Homily for August 26, 2018
21st Sunday of Ordinary Time B
Jesus then said to the Twelve, "Do you also want to leave?"
It has been difficult to be a Catholic these days. We’ve heard and read about the crimes and sins that have infested our Church. And like you, my heart is full of sorrow and anger that shepherds betrayed so many innocent of the flock, causing unspeakable pain and suffering. I am personally outraged. It is an occasion calls forth justice and surety that it never happens again.
I stand before you today ashamed and appalled, and I share your sense of deep betrayal. No doubt the Lord’s question has entered our minds, “Do you also want to leave?”
This question has echoed in my own mind and heart. For in my 23 years of priesthood my faith has never been so tested, my mouth so bereft of the words to describe the despair in my heart.
Today's Gospel passage about our Lord's teaching on the Eucharist was so shocking, that "many of his disciples" simply refused to accept it. As a result, they stopped following Jesus and returned to "their former way of life."
Christ asks those who stayed with Him: "Do you also want to leave?"
It was a moment of crisis. The Twelve didn't understand, any more completely than everybody else. Yet they stayed. So why did they continue to follow the Lord?
They stayed because they trusted in him, in his person. They put more faith in the person of Jesus Christ, the Lord and Savior, than in their own limited ability to comprehend God’s plan.
I’m sure all of us here know people in our family, among our friends and neighbors who have left and walked away. Some who will stop following the Lord. That the Church I love and serve would cause this fills me a deep pain and sorrow.
But today, brothers and sisters, here and now, Christ asks each of us: “Do you also want to leave?”
So why do I choose to stay? Because the words of Simon Peter make the path clear: “Master to whom shall we go? You alone have the words of eternal life.”
Speaking for myself, dear friends, I choose to stay because I love Jesus Christ, my brother, my friend, my Redeemer and Savior; I love his church; I love his priesthood, and I love you, his beloved people. I stay because Christ my Lord and Savior is here and you his people are here.
I stay because even in the midst of such evil and darkness, I’m still able to see the light of Christ shining in your goodness and charity, in your mercy and compassion, in your fidelity and solidarity.
I stay because I see daily the devotion, the good works and the faith of people who continue to believe that God calls them here. So many good and faithful people who remain committed to the beliefs and virtues handed down to us by those who’ve gone before us in faith. I see so many who daily honor those who left us a legacy of charity, mercy, goodness and holiness - not a legacy of scandal, shame and sin.
Many who have gone before us knew great trial and tribulation in their times. And yet they stayed. Some even sacrificing unto death, so that we could continue to spread the Good News of Jesus Christ. They built up his Church, to stand as refuge of love and a beacon of hope so that others might come to believe what they themselves were convinced: that you Jesus Christ are the Holy One of God.
I stay because I too am convinced that the Crucified and Risen Christ is here. The Christ who knows betrayal. The Christ who feels righteous anger. The Christ who conquers sin. The Christ truly present to us in his Sacred Body and Blood. The Christ we must turn to in these times of despair.
In this moment, in this Church, at this Mass, we must turn to the Holy Spirit to beg for his guidance. We pray the Father of Consolation and Healer of Souls comfort all who are suffering right now: victims, family members, people who find their faith in God shattered. We pray for the Holy Spirit to purify our Church; to instill the courage and integrity needed to confront evil in those who lead us, and instill fidelity in those who serve us.
And my dear people, I pray that despite my own unworthiness and my own sinfulness, I might become a better priest of Christ, a holier priest of God.
I pray, pleading: “O Come Holy Spirit, Cleanse that which is unclean, water that which is dry, heal that which is wounded.”
Every day Christ asks me as he asks each of us: "Do you also want to leave?"
In the midst of despair, withfaith, with hope the only answer I am able to mutter is:
“Master to whom shall we go? You alone have the words of eternal life.”