“Lord, to whom shall we go?”
We are in wait. We have just celebrated Good Friday of the Lord’s Passion, and tonight we will hold vigil to celebrate our Lord’s resurrection. At the Easter Vigil, whose who have spent time going to RCIA classes in preparation, will be baptized, confirmed, receive their first Holy Communion, or all three. It is an incredibly joyful time. This weekend, whether you attend the Easter Vigil, or attend Mass on Sunday, you will renew your baptismal promises. The Priest will ask in question and answer format the tenants of the Creed. Among these, we are asked if we believe in the Holy Catholic Church.
When we say “I do,” we say it not just to the Church in what She believes and holds as true, as well as the authority of the Holy Father, but we say “I do” to Jesus Christ. We say “I do” to what he taught us. The Church has never and will never teach as doctrine what is morally sinful or erroneous. She teaches what Christ taught us, and She is the sole guardian and protector of what what He teaches, for Christ has said to St. Peter “Truly, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven” (Matthew 18:18). When we reject and disagree with what the Church teaches in the name of our own personal convictions, we are rejecting Christ and what He has done for us on the Cross by rejecting the Church which He established. We are breaking our baptismal promises.
St. Paul tells us:
Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life. (Romans 6:3-4)
I spent some time on Good Friday reading the Gospel. On Good Friday, the Gospel reading was from the Gospel of St. John, chapters 18 and 19. The very beginning of chapter 18 says, “When Jesus had spoken these words, he went forth with his disciples across the Kidron valley, where there was a garden, which he and his disciples entered” (John 18:1). We know that from here, it goes into Jesus’ agony in the garden, followed by His betrayal, scourging, carrying of the cross, and crucifixion. In my reading, I was drawn to find out, what words did he speak?
…He lifted up his eyes to heaven and said, “Father, the hour has come; glorify thy Son that the Son may glorify thee, since thou hast given him power over all flesh, to give eternal life to all whom thou hast given him.
…”I do not pray for these only (The apostles), but also for those who believe in me through their word, that they may all be one; even as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that thou hast sent me. The glory which thou hast given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, I in them and thou in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that thou hast sent me and hast loved them even as thou hast loved me. Father, I desire that they also, whom thou hast given me, may be with me where I am, to behold my glory which thou hast given me in thy love for me before the foundation of the world. (Emphasis mine) O righteous Father, the world has not known thee, but I have known thee; and these know that thou hast sent me. I made known to them thy name, and I will make it known, that the love with which thou hast loved me may be in them, and I in them.” (John 17:1-2,20-26)
That which I have italicized, is about us, the baptized. Our Lord wants us to be one with Him so badly that He gave every last drop of this blood for us, and for each of us personally. St. Gregory Nazianzen says that “These three things God requires of all the Baptized: right faith in the heart, truth on the tongue, temperance in the body.” When we reject the Church’s teaching, we reject Christ, breaking unity with Him and with the rest of the Body of Christ. We reject our baptismal promises. Even in giving His life for us, He still gives us the opportunity to choose Him or to leave. He loves us to death, however He does not force us to accept His love. After the Eucharistic discourse in the Gospel of John, where Jesus makes clear to the Apostles that He is giving them His Flesh and Blood to eat and drink (and we continue to receive His Flesh and Blood, under the appearance of bread and wine whenever we attend Mass), St. John recounts the following: “Many of his disciples, when they heard it, said, “This is a hard saying; who can listen to it?” But Jesus, knowing in himself that his disciples murmured at it, said to them, “Do you take offense at this?” (John 6:60-61). For those who reject the teaching of the Church, the teachings of our Lord, Jesus is asking this very same question.
St. John goes on to tell us: After this many of his disciples drew back and no longer went about with him. Jesus said to the twelve, “Do you also wish to go away?” Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life” (John 6:67-68). Peter, at that moment, declared to Jesus what the Church would continue to say until the end of time. Jesus’ words truly are life and by not trusting His word, we cannot trust Him. True faith demands that we do not go half-way. True faith in Jesus Christ demands our entire surrender.
Our Lord wants us to be in union with Him. He died and rose for us personally to make that a reality. Through Baptism, we die to sin and rise to life with Him, but we still have the choice to reject this gracious gift by rejecting what He asks of us. This Easter, choose: will you choose to go away from Him, or will you say with St. Peter, in full faith and fidelity to Christ and His Church, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life”?