In this Gospel, Jesus is very clear. And shocking.
To be his disciple, his follower, costs absolutely everything.
When he says “renounce” your possessions,
that doesn’t mean do without them or walk away from them.
Rather, he means to treat what you own, as if you do not own it.
It’s not your paycheck, from which you give Jesus 5 or 10%;
It is all his money which he entrusts to you to manage.
Most appalling is when he says, “take up your cross.”
This is not a metaphor.
How do I make you feel the trauma of those words?
Imagine you are African-American,
and people you know have been lynched, right in your home town;
and Jesus says, “take up your rope and follow me.”
So: to follow Jesus is not a part-time hobby.
Christianity isn’t for wimps or wusses.
So in that context, let me go back to my homily a few weeks ago,
when I talked about the Most Holy Eucharist.
I was very passionate. I got really excited.
And I think I caused some discomfort.
For that I am sorry. Not for being passionate,
but setting the dial at just the right spot
between “boring” and “bombastic” is harder than you might think.
If you will recall what got me worked up
was the news that 70% of all Catholics in this country don’t know,
or don’t believe, the Eucharist IS Jesus.
Further, some 37% of Catholics at Mass every week – every week! –
similarly do not believe in the Eucharist, or don’t know.
This is not a minor thing. This is a catastrophe.
This is an all-hands-on-deck moment.
So what do we do?
I have seen people come forward for Holy Communion
who clearly don’t know what is going on –
which most likely means, they aren’t Catholic.
They take the Host, and they have no clue what to do.
When I see that, I will quietly say, “Are you Catholic?”
Or I will say, “you have to consume that, or give it back, please.”
This is awkward; I don’t want to embarrass people;
but what else can I do?
Less often does this happen at Sunday Mass.
More often at a funeral or a wedding.
So I’ve decided I’m going to start including something in my homily
on this matter at weddings and funerals. I’ve done this before,
but from now on, I am going to try to do it every time.
But I know this won’t be enough.
I can give a ten-minute homily and people won’t get the message;
What are the odds a single 30-second announcement will do the trick?
So now I’m going to make an uncomfortable request; I’m sorry.
When your friends or family come with you to Mass,
you must talk to them. And if you say, this is too much to ask,
I refer you back to the words of Jesus you just heard!
It is true that some people take offense no matter what.
But Jesus didn’t let that stop him, nor should we.
Be polite; be loving; but be bold and clear – for the sake of Christ!
He comes first, before family, before everything!
That said, it isn’t necessarily true that people will be offended.
I was in South Korea many years ago, and my hosts
took me to a Buddhist temple.
Most Koreans are Buddhists, although I was with fellow Catholics.
I did what any sensible person would do.
I asked, what is proper for me to do? What shouldn’t I do?
I wanted to show respect. Most people get this! Explain it that way.
Still, there’s a bigger question:
Why do we even care if people take Holy Communion who shouldn’t?
In fact, lots of people, lots of Catholics, really don’t care;
They figure, what’s the big deal?
If people act with innocent intent, is God angry? No.
So again, why not just let it go?
Suppose I invited you over to my house, and you met 20 or 30 people.
Then, after they left, I told you, one of those people
was the Governor, or, one of those people was a top golfer,
or one of the greatest professional dancers or musicians in the world.
And then you say to me: why didn’t you tell me?
There are questions I’d have asked, things I’d have wanted to know?
I wish I had known I was meeting that person!
In the Eucharist, they are meeting the King of Kings!
Shouldn’t they know?
More than that, shouldn’t they be ready?
Because it’s not just meeting Jesus,
they are entering into communion with Jesus.
And, more than that, they are entering into communion –
into a covenant – with all of us.
That’s why Catholics don’t receive communion in a Protestant church;
and why we don’t invite non-Catholics to receive Holy Communion here.
Not because they are unworthy – ALL of us are unworthy! –
But rather, because they aren’t just uniting with Jesus,
But with the whole Catholic Church!
That’s what “Holy Communion” means.
Shouldn’t our friends and visitors know what it means?
Who they are meeting?
What a solemn act it is to eat his Flesh and drink his Blood?
Shouldn’t they also know what Jesus asks of them?
When did Jesus ever say, I invite you to have a casual,
now-and-again relationship with me? He never said that.
Rather, he said: put aside everything and take up your cross!
What service are we doing our friends if we invite them
to do the exact opposite of what Jesus said his disciples should do?
It is never my intention to give offense in a homily or any other time.
But if I’m not willing to risk offending you, then what does that say?
So I ask you, are you really looking out for your family and friends,
if you don’t explain to them
that the Holy Eucharist is not a “what” but a “Who”?
And not just any “who,” but the one who forgives sins
and grants eternal life? The gate of heaven? Our only hope?
The Eucharist is Jesus; he is our King. Without this, we aren’t Catholic.
Jesus calls each of us to bear witness.
Let’s take up the Cross together; together with Jesus!