In the First Reading today, Peter heals the sick and raises Dorcas from the dead. I wonder what Peter’s thoughts were when miracles started happening at his hand. Perhaps he thought, "I can’t believe this – I denied Jesus, I tempted Him, I didn’t understand his message and still he uses me to do his work." Or perhaps, Peter thought, "Well, Jesus chose me to do his work, I must be pretty special!" This reading offers us an opportunity to remember that all that we do – our accomplishments, our triumphs, our successes, and our achievements – are not our doing, but rather gifts God has given us to be used for God’s work. We know also that God considers each of us to be special – and calls each of us to do His work.
In today’s Gospel, many disciples who were following Jesus leave Him, saying, "This saying is hard…." They were talking about Jesus’ instruction to "eat my flesh and drink my blood." For us, as Catholics, this, the Eucharist, is usually not an obstacle to our Faith but rather as the very heart of our belief a source of great strenth. But maybe this Gospel reading can also be a reminder to us to look at where we are tempted to echo the words "this saying is hard" when we hear Jesus’ message. Often this happens when we move past talking about Jesus’ message, and begin "walking the talk." Often we speak loudly about those very things that don’t really cost us much and aren’t much of a sacrifice and ignore doing the things that would be "hard" for us.
It becomes a different story when our actions begin to speak louder than our words. When we live the Gospel message instead of just talking about it – then it isn’t so easy. Often it is truly a difficult road that Jesus asks us to follow. It may be hard, but we live the Gospel message when we choose to go without in order to share our resources with those in need, or when we sacrifice our time to visit the sick or those in prison and it is difficult when we choose to go against popular opinion to work for peace and justice even when that means being rejected by family, friends, and community.
Our challenge is to walk the path that Jesus followed; to work to serve others in His name and to remember to be grateful for the skills and gifts God has showered on us.
Mary Lou Butler is a long-time friend and partner in ministry to the Passionists in California.