Yesterday’s Gospel reading had me thinking about those who walked away from Jesus because they found his teachings too hard. There are three ways to go when you find the Church’s teachings difficult. You can walk away or you can work to keep yourself in line with Jesus’s teachings. The third and one of the more popular responses today is you stay in the Church and you work to change the meaning of Jesus’ words and recategorize your sin as actually a long unrecognized good:
Many of Jesus’disciples who were listening said, “This saying is hard; who can accept it?” Since Jesus knew that his disciples were murmuring about this, he said to them, “Does this shock you?
What if you were to see the Son of Man ascending to where he was before? 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. But there are some of you who do not believe.”
Jesus knew from the beginning the ones who would not believe and the one who would betray him. And he said, “For this reason I have told you that no one can come to me
unless it is granted him by my Father.”
As a result of this, many of his disciples returned to their former way of life and no longer accompanied him. Jesus then said to the Twelve, “Do you also want to leave?”
Simon Peter answered him, “Master, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe and are convinced that you are the Holy One of God.”
Now imagine, if you will, more of a modern spin on this. Some of the disciples find some of Jesus’ teaching hard but they don’t leave. They stay. They stay and proclaim loudly that they are a disciple of Jesus but they set up factions within the group of those who still follow Jesus.
While Jesus is talking, they’re standing off to the side explaining that wasn’t exactly what Jesus meant and here’s really the main point. They explain that they believe in most of what He says, you know all the parts about healing the sick and not judging others but not much of the other stuff.
No. Back then there weren’t any Apostles for Free Choice, Voice of the Apostles, of Future Jesus clamoring that Jesus wasn’t really on target on a few things. Now in fairness back then there was a small group called Judas for Selling Jesus for Thirty Pieces of Silver but it had a very small membership at the time. (And from what I read it didn’t end well)
All this is not to say that those who stay don’t sin. We are a Church of sinners. We accept those who who regularly hurt Jesus. But the Church asks that we don’t seek to modify what it is the Church holds as true to recategorize our sin as acceptable or perhaps even good according to what Jesus really meant.
If we’re going to do that, it might be better if we’d just walked away because at least then your choices are clear and you have the options of staying away or returning and accepting the teachings. And you avoid seting yourself up as the sole arbiter of what Jesus really meant.