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Will You Also Leave?

August 26, 2018 Click on the left end of the black bar to play/pause

August 26, 2018
John 6:60-69
Fr. George Smiga

We learn an important thing about Jesus’ ministry in today’s gospel. Many of the disciples who started to follow him, in time decided to leave him. The text says, “Many of his disciples returned to their former way of life and no longer accompanied him.” When they heard what his teaching would demand of them, they could not accept it. They walked away. Jesus then asks Peter, “Do you also want to leave?” Peter says no, but he hardly gives Jesus an enthusiastic endorsement. He says, “To whom can we go?” Peter seems to be saying, “Being your disciple is not what I expected it to be. Your teaching is not what I prefer. But when I look at the other possibilities, you are still the best option. You are still the one with whom I will receive the most life.”

Now, this response of Peter should echo in our own lives because sometimes we find ourselves in situations that are flawed and compromised, and yet, when we look at the other possibilities, it may still seem better to remain in those situations than to walk away.

This can happen in marriages. The person you married seems different from the person who is your spouse today: more selfish, less sensitive, less willing to dialogue. You recognize that to make this marriage work will take a tremendous amount of effort and probably some counseling. You wonder, “Is it simpler to walk away?” But when you realize that there is still love between you, that there are children and grandchildren, that there is a shared history, you conclude that there would be more life to stay and make the marriage work than to leave it behind.

Some Catholics might be thinking similar questions in terms of their relationship to the Church. After the devastating revelations of priests abusing minors and bishops covering over the crimes, it would be understandable for a person to say, “I simply need to leave this church.” Even if—as we must insist—the bishops put in place stronger protections for children and a mechanism to hold bishops accountable when they do not follow those procedures, it is still reasonable for someone to say, “Why should I stay with a church which has so seriously failed to protect our children?” The only answer to that question is the answer of Peter, to ask, “Is there still something in the Church that is life-giving enough to make it worthy of our participation?”  Let me suggest two things that are.

Being a part of a church gives us a platform from which we can speak for justice in our society. Because we are a church, we can speak together the gospel of Jesus in a way that it makes more impact upon our world. Also, being a part of a church provides a local church community such as our community here at St. Noel. It is in such local communities that we come together to pray, to learn, and to serve others in Jesus’ name. In these communities we can continue to grow with our children as part of a parish family. These are real blessings, blessings that are still present within our seriously flawed Church.

At various times, each one of us may have to decide, “Am I going to stay or am I going to leave?” I have decided to stay with the Church because of the life that I receive from this community as we come together to hear Christ’s word, to share his body and blood, to grow in our knowledge and our faith, and to serve others in need. That is why I will stay with the Church. Today I ask you to stay with me.

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