It's all about Christ!
21st Sunday in Ordinary Time (Cycle B)

Doug McManaman
Reproduced with Permission

Simon Peter answered: "Master, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life."

To whom shall we go? This is an expression of the mind of the Church; there is no one to whom we can go, because Christ has the words of eternal life. He is final. He is the Alpha, the beginning, and the Omega, the end. There is no going beyond Jesus. John the Baptist sent two of his own disciples to Jesus to ask him: "Are you he who is to come, or shall we look for another?" Jesus answered them: "Go and report to John what you have heard and seen: the blind see, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead rise, the poor have the gospel preached to them. And blessed is he who is not scandalized in me" (Mt 11, 3). In other words, there is no need to look for another.

Christ restores life, because he has the words of eternal life. He is God in the flesh. What is more, he gives us his flesh and his blood so that we may nourish off of him, so that we may continually have that new life, divine life, within us.

But some found this difficult: that God, who is eternal, the beginning and the end, is now a son of man, Jesus of Nazareth, here in this one individual of a Jewish identity, that he is God made man, and that he gives us his flesh to eat and his blood to drink.

Some chose to believe, and some chose not to believe. The faith of the Church is there, expressed in Peter's words: "To whom shall we go?" If Christ is God, then there is no one to whom we can go who has anything but a human word and a passing life to impart. Outside of Christ, there is nothing, nowhere to go. Wherever you have the Church, you have that faith; for that is the faith of the Church.

But some still find this far too difficult. Things have not changed at all in this respect in 2000 years. There are people who have been educated by the Church, had their education paid for by the Church, have been taken care of by the Church, but who found this teaching too difficult and have departed from the faith of the Church.

Two years ago at this time, at the annual Leadership Conference of Women Religious in the United States (Aug, 2007), Sister Laurie Brink, a Dominican nun, proposed a possible direction for Religious Congregations of Sisters, one that, in her words, "moves beyond the Church, even beyond Jesus". She calls this "a sojourning congregation that has grown beyond the bounds of institutional religion, beyond the bounds of the Jesus narrative," which she says "is not the most important narrative." She continues: "Jesus is not the only son of God." She then asks: "Who's to say that the movement beyond Christ is not, in reality, a movement into the heart of God?"

Who's to say? Simon Peter: "Master, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe and know that you are the Holy One of God."

I have to say I find it providential that this particular sister's surname is "Brink", a word that, in the English language, has been associated with the word "disaster". Her proposal is disastrous; for it amounts to a complete loss of faith in the Person of Jesus.

In Wales there were two brothers in the seminary together, both studying for the priesthood. The two of them were ordained together, but the one brother eventually left the priesthood. He became a complete atheist and there was nothing the other brother could do about it. Years later, the atheist brother suffered a brain aneurysm. He was in the hospital, in a coma, and he was not going to live. The brother who remained faithful to his priesthood was there next to the bed, praying the rosary. The graces of the anointing of the Sick must have gone to work, something was happening while he was in a coma, because at one point the dying brother sat up in bed, eyes wide open, turned to his brother and said: "It's all about Christ! Go and tell the whole world!" Then he lay back down and died.

His last words. He had the opportunity to say one last thing, to leave a final testament to the world. He could have said anything. He said what he finally came to learn: "It's all about Christ! Go and tell the whole world!"

Our life here is all about allowing ourselves to become one flesh in the Person of Christ, so that it is no longer we who live, but Christ who lives in us. St. Catherine of Siena said that God loves each one of us as if there is only one of us. Love desires to live in the beloved. And Christ loves us so much that he desires to enter into us, to live in us. That is why he gives us his flesh and blood as food and drink.

The best thing we can do for other people, the best thing we can do for the world, is to allow Christ to possess us so completely that we have become Christ in our home and in the work place, so that at the end of their lives, others will realize that they knew Christ all along, they knew his personality, they were familiar with his character, all as a result of knowing you.

That is what the Second Reading today is about. He addresses husbands and exhorts them to allow themselves to be Christ in their marriages, so that their wives will know Christ in knowing their husbands. He says: "Husbands, love your wives just as Christ loved the Church."

How did Christ love his bride, the Church? He said: "I have come to serve, not to be served." The role of the husband is to serve his wife, not allow her to be his servant. Just as Christ came for the sake of his bride, the Church, the life of the husband is to be ordered towards his wife.

For those here who are married, marriage is the specific way that God is calling you to love Him in return. If He is calling you to married life, He is calling you to love Him in loving your husband or your wife.

Marriage is a noble and holy vocation. And it is difficult, because love is difficult. But marriage is an institution that is on the decline in North America, as it is in Scandinavian countries, because we live in a culture that values convenience, ease, and feeling good above all other things.

But life is not about pleasure and convenience. It is about something eternal. It is all about Christ. The eternal Person of the Son descended, entered into space and time, and it is up to us to allow him to descend right into us in order that he may live in us and love those who are in our lives, to love them through us.

And we do this not by acting as we might imagine Jesus would act. It is not about playing a role. Rather, we do this by eating his flesh and blood in the Eucharist and through a devoted prayer life, one in which you ask him first and foremost to allow you to know through experience the love that He has for you. It's all about allowing Him to love you, to show you the love that He has for you as if you are the only beloved.