August 1, 2021
We do need a savior. We do need mentors and good examples. The “I” in us is distracted easily, diverted willingly and loves to get lost in its own self.
There have been and continue to be many religious or spiritual paths that are meant to help us balance the “I” and the “we”, the selfish instincts and the more noble and generous ones.
The danger of Religion is that it can become over-institutionalized, formal and lacking emotion, focused or easily-performed rituals, and crushed by intellectual doctrines that are not easily understood and with which we often cannot relate.
Most of us as Catholics were born into an over-institutionalized religion where we were taught to fear God rather than respect or love God, mere ideas and doctrines about God rather than how to meet God or how to encounter God’s personal presence.
What set Jesus apart and what drew many people to him was his simple approach to God. He called God “Abba,” his Papa. His Abba was not authoritarian, but gentle, was not a doctrine but a real person, was not someone who kept order, but someone who wanted to be very close to each one of us.
Do you remember these words of Jesus? “Come to me, all you who labor and are overburdened, and I will give you rest. Shoulder my yoke and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. Yes, my yoke is easy and my burden light.” (Matthew 11:25-30). The yoke is a wooden harness put over the plowing animals to keep them walking together to plow.
Jesus says that his yoke is one of friendship and support. Jesus wants to help and to share the burdens and the work of our life.
(and, if you want to get a taste of what Jesus thought about the Old Testament religion of his day, I suggest that you read Chapter 23 of St. Matthew’s gospel.)
Jesus always called a spade, a spade, and that is what he does today — to all those who follow him to get whatever they need from him. I am not here to fill your stomachs, Jesus reacted. I am here to fill you with God.
Today, more than ever before, the Catholic Church is becoming ever more clear directing attention to Jesus who wants to fill us with himself. This is the work of God. This is what I am trying to do for you, he says today.
Jesus did not create any rituals of religion. Only, he broke bread and the cup of wine and shared himself. And continues to do so. That’s it.
He touched people and prayed for their healing. He affirmed people by his words and affections. He spoke the truth about God, about life, about how to live with people.
He had a high standard. He did not focus on ten commandments or 1750 canons from the Church’s canon law. He did not create any devotions or any novenas. He did not make any statues or religious paintings.
“I am the Bread of Life,” he said; whoever comes to me will never hunger, and whoever believes in me will never thirst.
There is nothing superficial about Jesus and his invitation to us to walk through life with him.
We could leave all our rituals and liturgies and devotions behind and sit down every day with Jesus and ask him to be with us as we walk through the day. We do not need to multiply a “Hail Mary” or an “Our Father” to make us feel better about God. What we need to do is to walk with Jesus, to take on the traits and character of Jesus, to be empowered with Jesus’ love and goodness.
Often, I tell people whom I notice or who tell me that “I am praying so hard” for this person or that situation. That praying “hard” for a person creates a neurosis, a nervousness about life, not the calming effect that Jesus wants to have on us. Our multiplication of words cannot affect any result in and of itself. Our impatience or nervousness adds no effort to our prayer. Only “whoever comes to me and trusts” has effect.
Here’s a thought of which I am becoming more and more aware. Whoever asked the questions today in the Gospel story: What can we do to accomplish the works of God? That is the question that each of us have to answer. Not the question: what can we do to accomplish the works of the Church? The works of the Church get us involved in the institution, organizations, rules and routines of the Church.
“The works of God” have to do with the life, the love, and the presence of God in our real lives. The real work of God has to do with each one of us living up to Jesus’ spirit, living like Jesus did.
If we want to do the work of God, we have to become Jesus, which Jesus is all too happy to help us become. All we have to do is to ask him each day.
How do I begin? By changing how I think about the question. By not hiding behind Religion! By “Outing myself” as a follower of Jesus.
Jesus is the bread of our life. Jesus is more than a consecrated communion wafer.
We do need a savior to help us to learn to act like one.