Saturday, August 18, 2018

Three questions

Today, I will test your faith with three questions.  The answers to each of these questions is either yes or no, not maybe.  If you cannot confidently say yes, then your answer is no.  And you don't have to raise your hand or speak your answer. 

The first question is:  Do you believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God?

The second question is:  Do you believe that Jesus is present, body, blood, soul, and divinity, in the bread and wine on the altar after the consecration?

And the last question is:  Do you believe that Jesus formed a Church, the Catholic Church, and that this church has the fullness of truth in matters of faith and morals?

Now, let's discuss what your answers to each of these questions mean.

On the first question, if you believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, you are a Christian, a follower of Jesus Christ.  Most people today aren't Christians and don't believe this.  Some believe that he is a liar; some a prophet; and some just don't believe.  Members of non-Christian faiths, including Jewish, Hindu, Muslem and others along with agnostics and atheists don't believe this.  I would expect that most everyone here believes this.

On the second question, if you believe that Jesus Christ is present in the Eucharist, you are likely a Catholic Christian.  Most non- Catholic Christians don't believe this. 

In today's Gospel, Jesus tells his disciples that he is living bread which came down from heaven and that he will give his flesh for the life of the world.   This is too much for most of his disciples to believe.  They ask:  "How can this man give us his flesh to eat?" and many of them walked away from him.  This is too much for most people in our world today to believe.  In fact, even some Catholics don't believe it.  In 2008, a study of 1007 adult Catholics done by CARA research center at Georgetown found that just 57% of them believed that Jesus Christ is really present in the bread and wine of the Eucharist.  Like the followers of Christ in today's Gospel, this mystery is just too much for many to believe.  What about you, are you able to respond yes to this question? 

The last question I asked "do you believe that the Catholic church has the fullness of truth in matters of faith and morals" is probably the most difficult one for Catholics to answer yes to.  In fact, in 2016, a PEW research study of 4,528 Catholics found that just 50% of them thought that abortion was morally wrong and only 8% of them agreed with the Church's position that using artificial contraception was morally wrong. 

Did Jesus found a church which lies to us on these important matters?  When Paul encountered Jesus on the road to Damascus, Jesus said to him: "Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?"  Jesus didn't say why are you persecuting my followers, or the church.  Instead, he said me.  So, Jesus and his church are one.  And when his church speaks, Jesus is speaking.  If his church were to lie to us on critical matters, Jesus would be lying to us. 

Most of us continue to build our faith.   Jesus understands that this is difficult for us when we see the human frailties of the leaders of our church.  We see that they are sinners, some even more than we are.  It takes a deep faith to believe that the Catholic Church has the fullness of truth in matters of faith and morals and to see that the Holy Spirit is guiding Jesus' church despite the sins of some of its leaders such as those reported in the recent Pennsylvania grand jury report.  The abuse outlined in this report angers and shames all of us, as Catholics.  And it shames our many good priests and bishops.  However, we must not lose faith.  These incidents are clearly the work of the devil who is constantly attacking Jesus' church.  Now is a time for prayer and reflection.  Now is not the time to abandon Jesus or His Church.  As Catholics, we are once again on the cross with Jesus and His church. 

We all are sinners.  We all struggle at times.   We all need a relationship with Christ and we need a community of believers to help us build our faith.  We cannot do it alone. 

I know that the three questions that I asked today can be challenging.  It isn't easy in today's confused world to be a faithful Catholic Christian.  It isn't easy to defend your faith when many think you are foolish and misguided.  But, like Jesus, we are meant to proclaim his truth and to be a light in the darkness.  And, when we follow Jesus, our life becomes more fulfilling and more joyful.  He brings us peace.