Servants of the Pierced Hearts of Jesus and Mary - Homilies

Homily for the 21st Sunday in Ordinary Time
Fr. Jonathan L. Reardon
August 26th, 2012
Year B

It is never easy to have to bear something of difficulty, whether it is a situation or criticism or a rebuke. Perhaps this is why our culture has adopted an “everybody wins” type of attitude so that no one gets hurt. I’m sure we are all familiar with the phrase “the truth hurts” and in many instances, it does. I can remember as a kid listening to my parents tell me “no” time and time again to something I wanted – it hurt, but the truth was, I didn’t need it. I can remember how much it hurt when they would discipline me not realizing then that it was for my own good. It was these instances, however, that have helped mold and shape my adult life. I owe a lot to Mom and Dad. Yet, even though at times I thought they were being harsh, I knew that neither of them would abandon me because I didn’t like what they were saying. I know now that it was so that I would mature and become a responsible and honest human being.

We often forget that God is like a parent to us. He is our Eternal Father – incidentally, this is why we address God as Father because using personal pronouns to refer to God denotes a special relationship with Him, like a father and child. There are times too, when God issues hard sayings. We are met with these hard sayings and have only two options: to follow His direction, like we would our own parents or to ignore Him and walk our own path, thinking we know best for ourselves.
In this section of St. John’s Gospel we have been reading the famous “Bread of Life Discourse” in which Jesus reveals Himself to us as food for eternal life. This presents a hardship to His listeners. It is a “hard saying” and many leave Him. After watching many of His followers walk away, Jesus turns to His disciples and asks: “do you also want to leave?”

In the same way Jesus that asks His closest disciples if they will leave Him over this hard saying, He asks us too. Many of us, I’m sure respond: “no way!” precisely because we do believe that His flesh is real food and His blood is real drink and that to partake of it leads us to heaven. But there are other “hard sayings” out there that stirs up much criticism even from the Church’s own members. What are those “hard sayings” – namely that abortion, sterilization, contraception, physician-assisted suicide are all gravely immoral; that marriage is between a man and a woman and is to be protected not redefined, that human cloning, invitro-fertilization and embryonic stem cell research are wrong. Many of us do not want to hear that if we have ever voted for or promoted any of these wrongs then we have caused grave scandal. We do not want to hear that if we take the Lord’s name in vain we commit a grave sin; that if we are in the state of grave sin then we ought not receive Holy Communion but rather go to confession beforehand. We do not want to hear these things because they are the “hard sayings” of Jesus. They are difficult to bear because they challenge us.

Yet, like a good parent, God never issues a challenge – a hard saying – to no purpose. He does so in order to lead us to freedom, as such, He teaches us to love. It is love that stands behind even the most challenging aspects of our faith. He has said these “hard sayings” through His vicars on earth – the Popes and the Bishops in union with him – these are the successors of the Apostles and in the Church they speak for Christ. As such, they have not turned away from Christ due to challenges or because of the hard truths. They thus do not call us to self-love but to a higher love – to self-less love, sacrificial love, a love that gives of oneself totally for Christ, that stands with Him in the midst of hardship, challenges and difficulty because that is precisely what Christ did for us! We thus cannot pick and chose different aspects of the faith to which we will adhere, we cannot pick the ones that are the most comfortable where “everybody wins.” Sometimes the truth hurts us but it is the same Truth that sets us free – a freedom of the heart where we know nothing but the strength and grace of Christ, that is the freedom to love.

Now, we have heard the hard sayings before, this is nothing new to us. The question set before us is whether or not we are courageous enough, bold enough to stay close to Jesus, to choose to be faithful even though we may not always understand every aspect of His teachings, even though it presents a challenge to us. May we have the courage today, in the outpouring of grace He gives to us in this Holy Eucharist, to respond with the disciples: “Master, to whom shall we go, you have the words of eternal life.”




Fr. Jon Reardon

Rev. Jonathan L. Reardon is a priest for the diocese of Springfield in Massachusetts.
He serves at Sacred Heart Parish in Pittsfield, MA.



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