All or nothing

Al Cariño
August 24, 2003
Reproduced with Permission

The gospel reading talks about the effect Jesus' teaching on the Eucharist on His disciples (Jn. 6: 60-69). Towards the end of His discourse on the Bread of Life, Jesus said, "Amen, amen, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you do not have life within you.... For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink." Hearing this, the crowd including some of Jesus' disciples said, "This saying is hard; who can accept it?" Then we read one of the saddest lines in the Bible: "As a result of this, many of his disciples returned to their former way of life and no longer accompanied him."

Jesus did not prevent from leaving those who could not accept His teaching on the Eucharist since He could not compromise on something as important for the Church He was about to found. When He saw them depart, He turned to His twelve apostles and asked them, "Do you also want to leave?" Simon Peter, speaking in behalf of the group, said, "Master, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life." In short, except for the twelve apostles, all were scandalized at this teaching. But the apostles were not about to abandon Jesus as had already touched their lives in more ways than one.

Different times have different challenges. It was Jesus' teaching on the Eucharist at that particular stage of His public ministry. In our time, the teachings of the Church on marriage and on the morally acceptable means of controlling population are under attack worldwide, including in the Philippines. Some of the reasons advanced in their defense are:

The Church counters that poverty is not the result of large families and populations but of a country's inequitable distribution of its national resources. As regards large families, the Church has appealed to scientists to come up with more effective means -- but which at the same time respects nature's processes -- to reduce birth. The Church insists on this since when it comes to the question of faith and morals, she cannot in any way compromise in the same way that Jesus could not compromise with His teaching on the Eucharist.

More concretely, the Church is not like a department store or a cafeteria where one can choose what he wants to buy or eat. For as far as the official teachings of the Church on faith and morals are concerned, it has always been, is, and will always be "all or nothing." It is for this reason that the Church is often branded as "conservative". She is specially such as regard her teachings on marriage - between a man and a woman and never between two people of the same sex, its unity and indissolubility - and against contraceptives and abortion as means of reducing population and of upholding an individual's right to choose. As is obvious, the Church is not in the popularity nor rating game.

Catholics who refuse to accept the Church's teachings want to make her in their "image and likeness." Or they may just act in the same way as did the crowd in reaction to Jesus' teaching on the Eucharist: "This is a hard teaching. Who can accept it?" When Catholics do this, they are in effect turning their backs on the Church and ultimately on Jesus Christ Himself.

Let us pray that all married people will value their marriage "till death do us part." Let us pray that all women who are carrying a child in their womb will love that child and excitedly await its birth, knowing that every child is a gift -- and never a burden -- from God. Let us pray that God will extend His forgiveness and mercy on the countless numbers of mothers who have resorted to aborting "the flesh of their flesh". Finally, let us pray that peoples and their governments will always be on the side of life (pro life) rather than on the side of death (pro choice) vis-a-vis the moral issues related to the "right to choose."

Let us do all these with faith in God's power because like the twelve apostles, we have made Peter's words also our own, "Master, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life."