While much of the discussion of the Mass readings for this 21st Sunday in Ordinary Time focuses on the second reading from the fifth chapter of St. Paul’s Letter to the Ephesians, with it’s talk of submission, I think today’s Gospel shouldn’t be overlooked.
I particular, I think the end of the sixth chapter of John’s Gospel should provide consolation to every priest and deacon who’s ever given a homily or teaching that’s fallen flat.
Imagine: Jesus has just laid out for his disciples the awesome reality of the Eucharist–the source and summit of the Christian life and the centerpiece of Christian faith and worship for the rest of time. And what was their reaction? Most of his disciples walked out on him, unable to accept what this man they’d been calling messiah and teacher was telling them. And as for the rest,cell, Peter sums it up on their behalf, saying essentially, We don’t know what to make of this crazy talk but we trust you so we’ll stick around. That is, unless you can find someone else with the words of eternal life but who doesn’t have crazy “eat my flesh” teachings.
Even Jesus seems resigned to losing them all as a result of preaching the truth: Will you leave me too? It’s like he expects them to.
Again, this should console every Christian preacher and teacher, every bishop, priest and deacon. Get up and preach the hard truths. Don’t water it down, don’t apologize for it. Some will walk away angry. Some will stay, confused but loyal. And some few may actually understand. But whatever the case rest assured you aren’t the first to go there. It even happened to God.
N.B. We did have an awesome homily on Ephesians 5 today by Fr. Matt, the priest in residence at our parish who is the director of the archdiocesan Office for the New Evangelization of Youth and Young Adults. Among other things, he incorporated the 1986 Peter Cetera hit “The Glory of Love”, especially these lyrics:
I’m a man who will fight for your honor/
I’ll be the hero you’re dreaming of/
We’ll live forever/
Knowing together that/
We did it all for the glory of love
He said this is both what a Christian husband says to his wife and what Christ says to us.
Then Fr. Matt gently castigated those who are uncomfortable with Ephesians 5 but have no trouble with reading 50 Shades of Grey, which really does demean and subjugate a woman.
He hit this one out of the ballpark. And did so despite the fact that Anthony bolted from the pew in the middle of the homily to find his mother who was with Ben in the back of the church. But that’s another story.