By PEDRO MENDEZ
CONNECTING FAITH AND LIFE
It was 6:30 a.m. A prayer group from a parish where a majority of parishioners were wealthy was studying the readings for the next Sunday. “Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the Kingdom of God” (Lk 6:20). Their pastor explained that, in Luke’s Gospel, the Kingdom of God belonged to those who were economically poor. One of the parishioners asked, “So, what does it mean for me?” It was time to wrestle with God!
In my first article about the Eucharistic Renewal, I utilized Jacob’s story of wrestling with an unknown man to explore our need for spiritual wrestling match with our conscience (the core of who we are) and intellect to let God reveal himself and write his truth in us. In this article, I will discuss Jacob’s situation in comparison to us – personally and communally.
In the biblical story, when Jacob reached the lowest point of his life, he decided to be alone. It seems to me that having 69% of Catholics not believing in the real presence of Jesus in the Eucharist (according to a Pew Research survey) is like being at the lowest point of our life as a Church. Let us ponder on this further: 69% of us do not believe that the Body and Blood of Jesus – the Son of God, the One through whom all things were made, the Lamb of God crucified and risen for our sake – is not present in the consecrated bread and wine! It sounds like a Church disaster! This disaster comes from our lack of conviction in the Church’s teachings in the core of who we are (personally and communally). Without our conviction of Jesus’ presence in the Eucharist, our Catholic communities crumble; our parishes become lifeless communities, as if filled with sleepwalkers!
To be honest, believing in the presence of Jesus’ flesh and blood in the Eucharist has not been easy from the beginning (see Jn 6:52-71). So, we can identify with the early disciples who abandoned Jesus and with those who stayed with him regardless of the hardness of his teachings. If it is hard for us to believe in Jesus’ teachings, let’s not abandon him. Instead, let’s wrestle with God!
Throughout Church history, some people have wrestled with God. They were committed Christians with spiritual thirst and access to biblical, doctrinal and theological literature. Some of our Catholic beliefs are based on their wrestling, like Sts.Teresa de Avila, Augustine, Thomas Aquinas and John Henry Newman.
But what about us—the people in the pew? Do we wrestle with God and men? Do we seek quick, easy answers that don’t take much effort to swallow whole, or do we make the effort to chew on things that are hard? Are we satisfied with giving and receiving canned responses, or do we wrestle —and encourage others to wrestle—with provoking questions? Doubtless, there are times in which we have to provide bold answers, like abortion. But, is providing just the answers on the teaching of the Eucharist enough?
Often, when we wrestle with God, things get messier and painful—yet real. For instance, some of us parents become highly anxious when our children question their faith. Instead of helping them to wrestle with God, we may worry about their questioning. Why? Is it maybe because we have not wrestled with God? Nowadays, we, the baptized (ordained and non-ordained), have access to philosophical and theological courses, but in themselves they are not enough. We need spiritual discipline and thirst! I plan to delve more into what this discipline and thirst look like in my next articles. For now, begin to ponder what your wrestling might look like.
We might be at a low point of our life as a Church, but let's not be afraid of wrestling with God! It is part of our nature! It is better to take the risk of losing one’s faith than to live a lifeless faith in comfort. It is better to go through the night and find the living God with open arms behind the “morning fog of our confusion.” Now, wrestling comes after times of silence. How does silence, personal and communal, look for you?