for Sunday, August 23, 2015
Both the first reading today and the Gospel speak about the difficulties of accepting the teachings of God. The Book of Joshua is speaking about a rededication of the people to the Lord. Joshua is very clear to the people: the choice is yours. If you want to serve the Lord, then come with me. If you don't want to serve the Lord our God, then go your own way. This choice is ours today as well. There are teachings of the Church which we need to accept in order to remain with the Church. If we don't accept them, then we should go our own way and not continue to call ourselves Catholic. This is such a difficult decision today when lots of us will say: I am a Catholic but I don't agree with all the teachings of the Church.
Lots of Catholics don't understand the difference between something which is taught by the Church and must be believed and something which is only a discipline of the Church and is not taught at the level of belief. For instance, whether priests are married or unmarried is a discipline of the Church and is changeable. That does not mean that it is going to change, but only that it could be changed if the proper authorities in the Church decided that it was the right thing to do. We individual Catholic don't change the rules for ourselves. Instead, if we are faithful to the Church, we might suggest changes but also accept the decisions of those who have the authority to make the changes. Thus the decision to ordain only unmarried men to the priesthood in the Catholic Church is a discipline. Occasionally, when a convert clergyman is ordained and he is married, we see that this regulation is only discipline.
There are other aspects of our faith that are taught as unchangeable. For instance, in 1854, Pope Pius IX proclaimed the dogma of the Immaculate Conception, and in 1950 Pope Pius XII proclaimed the dogma of the Assumption of Mary. These are teachings given to us which are unchangeable.
In the Gospel today we see Jesus speaking to his followers and asking them if they can really accept what He has been saying. This is still Chapter 6 of the Gospel of John. What Jesus has been saying is about the Holy Eucharist, about His presence in the bread, about His relationship to the Father—and basically about how God loves us. The teaching of Jesus was too difficult for many of his disciples and they left Him at this point. The teachings of our Catholic Church are also difficult for many.
The second reading today, from the Letter to the Ephesians, reflects some of the difficult teachings of the New Testament.
The way in which Saint Paul explains the relationship between woman and man in marriage today offends some people. Instead of seeking how to understand this teaching, many people simply reject it.
You and I are all challenged to keep struggling with the Scriptures so that we can encounter the living God present there. We must also struggle with our Catholic Church because it is the living presence of Christ present in our world today. In order to struggle, we must be humble and accept that I personally do not have all the answers and that even my way of thinking may need conversion.
May the Lord help us today so that we may walk with Him and not just by our own light.
Readings of the day:
First Reading: Joshua 24.1-2a, 15-17, 18b
Second Reading: Ephesians 4.32 - 5.2, 21-32++
Gospel: John 6.53, 60-69
Reflections are available for the following Sundays: