Sunday, August 23, 2009

Freedom to accept or not accept

Today’s gospel is the end of Jesus’ Eucharistic discourse that began with Him inviting the Jews to move beyond their traditional beliefs to a deeper faith in God so as to obtain eternal life. That invitation required the Jews to believe in Jesus as the one who came down from heaven and to accept His teaching that his flesh was real food and his blood real drink for the life of the world. They did not believe in Jesus as the “one come down from heaven” and they found his teaching to be “intolerable language” and so many stopped following him. In the face of all the complaints from the Jews, Jesus never stopped referring to himself as “the one come down from heaven.” Neither did He change his teaching on the Eucharist. Jesus left all his followers, including “the Twelve” the absolute freedom to accept or not accept Him and His teaching. Jesus’ attitude is a lesson for all Christians and for us Catholics in particular as we continue to witness to Him in the world. We live in a world that has become increasingly secular. Because of that secularism, more and more people are refusing to believe in Jesus or His divinity. In the face of such unbelief, Christians can become self-righteous and condemnatory in response. Jesus teaches us, through today’s gospel, that our only response, though confident, (“What if you should see the Son of Man ascend to where he was before?”), must be humble (“no one can come to me unless the Father allows it”). It is this confidence, rooted in humility that will allow us to leave people free to believe or not believe in Jesus and His divinity. The Catholic Church is unique in our belief in the Real Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist. Our articulation of that belief has caused many to say that we speak “intolerable language” and has brought us ridicule both as a Church and as individuals, in some instances. We may therefore be tempted, to not emphasise the truth about the Eucharist or to alter our teaching so as to accommodate others. At those moments we are challenged by the gospel to say with Jesus, “the words I have spoken to you are spirit and they are life.” As we celebrate Eucharist this weekend we are invited to follow the example of Jesus and be confident yet humble in our witness, faith and teaching. It is only then that we will allow those who hear our message the freedom to accept or not accept Jesus as the “Holy One of God.” By Glen Cazoe for the Catholic News

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