Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Devotion for today: to stay or leave: that is the question

Today we find ourselves in the synagogue in Capernaum. Jesus has just made a rather unsettling proclamation….

Scripture for meditation: John 6:51-52; 60; 62; 64-67  
“I myself am the living bread come down from heaven. If anyone eats this bread he shall live forever; the bread I will give is my flesh, for the life of the world.”The Jews therefore disputed among themselves, saying: “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?” Jesus then said to them: “Amen, amen, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man, and drink his blood, you will not have life in you. On hearing this, many of his disciples said: “This is a hard saying! Who can accept it?”…. But Jesus, knowing fully that his disciples were grumbling about this, said to them: “Does this scandalize you? The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life. But there are some of you who do not believe.” From this time on, many of his disciples turned back, and no longer walked with him.
Scripture for reflection: Sirach 24:21
He who obeys me will not be put to shame; he who serves me will never fail.
St. Thomas Aquinas tells us: They said: This is a hard saying! Now that is said to be hard which is difficult to divide, and which offers resistance. Accordingly, a saying is hard either because it resists the intellect or because it resists the will, that is, when we cannot understand it with our mind, or when it does not please our will. And this saying was hard for them in both ways. It was hard for their intellects because it exceeded the weakness of their intellects: for since they were earthly minded, they were incapable of understanding what he said, namely, that he would give them his flesh to eat. And it was hard for their wills, because he said many things about the power of his divinity: and although they believed him as a prophet, they did not believe that he was God. Consequently, it seemed to them that he was making himself greater than he was…. And so it reads on. Who can accept it? They said this as an excuse: for since they had given themselves to him, they should have accepted what he said. But because he was not teaching them things that were pleasing to them, they were waiting for an occasion to leave him: “A fool does not accept words of wisdom unless you tell him what he desires” (Prv 18:2).Then he indicates the reason why they were upset, that is, their unbelief. As if to say: the cause of your difficulty is not the hardness of what I have just said, but your own unbelief. Thus he says, From this time on, many of his disciples turned back. He did not say, “They left,” but that they turned back, i.e., from the faith, which they had in a virtuous way; and cut off from the body of Christ, they lost life, because perhaps they were not in the body, as Augustine says….Then follows: they no longer walked with him, that is, even though we are required to walk with Jesus: “I will show you man what is good,” and then it continues on, “to walk attentively with your God” (Mi 6:8) (http://dhspriory.org/thomas/John6.htm).
Prayer: O Jesus, You are the Truth of God! Amid the darkness of confused thinking and conflicting ideas, Your light of Truth shines bright. Let my judgments never be influenced by the people who disagree with Your standards. Though the world may laugh me to scorn, I will fear no human judgments, as long as I loyally follow your standards in my daily life. Amen (My Daily Bread, Anthony J. Paone, S.J. Confraternity of the Precious Blood, 1954).
My thoughts: It is so easy to follow Christ when things are going well. We feel close to our Redeemer and profess that we will never leave Him. But when the going gets tough, as it did for the disciples in the synagogue that day, will we be one of the ones who stayed with Christ even though they didn’t like or understand what He said, or will we turn our backs on Him, and try to find another way to salvation? Being a follower of Christ does not mean we pick and choose what we like from what He tells us. St. Thomas Aquinas makes that very clear. We either walk humbly with our God, or we pridefully turn away.
Our prayer to God: Today let us fast from doubt of, anger with or confusion about God. Let us take one day to simply act justly, love mercy and walk humbly with our God. (Micah 6:8)

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