Dear Brothers and Sisters,
We hear in today’s Gospel: “Many of His disciples returned to their former way of life and no longer accompanied Him.” The reason: They heard His teaching and what it demands of them. Tragically, they could not accept it. The Sacred Scriptures tell us that many of Jesus’ followers walked away because they found His teaching “too difficult”. Jesus then focuses on His closest followers. Looking at Peter, Jesus asks him, “Do you also want to leave?” Peter responds “no”, but then he asks Our Lord this important question: “To whom can we go?” Peter seems to be saying, “When I look at the other possibilities, you are still the best option. Among all the choices out there, you are my first choice.”
Now, this response of Peter should echo in our own lives because sometimes we find ourselves in situations that are challenging, and yet, when we take an honest look at the other possibilities, it may seem better to remain in the current situation rather than walk away.
Let’s look at marriage. Perhaps the person you married seems different from the person you promised to be with until death do you part. Maybe that person is more selfish, less sensitive, less willing to speak openly about their hopes, their fears. You recognize that to make this marriage work, it will take a tremendous amount of effort. You may ask yourself, “Is it simpler to walk away?” The hope is that you realize there is still love between you, that there are children and grandchildren, that there is a shared history, that you have been through so much together and hopefully you come to see that there would be more life to stay and make the marriage work than to leave it all behind. Some Catholics might be thinking similar questions in terms of their faith. After seeing problems in the Church, whether it be with the hierarchy or with a fellow parishioner, it is understandable to see why a person might say, “I want to leave the Church.” There is another question that needs to be asked as well. I think it is important to include the question: “Is there still something in the Church that is life-giving enough to make it worthy of my participation?” Let me suggest two things that are.
Being a part of the Church gives faithful Catholics a voice to speak up for what is true and good and beautiful in our world. It is the Church that speaks most clearly about the Gospel of Jesus Christ in a way that positively impacts our culture. Being a part of the Church enables us to grow as a community of faith, hope and love. Most importantly, being a part of the Church enables us to come together to receive Our Lord in His Sacraments, especially Holy Communion, Our Lord’s promise of eternal life. The Church enables us to pray, to learn, and to serve others in Jesus’ name unlike another entity in the whole world. In the Church, we can continue to grow with our children as part of a parish family. These are real blessings, blessings that are still present even with all our imperfections.
At various times, each one of us may have to decide, “Am I going to stay or am I going to leave?” I have decided to stay with the Church because of the life that Our Lord offers in and through His Church. As we come together to hear His word, to receive His Body and Blood, to grow in wisdom and faith, and to serve others in need, we become the saints we are called to be. That is why I will stay with the Church. Simon Peter said to Our Lord, “You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe and are convinced that you are the Holy One of God.” May each of us be able to say the same.BACK TO LIST