Tough Sayings and Tough Decisions: Sunday Reflection – HotAir
This morning’s Gospel reading is John 6: 60–69:
Many of Jesus’ disciples who were listening said, “This word is harsh; Who can accept it? Because Jesus knew that his disciples murmured about this, he said to them, “Does this surprise you? What if you saw the Son of Man ascending to where he was before? It is the spirit that gives life, while the flesh is useless. The words that I have spoken to you are Spirit and they are life. But there are some of you who do not believe. “Jesus knew from the beginning those who would not believe and who would betray him. And he said:” That is why I have told you that no one can come to me if my Father does not grant it to him. .
As a result of this, many of his disciples reverted to their previous way of life and no longer accompanied him. Then Jesus said to the Twelve: “Do you also want to leave?” Simon Peter answered him: “Teacher, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe and we are convinced that you are the Holy One of God. “
Not long ago, I saw the movie A league of its own for the first time in a few years. As I read today’s Gospel, a line from the movie caught my eye. For those who do not remember, the film offered a fictional account of the women’s professional baseball league during World War II, focusing on characters from the Rockford Peaches. His coach, Jimmy Dugan, had lost the last years of his major league playing career to alcoholism and self-pity, having lost faith in himself and perhaps the game as well.
As the movie progresses, Dugan regains his faith in both himself and the game, but is shocked when his star player abruptly leaves when her husband comes home from the war. When she leaves, Dugan confronts her and tries to explain how much she had lost by turning her back on the game, to no apparent result. “It got too difficult,” Dottie Hinson tells Dugan.
“It’s supposed to be difficult,” says Dugan. “If it wasn’t difficult, everyone would do it. The difficult … is what makes it great. “
Today’s gospel reflects that wisdom. In the John passage, Jesus watches his followers swoon when he bluntly tells them how difficult salvation will be. Jesus tells them that they must eat His flesh and drink His blood to be saved, a frightening prospect for first century audiences. Unlike the other teachings of Jesus, He does not express this in parables, but rather declares it as a challenge to those who would follow Him.
In this, we recognize the Eucharist, which is transubstantiated into the body and blood of Christ at Mass. In those days, however, Jesus’ audience did not have a context to understand this. Even the disciples are puzzled by His statement, and Jesus again directly challenges them to make a decision. “Will you go too?”
However, even beyond the obvious teaching of the Eucharist, this teaches us about faith itself. Faith is Lastedwhile cynicism is easy, even in an abstract sense. Faith in the Lord is even more difficult, putting our trust in a mystery that we recognize can never be truly revealed until the next life.
Cynicism does not demand of us. Hedonism is easy, especially if you have the means and don’t make moral judgments. The choice not to trust the Lord is the easiest we can make, and that was the choice for Jesus’ audience in the synagogue. As Jesus preached about the meek who would inherit the earth and the poor and rich who changed places, they were pleased to accompany them on the walk. As soon as the options got tough, as they always do when it comes to faith and trust, they turned their backs.
Also, faith demands where cynicism doesn’t. Our first reading also demonstrates this, when Joshua demands that the tribes of Israel choose which gods they will serve. If they choose the Lord, they will enter the Promised Land, while choosing other gods might be easier in the short term. Joshua declares, “As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.”
What makes it so difficult? Faith requires more than belief. It requires decisions to act on those beliefs, actions that force us to trust the Lord more than ourselves or the material world around us. Living an authentic Christian life is almost unheard of, so unheard of, in fact, that the few who manage to do so we declare them holy as role models. Putting our neighbors ahead of us is Lasted. Caring for the poor and afflicted is Lasted. Forgiving those who offend us to the point of turning the other cheek is Lasted.
Is he Lasted that makes it great, though. Jimmy Dugan’s character is an interesting example of this in the movie. At first, Dugan is a completely self-centered mess, devoid of faith and joy, buried in an alcoholic haze and bitter almost to the core. Over the course of the film, Dugan redeems himself by rediscovering his love for the game and helping the women on his team become better players. There is no little irony in Dugan delivering this line, filled with regret for what he had lost through his lack of faith and his refusal to live a truly athletic life while still having the ability to do so.
The Gospels and the epistles of the New Testament are full of harsh truths about faith in the Lord and the authentic life of Christians. It’s so much easier to live off our own urges and appetites, but where does that take us? Didn’t we end up like Dugan, completely dissipated and useless, and what’s worse, knowledge that we have become completely dissipated and useless?
For this reason, Peter proclaims the harshest truth of all in response to Jesus’ challenge. “Master, who will we go to? You have the words of eternal life. “This is the truth on which all other Christian acts of faith and trust are based: the truth that Jesus came to us as the Word of God made flesh, with specific teachings on how we can choose to serve the Lord and hope for our salvation.
Of course, the harsh truth that there is no crying in baseball is also wisdom that Dugan conveys, but that’s a topic for another reflection.
The cover image is a detail from Raphael’s “Christ’s Charge to Peter,” 1515. On display at the Victoria and Albert Museum. Via Wikimedia Commons.
“Sunday Reflection” is a regular feature, looking at the specific readings used at Mass today in Catholic parishes around the world. The reflection represents just my own point of view, with the intention of helping me prepare for the Lord’s day and perhaps start a meaningful discussion. Reflections from the previous Sunday from the main page can be found here.