to spend time with non-Christians and lapsed Catholics—and bring them back to Christ.

Close with a quote from this football player from Fordham U, a Catholic…he was a pretty decent football player. It's all about commitment! That’s all we need here to transform the world.







(Slide) Who was this guy?






(Slide)
"St." Vincent Lombardi…I know, he may may not have been a saint in the eyes of the Vatican, but there were some games they won that were simply miraculous, and if they play football in heaven (and you know they do!), God lets Vince Lombardi be the coach.

Love the faith, learn the faith, live the faith….be completely committed. And then, when the time of testing comes to your faith—to your children’s faith—and it will come, you will be able to respond by saying….




(Slide) To whom shall we go?

1 comment:

  1. thanks for your support and comments. Sometimes it's difficult to look at things as they are, and not as we want them to be. I did say some challenging things today, especially about the numbers of former Catholics who now attend New Life. I know there are reasons why they leave, and we did not have time to address them. But New Life's ministers should not go out of their way to recruit members of the Catholic Church into their fellowship, with planned programs of outreach. Either we are Christians, or we are not. Just be honest, folks.

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