I am writing this because after the Sunday homily couple of Holy Family members asked me to put my homily on Facebook. The Sunday homily was about many of Jesus disciples leaving him saying, this saying is hard; who can accept it. When I came to Louisville in 2010 I attended Masses in St. Paul Parish and I asked Fr. Dismas where are the people? He said it's a long story. I started reading books to see why many left the church? One time I read David Kinnaman's 'Unchristian'; this book is a study on folks who are between 16-29 what they think about Christianity. They mainly said Christians are hypocritical, too political, anti homosexual, insensitive etc. I found many of these reasons are the reasons why people left the church.
When I was a teenager, my parish went through a problem with the new pastor; he was not so good to the parishioners, very rude and angry. We had a discussion about the pastor in our home and my dad said, we are not going to the church because of the priest, we are going to the church because we love Jesus and the Eucharist. Priests are human beings just like us. As a teenager I had reason to quit the church but my dad's words inspired me to continue to go to the Church.
Saint Peter understood this very well. When Jesus asks are you not leaving? Peter said to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. I wish this message of eternal life is communicated with everyone. We need courage and faith to see beyond the weak priests, beyond church building, beyond the politics.
I was ordained at the age of 26 and I was so nervous to face the world where priests some part of the world we heard considered abusers and business people. And I talked to one of my professors about it, he said journey peacefully in the boat of St. Peter, do not look underneath you may see skulls, teeth and bones but look at Jesus who called you and he will tell you what to do. These words echoed my whole life as a priest.
Whom shall we go? We may have a spiritual experience when we go to the nature, we may calm ourselves on yoga practice but this can't give you eternal life. Eternal life is in Jesus and we experience this in the Eucharist.
I have also heard people say I hate Church and love Christ. This is a meaningless statement. In Acts 9:3 we read Jesus asking Saul, Saul why do you persecute me? Bible scholars say that we do not have evidences that Saint Paul met Jesus but at the same time they do not disagree completely the chance. One thing is sure, by persecuting Church he was persecuting Christ. Then how can one say I love Christ and I hate Church? We have many reasons to quit the church and get angry with the church and recent happenings in our diocese but as my dad said to me let us get beyond everything that happens in the Church to experience the eternal life that Jesus promised through Eucharist. Let us remember Peter's words whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.