Last week in the first installment of our new message series, Faith Answering Questions, we learned why there are no women priests, how Catholics view other religious traditions, and the reason my homilies are so long. Over the next couple of weeks, we’ll continue to answer your challenging, controversial, and interesting questions about the Catholic faith.
Even as we explore specific aspects of Church teaching, we’ll also be learning something about the nature of faith itself. We considered last week the fact that faith often grows through a process of questioning and doubt. Even as the crowd around Jesus recoiled at his claim that he was the bread of life come down from heaven, he nevertheless was able to lead his closest disciples to a new level of understanding.
The readings this week suggest that faith, at some point in the process of questioning, eventually must come to trust in the answers faith provides. After listening to his claims, challenging him, murmuring against him, and quarreling among themselves about him, many of Jesus’ disciples in open rebellion “returned to their former way of life and no longer accompanied him” (John 6:66). Jesus then turned to his inner circle and asked if they also wished to leave. Though perhaps still not fully comprehending his teaching, Peter’s response demonstrates his complete trust in the person of Christ: “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 6:68-69).
In my first year of seminary, I was assigned to teach a class on Catholicism at a local parish. During one session, a woman said that she had been praying that the Church’s teaching on certain topics one day would change in order to align with modern viewpoints. I gently suggested that she also should pray that perhaps her viewpoint one day might evolve to align with the Church’s teaching.
As Peter’s response to the mutiny against Jesus demonstrates, the power to believe is rooted in an openness to trust in Christ and the Church he established. Given the recent reopening of old wounds in scandals that continue to rock the Church, it may be difficult to trust in what its leaders teach. Indeed, the “episcopal negligence and malfeasance in the face of clerical sexual abuse” is nothing short of “reprehensible” (Archbishop Cordileone’s Letter on National Revelations of Child Abuse, August 17, 2018).
At the same time as we rightly condemn the evil and despicable actions of some within the Church, we cannot let them derail the critical and life-changing work of preaching the gospel and bringing the truth of Christ to others. As Joshua said to the ancient Israelites in the first reading, “Decide today whom you will serve. . . . As for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.”
--Father Roger Gustafson, Pastor
Father Roger Gustafson