FROM THE SERVANT GENERAL
THE WAY FORWARD IN CHRIST
THE HARD SAYINGS OF JESUS
April 16, 2016
Today’s gospel: John 6:60-69
Jesus told his disciples that they would have to eat his body and drink his blood if they are to have eternal life. That of course was shocking. “Does this shock you?” (v.61). If you really understand that Jesus literally means eating his flesh and drinking his blood, you would be shocked too. Are we to become cannibals? So “many of his disciples who were listening said, ‘This saying is hard; who can accept it?” (v.60). They could not accept his hard saying and so would have nothing more to do with him. “As a result of this, many of his disciples returned to their former way of life and no longer accompanied him.” (v.66).
It is the same way with many Catholics today. Not so much with regard to the Eucharist, because many of them do not understand it, and many just mindlessly receive holy Communion, not even being challenged with the reality that the host is the very body of Christ. But many today reject or ignore the hard teachings of Jesus.
As just a small sampling:
- Love your enemies.
- Renounce all your possessions.
- When slapped, turn the other cheek.
- Rejoice in suffering.
- Deny yourself and embrace your cross.
- Boast of your weakness.
- Consider others more important than yourselves.
- Forgive without limit.
- Put up with injustice.
- There is joy in sorrow.
There are many more! Most Christians do not know about the authentic teaching of Jesus, preferring to just be content with a so-called personal relationship with him, being comfortable in enjoying his love and mercy, and trying to get to heaven in first-class comfort.
Why do they not know? First, because they do not read the Bible! Second, because they do read but skip over the hard teachings. Third, because they do not skip over but try to explain away what Jesus is saying.
But when actually confronted with Jesus’ teaching in a difficult and challenging situation that they find themselves in, when counseled about the proper responses to the painful thing that is happening to them, many Christians reject the way of Jesus. But confronted with it, they would then choose to fall away, to lie low, to find a more sympathetic ear, to not be challenged in their comfortable Christianity. Then they would find themselves turning to the wisdom of the world and succumbing to the inclinations of the flesh. Then, not facing and accepting the hard teaching of Jesus, they would fall away. “It is the spirit that gives life, while the flesh is of no avail. The words I have spoken to you are spirit and life.” (v.63).
The words Jesus has spoken to us are spirit and life! They are hard, difficult, challenging, and humanly impossible. But they must be lived out if one is to truly live Christ, experience the fullness of salvation, and make it to heaven. “Master, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.” (v.68).
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Please read my book “Forty Days of Challenge in the Christian Life.” It talks about and explains 40 hard teachings of Jesus. Many do not know them and are not living them out. But if our call is to holiness and Christian perfection, if we are to be like Christ, nay, another Christ, then we must face and ultimately embrace the hard teachings of Jesus. Are you bold enough? Or “Do you also want to leave?” (v.67).
By the way, each of the 40 articles ends with a starter for reflection or discussion. This book, with all articles based on the Bible, would be a good companion in your prayer time. Take yourself to your own personal 40-day retreat, in the comfort of your home.
The articles can, and actually should, be taken up in household meetings. Some of our Household Servants complain that they have no topics to take up. Well, here are 40 very relevant topics. I don’t say you have to take them all up in your households, as there should be other dynamics, but there is enough material here for over one year of meetings. If you take these up once a month, you have enough for four years.
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Here is the Conclusion to the book.
The Christian life is an extremely challenging life, having the highest ideals, being almost impossible to live out. But this is just fitting for a perfect God, and for those of us who are His children. Can God expect anything less from His own children?
Unfortunately, there are very many Christians today who do not know what is expected of them. They do not realize the high calling expected of them. They do not understand the ways of God. Much less are Christians today striving to meet the challenges of a life in Christ.
What are these challenges? To rest on God. To empty self. To look to others. To do the work of God. To embrace the cross. To work at perfection. What people in this world, including Christians, are rather doing is the opposite. They are depending on their own abilities and strength. They are filling themselves up with the things the world offers, including all the filth. They selfishly look to themselves and neglect the need and good of others. They are busy engaged in their own desires and priorities rather than serving God and the Kingdom. They strive for comfort, convenience, personal satisfaction, a life of leisure, even hedonism, rather than joyfully embracing the cross. They remain the imperfect and sinful creatures that they have become, unmindful of God’s call to Christian perfection.
Some Christians might say this is too much of an indictment, that indeed they are striving to live good and righteous lives. But how hard are they striving? How high are they aiming for? Have they confronted the hard teachings of the gospel? Are they understanding and facing squarely the challenges of the Christian life?
We are called to be holy as God is holy, to embrace the cross of our Lord Jesus, to love our enemies, to rejoice in affliction, to be perfect as the heavenly Father is perfect. These are what define the true Christian. This is the true faith. This is what it means to live Christ.
“Examine yourselves to see whether you are living in faith. Test yourselves. Do you not realize that Jesus Christ is in you?—unless, of course, you fail the test.” (2 Cor 13:5).
I pray that you do pass the test.
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