How’s that post title grab you?
I attended a talk by Fr. Ron Rolheiser, OMI tonight called “The struggle for a more mature discipleship.” I had an experience of deep recognition of how God works in my own life in listening to this man. So, for the next few days/weeks, you are going to have put up with several of my reflections on various things Ron said tonight, and what he will say in another talk tomorrow night. I hope you will join me with your own reflections. (If you are reading this on my Facebook page, I encourage you to leave your comments over on my blog so as to widen the conversation: https://nunsuch.wordpress.com.)
To explain the title of this post, here’s the scriptural context:
USCCB – NAB – John 6:53-68
Jesus said to them, “Amen, amen, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you do not have life within you. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him on the last day. For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me and I in him. Just as the living Father sent me and I have life because of the Father, so also the one who feeds on me will have life because of me. This is the bread that came down from heaven. Unlike your ancestors who ate and still died, whoever eats this bread will live forever.” These things he said while teaching in the synagogue in Capernaum.
Then many of his 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.”
Ron said that behind Peter’s answer was probably an overwhelming desire to cut and run. The idea of eating Jesus’ flesh and drinking his blood must have seemed repugnant on both an intellectual and an emotional level. And yet, Peter’s faith that Jesus could be trusted, that he had the words of eternal life, won the day. Ron gave us a quote by C.S. Lewis, who despite his reluctance, converted to Christianity, writing that he had come to know that “the harshness of God is kinder than the softness of man and God’s compulsion is our liberation.”
Think about that…God has a compulsion to liberate us! And there’s no doubt…365 times in the Bible, we are told, “Fear not” or “Don’t be afraid,” etc. We are to be free from fear. A religion that compels its adherents to do or refrain from doing under threat of consequences may produce results in terms of behavior, but does it nurture an alive and mature faith that does the right thing out of love for God and neighbor?
Yes, things were much tidier in those days when faithful Catholics were afraid to miss Mass on Sunday for fear of dying with an unconfessed mortal sin on their souls. And it is true that we do not always carry our freedom well, often forgetting the responsibility that comes with it. Things get very messy as we struggle to come to a more mature way of wearing this freedom that God is compelled pour out on us. The question is how we can love each other through those growing pains of coming to a mature adult faith, with compassion, not judgement.
I don’t know about you, but God’s not finished with me yet. I’m still a “work-in-progress.”
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