Homily for May 13, Friday of the III week of Easter
Some of the key teachings of Christ are, and have always been and will be, controversial. In the Gospel reading today, when Jesus speaks of people eating His Flesh and drinking His Blood, the people who hear Him are understandably disturbed, and quarrel among themselves as to what Jesus can mean and how He can say such things.
This teaching on the Eucharist, together with Jesus’ claim to be the Son of God, are just two of the most prominent controversial things that Jesus said. It’s really no surprise that the religious authorities set out to eradicate Jesus’s teachings from the Jewish community. Many of the leaders – including the man then known as Saul – sincerely believed that Christian teachings were dangerous and heretical, and they reacted according to the standards of the age, with violent oppression.
However, as Saul soon discovered in the episode recounted in the first reading today, that reaction to Christ’s teaching was a mistake, because Jesus truly was the Son of God, and His words were true. It came as quite a shock to Saul, known from then on as Paul, and it took an encounter with the risen Lord for Saul to believe in Him. But, once he knew that even the most controversial teachings of Christ were truths to be held and cherished, he was unstoppable in preaching the Gospel. He taught all aspects of the faith, but he made it a special point to conserve and hand on the doctrine of the Eucharist as being of particular importance.
Today, even basic teachings of the Church, that are just reaffirmations of truths that can be known by reason alone, are controversial. Our culture is losing sight of fundamental truths in a haze of relativism. As a result, Catholic institutions are facing various forms of discrimination and persecution. Like St Paul, we need to make it a point to know the teachings of the Church and to understand their basis in Scripture and in natural reasoning, so we can defend and explain these truths when they are challenged. We won’t always be able to win people over, but with God’s grace we may be able to open a few people’s eyes, or at least gain the respect that is due to our faith.
And we should also remember to thank God for these controversial teachings, because they are also great gifts from God. They seem radical, because God’s love is radical. God goes to almost literally unbelievable lengths to guide us on the road to salvation. As we celebrate the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, let us pray that God may grant the gift of faith to many, many more people, especially to those members of our friends and families who have never known Christ or who have strayed from His friendship.