Since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us rid ourselves of every burden and sin that clings to us and persevere in running the race that lies before us while keeping our eyes fixed on Jesus, the leader and perfecter of faith.
To know, love and serve the Lord Jesus is to belong to the Church. To belong to the Church you must know, love and serve the Lord Jesus. You couldn't bear it otherwise.
Jesus will always remain supremely attractive to everyone who hears of him. It's fascinating to discover the number and variety of disparate groups who claim to know and understand Jesus. "He is one of us!" say feminists and gays and Christians and Muslims and Jews. People who have not darkened the door of a church in fifty years will insist they believe in him.
But they want nothing to do with the Church.
It would be easy to blame the Church for that. A second century author complained that, if only believers acted like they believe, the whole world would be converted by now! In the second century! What excuse can we offer nineteen centuries later?
The challenge of Jesus, the crisis which Saint John's Gospel describes with such intensity, is to allow his love for me and for others to direct my vision, enlighten my eyes, and open my heart to others. I must see as God sees, listen as God listens, and welcome as God welcomes.
That's impossible, of course, but the Love of God makes the impossible easy. (Just as, without the love of God, the easy is impossible.)
|"He can run....|
Very often, in dealing with others -- what an awful expression -- I discover every burden and sin that clings to me. It's because I deal with others instead of caring for and with others that sin shadows my every step.
We are introduced to the Church through Baptism and maintain our membership through the sacraments of Eucharist, Penance, Marriage and Orders. These sacraments address our relations with one another. They reveal our sins.
Just ask any married couple whether they discovered unexpected depths of sheer meanness in themselves through their relationship. Many people cannot bear the revelation and flee from it as if they might escape themselves through divorce. As Joe Louis said of Billy Conn, "He can run but he can't hide."
People may hide in marriage or the priesthood or the Church for a while but things always come out. That is how we discover God's unearned, undeserved and unqualified love for us. Where we thought we could not be loved, the Lord has found us out, forgiven and healed us.
And so we keep our eyes fixed on Jesus, the leader and perfecter of faith. Only he can make the pain of revelation bearable; the sadness of sin, joyous; and the discomfort of membership in his Body the Church, delightful.