Hi everyone, and welcome to Weekly Homilies with Father Mark Suslenko, Pastor of SS. Isidore and Maria Parish in Glastonbury, Connecticut. We are part of the Catholic Archdiocese of Hartford. I'm Carol Vassar, parish director of communications, and you're listening to Season 4, Episode 28 for the 21st Sunday in Ordinary Time: August 22, 2021. Our Gospel reading is from John, Chapter 6, verses 60-69.
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.”
The Gospel of the Lord
“Truth is Truth” by Father Mark S. Suslenko, Pastor, SS. Isidore and Maria Parish, Glastonbury, Connecticut
What is truth? What is truth? It's a difficult question to answer today based on our secular experience. If you look on social media and a picture pops up, impulse says that what we're seeing is true. We add a little bit more research into that photograph and it reveals that in fact it is not true, but that it has been Photoshopped, and the reality never existed.
As we listen to stories about news events, you get an impression in one place that this is the truth; we look to another, to find something different and yet a third interpretation exists over here. Which one of those is true? And so we struggle to figure out what part of my life is real? And it's not always so obvious today from our experience.
What is the truth?
When it comes to understanding the human person, where do we go for guidance in that regard? Is what psychologists are telling us about human beings what is true? Is what we're hearing in popular circles about what's acceptable human behavior what is true? Where do we search for truth?
Well, you know, we're here today because of a common belief that draws us together, and it's a belief in Jesus Christ as the Son of God. It's a belief that Jesus Christ is himself God. And it's a belief that Jesus Christ through his own words says, "I am the Way and the Truth and the Life." Today He tells us I'm spirit in life, another way of saying the same thing: Jesus Christ is truth.
So if we truly believe that Jesus Christ is truth, then what Jesus says, how Jesus lives, what Jesus embodies, speaks of truth. As you watch him interact with folks, as you listen to him teach, as we absorb his teachings, we then witness truth. So when Jesus says," Love God, neighbor and self," he speaks truth. When Jesus tells us if someone hurts you, do not offer resistance back, but turn your cheek and offer forgiveness. He speaks truth.
When he tells us to love our enemy. He speaks truth. When he tells us that the poor are first in the kingdom of God, Jesus speaks truth. When he says that peacemakers are essential components to the kingdom of God, he speaks truth. When Jesus says forgive and forgive and forgive and forgive, he speaks truth.
And when Jesus says it's mercy that I desire not sacrifice, he speaks truth. When Jesus says you must die in order to gain life, Jesus speaks truth. So, embodied in Jesus Christ is truth. So for the faithful Christian, the answer to the question of " what is truth" is returned in the response truth is Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ.
And so if we take a look at scripture, and if you look at tradition and we look at the foundations of our faith, there, too, is truth. You know, the church's mission — essential, sacred mission - is to take what is found in scripture, to take what is found in tradition, and formulate articles of truth. The Church, through a process of discernment, looks back on all of those things, looks to all of those, and says what does this mean for how human beings not only live their life, but understand themselves, find their way through the world's problems, discern what is important and established priorities in their lives. The Church doesn't teach for its own benefit. The Church teaches in preservation of the Gospel, and in allegiance to the author of truth, Jesus Christ, God himself. So this whole body of church teaching exists as a way of translating into our particular time and place the articles of truth.
But yet we sometimes, in our lives, find ourselves waiting through our path to truth. You know, St. Augustine said to us when truth shines warmly upon us, we love it. When this is warmly upon us. we love it. When it rebukes us, we hate it. We hate it. And that's kind of what we do with truth. If it's something that appeals to us or makes us feel good, we love it. You know? So when Jesus talks about eternal life and being found in the kingdom of God and loving one another, those things make us feel good. We like that. But when it comes to something more challenging, when it comes to perfecting our level of forgiveness, when it comes to protecting the sacredness of human life, when it comes to seeing ourselves in a particular way, we don't like that so much.
And so we move around that one. Whereas within this body of truth, within the teachings of Christ himself, we find clear images for how to live life regarding marriage, life's sacredness, and who we are as a people of God.
It's so easy for our young people today to fall victim to illusion, because there is so much in the world that is telling them who they should be, how they should be, what's important to be, and how to embrace human life. There are so many conflicting images of what it means to be a human being. There are abounding everywhere that for a young person especially, the result can only be confusion. The only clear place that we can come to hear the truth about who we are in God is here. It is only our faith that can produce it.
But you know, we still face the same struggle today that was faced back in the time of Jesus. Jesus taught about being the Bread of Life. The disciples heard him teach and preach. They saw what he did when he encountered people. And then when he said that to them, that I am the Bread of Life, you come here to find life, their response was that's too much for us. All of this is too much for us. It's too challenging. And they made a choice. They went back to their former ways of life. They left him. They left him. And he said, okay, it's too much for you, return.
Then he looked at his 12 disciples and he said to them, well, what about you? What about you? Do you want to go back, go ahead. And Simon Peter spoke up on behalf of them and said, "Well Lord, where are we going to go? You have the words of life. You’re truth. If you don't embody truth for us, where else are we going to find it? And so they stayed.
And folks today are in that same place. You know, many come to the faith, but then when it starts getting challenging or it starts getting difficult, or they're asked to believe something that goes against the tide of what they find outside the doors of this church, then they leave it because it's too much. And they say, "I'm going to go back to what I had before. This is too much for me to do." And they leave. And they leave.
You know, to embrace truth is a difficult thing to do. It's not meant to be easy. You know, none of us like being put back on course. We tend to like to be seen in good favor. And so when we're doing something that is hurtful, when we're doing something that reflects more of an illusion than truth, when we're doing something that's sinful, we don't like the corrective, especially when the Church says to us, you need to repent of that. You need to fix that. "Oh, I'm going back to where people said, 'I don't have to fix anything, then I can do what I want, and I don't have to think."
See, because here's the problem: to whom do we go? Okay, you may not want the truth of the faith. Folks may look at the Church and say, "I'm not going there. It's outdated. It's antiquated. It's irrelevant."
Where do you go? You see if God doesn't have the truth, then who does? Then truth is a relative thing that changes generation to generation. So I guess as we move through the human experience, if there's no anchor for truth that we cling to then it becomes what we want during the course of our lives at that time.
And so it gets relativized to what's popular, to what suits people, to what makes people feel good, to what's inclusive. And so we go on this roller coaster where we're not only turning away from God and going back to what we knew before, but we're running a course right away from humanity - from what it means to be a human being and following a path that's down a slippery slope to destruction. So, if we don't find truth in God, where do we find truth? Where do we find truth?
And so the challenge for us today is to look at our relationship with truth and see the one gift that we can give our young people, the one gift we can give ourselves, is that before we make decisions in our life, before we begin to act, to at least have a dialogue with our faith. To at least consult and look at what the church says about one thing or another, to at least included in the process of decision-making to inform and form our consciences. Because if we don't give due credit to the author of truth - Jesus Christ - and the preservation of that truth - the Church - then we're no different than those early disciples who simply dismiss it and pursue to finding it or thinking they could find it in some other place. Truth. What is truth? Each one of us needs to provide an answer to that profound question. .
Father Mark Suslenko is the pastor of SS. Isidore and Maria Parish in Glastonbury, Connecticut. Learn more about our parish community www.isidoreandmaria.org. And follow us on social media: Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Our music comes free of charge from Blue Dot Sessions in Fall River, Massachusetts. I’m Carol Vassar. Thanks for joining us.