22nd August, 2021

Jug of water being poured into a glass

Homily for the 21st Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B

Today’s Gospel is a continuation of the previous Gospels about the Bread of life that we have heard and meditated on for several Sundays before the feast of the Assumption. Then we heard about people who enthusiastically followed Jesus and gathered around him listening to so many of his teachings. All these people were amazed at the miracles they had witnessed. As we may remember at some point after Jesus multiplied the bread and fed five thousand people, they were so excited about all that had happened that they even wanted to make Jesus a king. Today, however, we heard something completely different. The same people said very unpleasant words to Jesus: This is intolerable language. How could anyone accept this? Moreover, a little later in the same Gospel we heard that … many of his disciples left him and stopped going with him. And a bit further in this context, Jesus asked his Apostles one very fundamental question: What about you, do you want to go away too?

I think all of us more or less often hear about people who – in a sense – left Jesus and stopped following him, who stopped practicing and attending Mass. I remember one story that was told to me by one of my friends. A few years ago, a young girl knocked on the door of the parish house and asked the priest for a few minutes of private conversation. From the very beginning, she was very kind and pleasant. She introduced herself as a candidate for confirmation in his parish. After a few minutes however, she added something more that after considering a few things, she made the final decision to give up confirmation and all preparation for this sacrament, and also that she didn’t want to go to church anymore. Moreover, she said that she wanted nothing more to do with the Catholic Church. Of course, the concerned priest immediately asked about the reasons for such an unusual and strange decision:

What made you make such a sudden decision about your faith and also your confirmation?

Father, – the girl began to speak shyly – it really doesn’t make any sense. Neither my faith in Jesus nor my being a Catholic makes any sense to me. As you probably know many of your parishioners go to church every Sunday or even more often. Many of them boast that they go to confession, take holy communion to build a relationship with God and to be better people in everyday life. But to be honest, it doesn’t work at all. When they leave the church, their behaviours change very much as if they were completely different people. They only say bad things about others, they criticize everyone. Many of them look around in the church just to see how others are dressed, many of them interfere in the private lives of others, swear, argue, spread gossips and do many other bad things. Many of these people are two-faced people. I don’t want to be like them, I don’t want to be such a hypocrite! All these attitudes make me sick. I don’t wish to be a part of the Church community anymore!

The priest was very sad to hear so many negative things about his community and after a while said to her: No problem at all. I will do what you asked me to do and remove your name from the list of candidates for Confirmation. But before I do that, I would like to ask you one favor. Please wait a few seconds for me. The priest left the girl for a moment and went to the kitchen. After a while he came back holding a glass full of water in his hand. I will let you give up Confirmation – he said – but only on one condition, only if you go around the church three times before or after Mass with this glass full of water and don’t lose a single drop. The girl smiled and said: If you think that I will not able to complete this easy task, I will prove otherwise. The girl took the glass of water very gently and started her walk around the church. First… second… and finally third lap. After completing the task, she came back to the priest and said: Now explain to me the purpose of this strange exercise.

The priest smiled and asked her a question: How many drops of water did you lose walking around the church?

  • Not even one! – replied the girl very proudly.

Excellent! And how many people who said bad words or gossips or who criticized other people did you see when you walked with this glass full of water?

  • Not even one – she said.

And how many people who were arguing with each other did you see at that moment and how many two-faced people?

  • I didn’t see any.

It’s very interesting – said the priest. Today I wanted to show you that so much depends on what you focus on. Today you were focused only on the glass with water I gave you, and you need to know that something similar can happen in the church. If you are focused on people, or if you look for evil in everything and everyone around you, you will definitely find it. You will find evil also in those people who regularly go to church, who go to confession and who receive Holy Communion. But what is most important to us, is to concentrate all our attention on Jesus. We need to remember why – or rather for Whom – we go to church.

Let us do our best to always focus our thoughts and our all attention on what is the essence of our Catholic faith, on all that is beautiful, on all that is good and noble in the Church, also here in our church and our community of St. Edward’s. Let our answer to Jesus’ question: Do you want to go away too? will always be the same: Lord, who shall we go to? You have the message of eternal life, and we believe; we know that you are the Holy One of God.

Fr Gregory