John 3:16; “God so loved the world, that He gave His only son…” If I were a betting man, I would bet this is this is probably one of the most often utilized Scripture reference. I imagine that most people that hold up signs at sporting events or otherwise highlight this as their favorite verse, know what this verse is (I have met a few who did not though). God so loving the world – is beautiful! No doubt about it, but the rest of the verse ought to impact us deeply too, as should the verses that follow (3:16-21). These verses connect very closely to our parable in today’s Gospel and ought to impact us to our very core. It happens that we can and often do become complacent, apathetic, lukewarm in our faith. God does love the world which is why He gave us prophets, legitimate apparitions and most importantly His Son. And the fate of the prophet of the past, might be our fate! Why, because after the Lord came, we ought now take on the role of prophet as we are the new generation of prophets! Would anyone know that about you? Would they know it about me?
Throughout human history, God has spoken directly to us. The prophets and even for us the apparitions which we have received may impact us for a time but then we get on with our life and forget about them. Jesus, Son of God came into the world and while we can certainly say as Christians we acknowledge that and accept that He is the Son of God and perhaps we aren’t the tenants who killed the Son – we must indict ourselves if we’ve stood by and watched as someone else has. What I mean by this is that there are times we are going to have to fight for our faith. There are times when we are going to have to make choices that are not popular that may lead us to be ostracized, ridiculed or mistreated by others because we live in a culture and society where angry atheism, secularism and anti-religious sentiments coexist. Coexisting doesn’t always mean in peace and without conflict. It doesn’t mean compromising our moral or ethical principles or adapting them so we all coexist peacefully. It doesn’t mean hurting other people, condemning them or getting up on a moral high-horse either. It means standing for something rather than little or nothing.
We need to absolutely love being Christians, we need to know that being a Christian means we are constantly seeking to know the Lord Jesus better every day and trying to be like Him in all ways. We start with the Gospels, we allow the Sacraments to saturate and permeate our souls. We reflect upon our Baptism and draw strength from our Confirmation – and as we gain knowledge, wisdom and strength – we go out and set the world on fire with love, but love that means something! Love that stands for something! Love that isn’t watered down by our own agenda or an overriding desire to be liked by everyone because that’s not love. It’s time for us all to move from the sidelines and move into the forefront of being messengers or prophets of God, come what may!
I often speak of my conversion experience and my becoming a Catholic (many years ago now). A few months before “taking the plunge”, I was challenged by my RCIA Coordinator in a way that saw me almost walk away from my becoming Catholic right there. It was customary for catechumens, such as I was, to have a meeting with the RCIA team and when asked about my personal understanding and belief about the Eucharist, I could not or would not accept that the bread and wine actually and truly became the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ. We had a very short conversation with follow-up questions but in the end I was told in no uncertain terms that “if I did not believe what the Church teaches here, I could not go forward and become a Catholic”. My sponsor helped me keep it together, one of my priests took the time to explain everything to me and to talk with me (for nearly three hours) and at the end of it all, I still did not believe!
Every explanation given, every logical argument made could not and did not bring me to a place of assenting to this truth. The priest left me with the linchpin for this dilemma or crisis I was having; he told me that he had given me all the apologetic and Scripture-based arguments and explanations that he could give me and he told me that I should not set my intellect or reason aside for this matter either, but that our logic, intellect and reason could only bring us so far. This was a matter of faith, and I had to ask God to take me the rest of the way. I had to pray about this and understand that love is at the root of the Eucharist.
For years, first as a seminarian and then as a priest I have told this story because I did not set aside my doubts or concerns, but I do know that the Lord gave me what I needed, as He will us all! I believe wholeheartedly in the Real Presence and I stake my life on it now. I can’t completely explain it but I believe it; on this among other things “I walk by faith and not by sight ( )”.
This was once again tested when I was a parish priest and one of the parents of a child receiving First Holy Communion told me that their child was told by someone that the Eucharist wasn’t really the Body and Blood of Jesus. In an instant and because there might have been others who heard the same thing, I had to talk about this with the children. I talked about prayer and asking Jesus to help them understand this. I also talked about how the Real Presence is rooted in Jesus’ love for us. We find real, physical tangible ways to express our love for those whom we love, and more than anything; this is at the heart of the Real Presence of Jesus Christ in the Holy Eucharist, the Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity we celebrate each time we come to Holy Mass.
Jesus, Son of the Living God have mercy on me and continue to reveal to me and deepen within me a true devotion to Your Body and Blood in the Holy Eucharist.
I was baptized and received into the Catholic Church in 2003, some fifteen years ago now and in that time, I have met some amazing people doing amazing things as committed Christians, loving as they are called to love, raising families, ministering, living their lives and their vocations in so many different and powerful ways. I am edified by Christians most days and in so many ways these people (others too of course) make me want to be a better man! How empty these words of mine are to be, unless they are tested in some kind of way. How noble sounding these sentiments are unless I am prepared to live them as a Christian, come what may. I have met the best Christians and they are an example for me of living and committed faith, sacrificing and standing firm in the faith that has given them everything including surely the persecutions or denial as well. What we endure here is relatively light persecution, as secularism and a distaste for religious belief may make us feel ridiculed or uneasy about sharing our faith publicly. Others have it much worse, but whatever persecution or torment we receive for being Christian, it is a test for us we hope we pass “when the rubber hits the road”.
No one told me that being a Christian was going to be easy, although there have been times I have to confess that I expected them and wanted them to be. On my prayerful days when I am more intimately and profoundly connected to Jesus, I realize the importance of surrendering my own willful desires and making the necessary sacrifices asked of me as a Christian – but that is not every hour of every day, I hate to say. It’s important for us to seek that communion with God at all times, so we are doing the Will of the Father, by whose authority we live and love and give as Christians, as often as we can. We will be tested, as Jesus is tested in today’s Gospel. We must be ready for that test. We needn’t answer the question, just as Jesus doesn’t answer this question (because it’s a misguided and malicious question meant to trap Him anyway) but we needn’t answer it because it should be an occasion for us to reflect for ourselves upon why we are doing what we do – is it for Jesus? Or is it for ourselves? Let the answer be, as best as we are able to make it, that we do all things for Jesus and His Church, His people.
We pray for the strength and courage today, to be Christians in mind, heart and soul. We pray also to give firm and constant witness to our faith even through our suffering. Sts. Marcellinus and Peter, pray for us!