And so — tell me, why do you stay?

    From the time of Joshua [Joshua 24:1-2, 15-17, 18] through the time of Jesus [John 6:60-69], until this day, people of faith have had to make a fundamental choice concerning their loyalties and their identities.  After years as desert travelers, Joshua and his followers had become “at home” in Canaan.  They had to make a choice:  would they, the people of Israel, whom God had called out of Egypt, remain faithful to their Creator and Deliver, or would they “move their letter” and worship the gods of Canaan.

In the Gospel, some of the disciples found Jesus’ teaching on the Eucharist too hard to accept and returned to their former way of life, no longer following Jesus.  So, Jesus challenged those who remained:  is your faith strong enough to take the shock, can you be rocked, and still remain faithful to me?

Many preachers will choose to avoid asking the tough questions:  why do you remain Christian?  who do you remain Catholic, [or Methodist, or Episcopalian, etc.]?  why do you remain a member of this parish/church?  BUT, whether the questions are asked or not, the fact is that people are asking these questions today!

Questions of same-gender marriage, birth control, “mortal sin”, who is worthy to partake of communion{?}, who holds the “divine truth”{?}, for whom should you vote and still be a “good” Catholic{?}, are unsettling to many serious people of faith.  Some do choose to leave their church-home, some choose a new faith-home, some give up on organized religion, and some just keep on going because they just do not want to change or they do not where else to go.

And so we ask: why do you/we stay?  or to what degree are we present and to what degree have we checked-out?

For some folks, they profess that they are with Jesus 100% —- but, when it comes to these human folks, who are seemingly in charge, not so much.

Joshua speaks with what I believe to be one of the truly classic lines of the Scripture:  “If it does not please you to serve the Lord, decide today whom you will serve, the gods your fathers served beyond the River or the gods of the Amorites in whose country you are now dwelling.  As for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.”

In the Gospel, Jesus asks the disciples in front of him, “Do you also want to leave?”  Peter makes two statements:  [1] Master, to whom shall we go?  [2] You have the words of eternal life.  We have come to believe and are convinced that you are the Holy One of God.

We all know:  Faith is a challenging process.    As our faith evolves and as our faith grows, most of us have come to believe that we can disagree without departing.  We can dissent and doubt without leaving what we believe to be our Church and our home, too.  Sometimes, it is easier to leave than to stay.

Do you stay because:  you have never thought about leaving?  you feel you are just too old to leave?  you have been here a long time, weathered storms,  built the church — and feel this IS YOUR HOME?  is it the music, the priest, the people who are here?  is it the Eucharist?  is it the comfort you got when someone died?  is it the way you remember things on the day of your wedding?  why — do — you — stay?  is it because there is no better place to go?

After all — we all know people — members of our own families — who have left the Catholic Church or all Churches — why are we here this weekend?  Are we here just in body?  or is our mind and heart here too?

I hope we are here because we remember the goodness of the Lord to each of us.  I hope we are here because  we are grateful that God has led us through tough times.  I hope we are here because we remember the mercies of God.  I hope we are here because we feel deep within us that God loves us.  I hope we are here because we love God and we know there is no other.  I hope we are here because we know that God is BIGGER THAN THE CHURCH … and the foolishness of human leaders.  I hope we are here because God has led us here and we have found God here once again.  I hope we are here because we believe that Jesus is truly present in the Eucharist and he is here to give me/us, daily bread.

The Astros are the worst team in baseball this year …. still, I watch some of most games.  I remember when times were better and I believe they will be better than they are today!

hjm

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