How Closely Do We Follow Him?

How Closely Do We Follow Him?

After reading the 6th chapter of the Gospel of John and reflecting on Jesus as the Bread of Life that the Father has given to his adopted children, it is time to draw some vital conclusions.

What the risen Lord teaches us is something that is destined to blow the minds and inflame the hearts of all those who welcome this incredible revelation of the Father’s salvific intent and are determined to live as fully as possible the new life that the Bread of Life brings about.

However, as we can see also from this passage (John 6:60-69) originally, there were two contrasting reactions: one of well-thought-out acceptance and one of complete rejection.

Today, after 2000 years of clarifying the mind-blowing, heart-inflaming nature of the Bread of Life, the risen Lord finds in his Church a variety of reactions: from proud, outright rejection resulting in defection, to lukewarm acceptance, and all the way to wholehearted embracing of the sublime reality of the Eucharist. A large number of faithful, who consider themselves disciples of Christ, act so unfazed, so untroubled and so unconcerned about the protracted and increasing loss of religious freedom enacted by the Obama administration, I wonder if many are still rejecting and, de facto, parting ways with Christ. Their blissful ignorance of the consequences of crippling restrictions on religious freedom and the lack of solidarity with fellow Catholics who choose to lose their livelihood so as not to violate their conscience, seem to indicate that so many are CINOS, Catholics in name only. They might receive Holy Communion, habitually, with a degree of fleeting devotion, but still refuse to allow the only One with words of eternal life to penetrate their minds and hearts to such a degree as to make them toss aside the “safe,” politically correct, secular ways of the world in order to be completely, radically transformed by him.

This troubling hesitation, this straddling between the two opposite and irreconcilable camps can be attributed to superficial adherence to the Truth available at the table of the Word and tepid nibbling on the real flesh and blood, soul and divinity of their Lord offered them under the humble species of bread and wine. They might not voice unequivocally their objection by exclaiming, “This saying is hard: who can accept it?” But their half-hearted decision to take the words of eternal life spoken to them every Sunday in church and their failure to gnaw on the flesh of the Son of Man with the irresistible eagerness of a famished animal must have created in them a paralyzing lukewarmness. Lukewarmness is deadly because it allows its victims to live with the delusion of being decent, acceptable disciples of Christ without the obligation of having to bear witness to Christ and to his Church at a personal cost.

Speaking of the price that each disciple has to pay, it seems that, even in this country, it is rising with every Christian moral tenet that is challenged by relativism, secularism and the senselessness of political correctness. Many, too many, live mindlessly, from one week to the next, relying on the faulty principle that it is sufficient to give to God one hour out of the 168 of their week. Such a flawed principle makes them drift inexorably away from Christ and from his Church and live relatively untroubled lives, comfortably camouflaged in the forest of disengagement, aloofness and self-preservation. Enlightened by the shadows of relativism and political correctness, they fail to realize that Christ, the Head, and the Church, his Body, are inseparable. They do not live with full, committed dedication to the Church and, thus, fail to accept the fact that to be enlightened by the words of eternal life and nurtured by the flesh and blood of the Lord, they need to be totally, wholeheartedly inside the Church, not only physically for one hour a week, but around the clock.

I need to point out a most comforting fact: it was Simon Peter, the first Pope, who kept the Twelve united, inseparable from Christ the Head. Enlightened by the Holy Spirit, he saved the day and the future of the Church by reaching and voicing with conviction the fundamental truth that has to guide the steps of every disciple, ours included: “Master, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe and are convinced that you are the Holy One of God.”

Also, the Supreme Pontiff, the successor of Simon Peter, along with the College of Bishops, forms the teaching authority of the Church (Magisterium). They have been charged by Christ with the only correct interpretation of his words of eternal life for all generations of disciples. As Luke 10:16 notes: “Whoever listens to you listens to me. Whoever rejects you rejects me. And whoever rejects me rejects the one who sent me.

With the publication of “Laudato si’,” Pope Francis’ first encyclical, it has become painfully evident how most disciples of Christ, even without physically parting ways with him, can become selective as to which words of eternal life they live by and which they choose to ignore.

“Liberal Catholics” embraced the Pope’s urging to double the efforts to engage in responsible stewardship of creation so that it may continue to show us that our Creator God reveals through it how much he loves and cares for us and for all his creatures. At the same time, they chose to ignore his urging to be consistent and to accept and be productive in the gender (male or female) that God assigned to us and to respect all human life from conception to natural death. “Conservative Catholics” seem to be doing the opposite: embracing the Pope’s teachings on social issues like condemnation of abortion, euthanasia and rejection of same sex marriage, while showing limited concern for the environment.

Regardless of our political persuasion, we must not forget that, before any other choice imposed on us by self-preservation or self-interest, we are called to remain with our divine Master with undivided hearts and with minds eager to embrace and to live by all his words, firmly convinced that only his words guarantee eternal life.

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Written by
Fr Dino Vanin