Saturday, April 28, 2007

Peter speaks up . . .

The Gospel readings at Mass this week have been from the great "bread of life" discourse in chapter 6 of John's gospel, the "hard" sayings of Jesus which caused many to abandon him.
As a result of this, many of his disciples returned to their former way of life and no longer walked with him. (John 6:66)
One concerned with the kinds of things that often concern me thinks in this context of the return to a former way of life that is happening now across the board in Western culture. If the early followers of Jesus were shocked by the profane procedure Christ chose to make himself available to those living in other places and other ages, we in our time turn away for almost no reason at all. Call it lukewarmness, a condition for which both Jesus and Dante express the greatest contempt.

In the face of such a dramatic loss of public appeal, something that Jesus' closest disciples (especially Peter) might have regarded as fatal to his mission, Jesus turns to the bewildered "remnant' (always the key to a vibrant biblical faith):
Jesus then said to the Twelve, “Do you also want to leave?” Simon Peter answered him, “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.” (John 6:67-69)
If, on hearing the account of Jesus' loss of disciples, I was reminded of events in the Western world today, and especially in Europe, on hearing the verses that follow it, I am reminded of the truly extraordinary efforts of Peter's apostolic heir, Benedict XVI, who has taken every opportunity to remind us that there is simply nowhere else to turn if we expect to salvage anything resembling Western civilization and make its blessings available to our children and grandchildren.

If, in good biblical fashion, I take the liberty of combining verses from two hymns, containing, respectively, the rock-hard truth and the effervescent joy that accompanies its embrace -- precisely the combination that Benedict has repeatedly emphasized, I would leave it at this:
On Christ, the solid Rock, I stand.
All other ground is sinking sand,
All other ground is sinking sand.
. . .
No storm can shake my inmost calm while to that rock I’m clinging
Since Love is lord of heaven and earth, how can I keep from singing?

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