Fr. Steve’s homily (08/23/2015)

St John tells us, in today’s Gospel passage, that our Lord’s teaching about the Eucharist, which we have been following over the last few Sundays, was so difficult, 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.” Picture the scene.
• A large crowd of people surrounds our Lord in the synagogue of Capernaum.
• Many of them witnessed the incredible miracle of the multiplication of the loaves just the day before.
• And yet, when he tells them about the Eucharist, about his plan to become truly present under the appearances of bread and wine so that his divine life will become our nourishment, they turn their backs on him.
• And so he looks at his closest disciples, the Twelve, the ones he has chosen to become the foundation stones of his Church.
• He doesn’t offer some kind of watered down explanation of the Eucharist in order to convince them to stick around. He simply asks them: “Do you also want to leave?”
• The Twelve didn’t understand, rationally speaking, the mysterious doctrine of the Eucharist any more completely than everybody else.
• So why did they continue to follow the Lord?
• Because they trusted in him, in his person.
• They put more faith in the person of Jesus Christ, the Lord, than in their own limited ability to understand God.
By consciously exercising their faith in the midst of that crisis, and not just depending on their own limited, error-prone understanding, they lifted their spiritual maturity to a whole new level. FROM ST BASIL THE GREAT] “As the pilot of a vessel is tried in the storm, as the wrestler is tried in the ring, the soldier in the battle, and the hero in adversity, so is the Christian tried in temptation.”
This moment of crisis occurred after they had been living and traveling with Jesus for two years.
• During that time they had gotten to know Jesus in a personal way.
• The Lord was not distant or abstract; the Lord was their companion, leader, and friend; they had a personal relationship with him.
• And so, when the moment of crisis came, the moment in which their faith was challenged, they were ready to respond.
• Even when they couldn’t see the whole picture themselves, they believed that Jesus could, and they knew that Jesus, the good shepherd, the “Holy One of God,” would guide them well.
Sooner or later, every Catholic faces a religious crisis, a situation in which our faith is challenged, in which we don’t understand fully why God does what he does or asks what he asks. That is the moment when we can rise to a new level of spiritual maturity.
• But only if we have been nourishing our faith by getting to know Jesus Christ, the person, through a conscious life of prayer and sacramental life.
• If our Catholic faith has been reduced to following a list of rules and routines, it will be much harder to survive and thrive in those moments of testing.
• Certainly, God will never give up on us, but unless we have a real relationship with him, we may end up giving up on him.
• And there is no greater tragedy in life than that.

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