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Do you worry your children will give up the Faith?

August 26, 2012

Do you worry that your children might give up the faith? For many parents I know that’s already a real sadness for them.

And why are so many of our young people so reluctant to even get married, talk about getting married in church?

Do you sometimes feel that your life is made more complicated by trying to follow the Church’s teachings? Wouldn’t it just be easier to join the majority – to become a ‘pick and mix’ Catholic, to keep quiet when faced with unfair criticism, and to quietly drop the more controversial ideas the Church has, such as defending life from conception to natural death? Wouldn’t that be easier? Surely we need to realise that everyone is entitled to their own opinions and can do whatever they think makes them happy? Isn’t that why most so-called Catholics have given up taking their faith particularly seriously?

Welcome to the real world that we live in.

Are you horrified that I would suggest such outrageous things? Well, I am doing precisely what Joshua did in the first reading, what Saint Paul said in his letter to the Ephesians, and what Jesus said in today’s gospel. I’m telling it like it really is. And people don’t like that sort of talk. We heard today how Joshua, Moses’ successor, calls a constitutional conference at Shechem to decide the future of the Jewish nation after it has settled in the Promised Land. Joshua and the founding fathers were very troubled to find that the next generation were already beginning children to turn away from worshipping the True God of Abraham. This became such a problem that Joshua threw down the gauntlet: “Are you going to worship the God who brought us out of slavery, or are you going to become pagans?” Because as far as I’m concerned, I am going to worship the true God.”

What has this got to do with us? More than you might think. In declaring what we now call ‘The Covenant of Shechem’ the Jewish people made the historic decision to stay loyal to God. It was a decision that led to our own English forefathers coming to believe and worship the same True God. Without the Covenant of Shechem we wouldn’t be who we are today – it should be up there in our own history like Magna Carta. But, just as in Joshua’s time, most people today find false gods to be far more appealing than worshipping the True God – it leads to an easier, less complicated and much quieter life.

As the great Catholic writer, GK Chesterton said a hundred years ago, “The Christian ideal has not been tried and found wanting. It has been found difficult, and left untried.

Being a practicing Christian means being obedient to God and what God has taught us through His Son Jesus Christ.

Obedient? Just look at the telly to see how we worship a false god of “YOUTH”. How can you be obedient to all that the Church has learnt from our forefathers over the past 4,000 years if our culture tells us repeatedly that anything that happened before 1987 is ancient history, that anyone older than 25 is past it? The lessons of the past are rejected and lost. Don’t expect respect for the sick, weak, poor, ill and elderly in a culture where there are people campaigning for euthanasia to be legalized, and where everlasting economic growth is the god of gods. Regardless of how old you are, our culture celebrates personal morality over religious morality. Our society worships the false god of ‘relativism”, meaning that there are no absolute, God-given truths: no, everything is relative, depending on your own individual circumstances, on your own individual feelings. Look, if the Emperor Nero chooses to take part in drunken, naked parties what has that got to do with me? How can that be immoral if the emperor thinks it’s OK? If the Sun prints it?

If you are a young person, at a certain critical age, usually the early teens, this pressure of subtle, godless messages, for the first time, can become really difficult to resist. The pressure to conform to the pagan majority, the pressure from other people NOT to go to Church gets greater. Coming to Mass every Sunday begins to look unattractive. Nobody says anything out right – it’s just an embarrassing atmosphere that makes youngsters who go to church begin to doubt. It’s not the coolest thing for our young people to continue worshipping the True God. Like Lance Armstrong, they might just give up the fight. And the alternative sounds more fun – it’s not easy to resist a culture that worships a god called alcohol. Getting drunk is surely much more fun than listening to boring old men like me at mass.

Although is is a cliche and a truism, what young people need are role models. And in that respect we older people need to look at ourselves. We parents and grandparents, although we may not realise it, are the role models, and we are every bit under pressure as our young people, immersed in a society selling us false message, and without realizing it, we swallow a lot of the rubbish. There is nothing at all new in this. It is so much easier to go along with the crowd.

And so it is that people begin to skip the occasional mass. It’s so much easier. Nobody notices, do they? Oh yes they do notice. Oh yes, our young people are very good at picking up the vibes. If adults at home are in conflict, stressed out by the distractions of modern life, oh yes, the children notice.

This leads me to the second reading. Saint Paul is explaining what it means to be a married Christian. A widely misunderstood passage, Saint Paul speaks bluntly. But today, as we know, defence of marriage is ‘intolerable language’. Suggesting that all the evidence shows that the best place to have and raise children is within a stable, loving relationship between a man and woman is “intolerable language”. Indeed, people use today’s passage from Paul to attack the Church. They say that it’s intolerable language for Paul to suggest that wives should submit to their husbands.

Submit? Outrageous. Intolerable. This is a gleeful misunderstanding of what Paul actually says. It’s a difficult concept to translate from the original Greek and Latin into modern English, but Saint Paul  is saying that wives should ‘submit’, be sub missio in Latin, meaning they should put themselves under their husband’s mission. And what is that mission? It is that, quote, “Husbands should love their wives just as Christ loved the Church and sacrificed himself for her to make her holy.” In other words, both husband and wife should love one another, and the wives should allow their husbands to devote themselves to loving their wives. This is very different to a woman making herself a doormat and drudge, with a domineering, bullying thug of a husband.

And so to todays third example of the brutal truth being spoken and being rejected. We sometimes make the mistake of thinking that in biblical times it was so much easier to get people to become Christians:

  • They were so much more naïve;
  • so gullible;
  • they did as they were told;
  • they were uneducated;
  • they didn’t have anything else to do.

Rubbish, rubbish, rubbish on all counts. It’s not true. People don’t change.

Even Jesus had problems convincing people of the truth of His message. Jesus, like Joshua, places an uncomfortable Truth in front of people. And they didn’t like it. We are told that after hearing Jesus teaching, many of the people said that Jesus had used “intolerable language” and questioned how anyone could accept it?’

But what on earth was it that Jesus was saying that was so intolerable? It’s the climax of the gospel from John over the last few Sundays. Jesus is saying that He is the Bread of Life, that the bread that He shall give is His flesh; He says, “My flesh is real food and my blood is real drink.”

Oh my goodness. No wonder the earliest Christians were accused of cannibalism.

In today’s gospel Jesus explains that this real food and drink, this real flesh and blood, is spiritual food and drink, a gift from God that guarantees eternal life. This was just too much for some of His followers. They left, presumably to find what they felt would be a more acceptable way to sharing eternal life with God. It is what happened in Europe, 500 years ago, when the fashionable and clever people rejected the authority and teaching of the Church. It was too hard for them. It was just asking too much for people to be obedient to the Church and to accept the doctrine of the True Presence of Christ. They rejected the central truth of the Eucharist and substituted it with something that was merely a symbolic shadow of the truth.

And what did Jesus do when he saw his followers wanting to turn the Eucharistic sacrifice into a symbolic community meal? Did he call them back and say, “Hold on. I mis-spoke. I got carried away. I didn’t mean my true flesh and blood. I was only being symbolic. Come back. It was a misunderstanding.”?

No Jesus did not say that!

He asked his inner circle of Apostles what they were going to do.

And at the end, as usual, it is Peter who comes out with the straight talk. Peter didn’t pull his punches. He came straight out with it. “We’re sticking with you, no matter how hard it might be to understand what you’re on about. Why? Because we believe you are the Holy One of God.”

And that’s why we’re all here in Mass too. It’s not easy, but by coming here weekly to worship God, we’re making a bold statement like Joshua, Paul and Peter. What we’re saying as Catholics to the wider world is “intolerable language” to many people. But deep down, we know that we are doing the right thing.

And that can only be good for us and for our children.

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