Monday, May 21, 2012

Where shall we go to?

When Jesus gave the discourse on the Bread of Life in John’s gospel, his audience, who were mainly Jews, found his teaching intolerable.  They heard him on one level, which is a physical level.  And because they only heard him on a physical level, they understood that Jesus asked them to be cannibals.  Upon hearing this, they walked away. 

After the unbelieving Jews had left, Jesus was surrounded by his disciples, and he asked them whether they too, wanted to go.  You’d think that they decided to remain with Jesus because they had deep faith in him.  But that was not the reason.  Peter the spokesperson of the group probably uttered a truism, which was hardly a confession of faith when he replied that they had nowhere to go to, because Jesus had the words of everlasting life.  You would notice that it was hardly a strong, affirmative statement of faith.  It was more like “we don’t really have choice, do we?” type of answer.  He knew that Jesus had and was the truth, but he also found himself in a quandary.  It was not a very comfortable place to be. 

Perhaps that sums up a lot of the truth of our faith lives.  If we are true to ourselves and if we are honest to our deepest feelings, there are times when our faith is not something that puts us in a comfortable place either.  These are the moments of our lives when we are challenged by the evils and dishonesty of the world.  If we are looking out at these through the eyes of our faith, and if we stay with our faith values, it will often not be a very comfortable place to be in either.  Parts of us will want to take revenge for hurts, for betrayals and for wounds of various natures caused by others.  Inside of us we will realize that there are also areas within us that want to have the last word in an argument, and to trump our adversaries with an upper hand that is not in any way kind.  The very excusable and raw elements of us seem to demand that we do not want to forgive, to not be kind, and to be self-seeking.  After all, the world seems to get away with a lot of such execrable behaviour.  However, if we are constantly aware of our deep Christian calling, and stay true to them, we will also find ourselves uttering the same phrase that Peter did “Lord, we shall we go to?  You have the message of eternal life.” 

Is this a good place to be in?  It’s not necessarily bad to be in a quandary of this sort, where we feel a tug in our lives from two opposing directions.  This means that our consciences are working and that we are not resting on our spiritual laurels.  Of course, when we know objective truths we should not be wondering whether or not the grass is greener on the other side, but being aware that there is another ‘side’ helps us to be more sensitive to the plight of others, developing a compassion that can often be left under-developed, making us sometimes arrogant in our self-assurance.

I am certain that in our constant search for what ‘thrills and delights’, we will hear Jesus asking us like he asked his disciples that day “What about you, do you want to go away too?”  When we are aware of Jesus’ question, don’t be too disconcerted when you find yourself replying like Peter did, when he said “Who shall we go to?”  A questioning faith can show a developing faith that allows the grace of God to move one toward holiness. 

But perhaps a caveat needs to be added here.  One reading this may think that it is ok to leave our children to fend for themselves as far as faith and morals are concerned.  That would be as kind a move as push them off a high cliff.  Many parents are saying that they are not baptizing their children as infants because they want them to make the decision about the importance of faith and the Church when they are adults.  My reply to them is:  if they are not made to see the importance of it when they are young and formable, what makes you so sure that they will see the grave importance of it when they are older?  There is a great wisdom in infant baptism, but perhaps the problem lies in parents not being able to explain rationally the reason for this sacrament of initiation, either to their children or to themselves.

1 comment:

  1. ‘’.......there are times when our faith is not something that puts us in a comfortable place either. These are the moments of our lives when we are challenged by the evils......’’

    Sometimes lulled into a tranquillity verging on somnolence, when life seems to be on an even keel, one definitely does not expect one’s faith to be challenged – how terribly wrong !
    On a recent short trip to a hill-resort in a neighbouring country, I was like ‘’a house at rest...’’ Some of the more able-bodied members of the group decided to go on a short jungle-trekking spree , scheduled to last an hour, leaving the women and the senior citizens behind to browse among the souvenir shops in the vicinity of the hotel. As the afternoon wore on and there were no signs of the adventurers return, I was a bit vexed for it had become our norm ( on such outings) to gather together for meditative prayer and reflection – if possible before the evening meal.

    How great was my consternation and distress when in reply to my text- I was told that the whole group had been attacked by leeches and were bleeding! My ‘’Martha-instinct’ went into an over-drive as I fought down the feelings of dread and fear at the turn of events. I wanted so much to wrest back control demand that ‘my world’ be restored picture-perfect as I wanted it. At the back of my mind was that niggling voice seeking Him out as the scape-goat – ‘’Why didn’t you protect them from harm.....why ?’’

    It was a while before I grabbed my rosary and in sorrow realized that again, my faith had taken flight ( and fright) through the window when adversity knocks at the was again pride that presided. I doubt I will have that type of enduring and steadfast faith that the Saints have but somehow I hope that with each failure, I am making progress - for I am made aware of the distance I need to travel to ‘’think according to God’s mind’’

    God bless you, Fr