By Most Rev. Richard W. Smith, Archbishop of Edmonton

Monday, August 27, 2012

Staying Tuned In

Channel surfing. Scanning radio broadcasts. Surfing the "Net". The multiplicity of messaging today boggles the mind. Only when we find something to our liking do we stay tuned in for any length of time. Otherwise, we just keep flicking the remote.

The Scripture passages for yesterday were a call to tune in to the only message that matters and to stay tuned in. Tune out all else. In the first reading we heard Joshua ask the people who they would be following. They have settled in the promised land, and Joshua has reminded them of all that God had done to lead them to their long-awaited destination. They are surrounded by a variety of "broadcasts", i.e., those of the surrounding nations who believed in false gods. Joshua knew the people would be strongly tempted to tune out the truth and tune into the falsehood, so he asks them to choose who they will follow into the future. Based upon their own experience of the goodness of God, they promise that they will serve the Lord. Yet, sadly, they did not stay tuned in. They found the seductive messages too difficult to resist, and they changed the channel.
It is an abiding temptation. When the Word of God challenges our patterns of behaviour or thinking, an easy response is to tune out. When a teaching is difficult to accept, we find another message that demands less of us. This is what is at play in the Gospel passage from yesterday's Mass. People are finding the teaching of Jesus on the Eucharist very difficult to accept, and they turn off the remote; they walk away. In what I find to be one of the most moving passages of Scripture, Jesus turns to his closest friends and asks if they, too, will leave him. Peter responds with words that go to the heart of the matter: "Lord, to whom can we go? You have the words of eternal life."

It does not get more serious than this. Jesus leads us to salvation. His words lead to life. To his message, therefore, we need to stay tuned in. This is not without difficulty. His words call us to embrace the Cross, to die to ourselves and live for others. His teachings stretch our minds and blow apart our assumptions. This is why so much of his doctrine can be hard to understand or accept. Some people, like those who left Jesus, struggle with the mystery of the Eucharist. Society is increasingly rejecting his teaching on marriage, which finds an echo and is developed in St. Paul's Letter to the Ephesians (second reading), and refusing the demands which flow from it to live a life of chastity. The call to embrace a simple lifestyle, to serve the poor, to work for justice and peace, and so on call us out of a self-centered and materialistic existence and thus encounter resistance in our hearts. It's very tempting to turn the channel when the teaching is hard. But who else has the words of everlasting life? No one. The call is to stay tuned into Christ and his Word, and to follow him with integrity.