This is now the third letter in a series, reflecting on our 12 years together. And what a dozen years they have been! Shortly after I became your pastor in June of 2001, the terrorist events of 9/11 happened; and now just before I leave you this June, we just had our second terrorist event with the events in Boston. These events will always be, at least in my mind as the years go by, as the bookends of my Boulder years.
Pope Francis recently had a profound reflection on the Gospel account from the end of John, Chapter 6, about the end of Jesus' dialogue with the crowd of 5000 who experienced His miraculously feeding them with 5 loaves and 2 fish. During the miracle the crowd wanted to make Jesus King, but the next day after He explained how He is the Bread of Life, and "unless you eat my Flesh and drink My Blood, you will have no life within you." This is Jesus directly teaching us about the Real Presence of the Eucharist which many Christians, even to this day, find it to be a teaching too hard to accept.
In Pope Francis's reflection about almost everyone's deserting Jesus except for the 12 apostles, the Holy Father says that there are certain teachings of Jesus that people find it too difficult to accept and they can withdraw from Jesus because they want a more "common sense" approach than the real teachings of what it means to be a disciple of Jesus.
At the end of John, Chapter 6, many disciples truly believe what Jesus is teaching about the Eucharist, but they whisper, are shocked and eventually leave the Master: "These people have turned away, they are gone; they say, 'this man is a bit strange, he says things that are hard. It's too big a risk to go down this road. We have common sense, eh? Let's go back a little and not be so close to Him.' These people had, perhaps, a certain admiration for Jesus, but little, from afar."
In other words, let's not get too close to Jesus. He might ask too much of us.
In my position of leadership with you over these past 12 years there have been two issues of my leadership that have not been born of common sense, indeed have caused many to withdraw. These issues, however, come from fidelity to the Lord Jesus and are hard truths.
One has been to embrace the words of Jesus on how we will be judged at the end of our lives. Jesus tells us in Matthew 25 that we will be judged on how we have responded to the poor: "When I was hungry, you fed me; when I was thirsty you gave me to drink; . . . when I was a stranger, you welcomed me."
Our parish is now at least 40% Hispanic. Not all of them are poor. Not all of them are immigrants. But many of them are. It has been on my heart to lead all of our parishioners to love our immigrants, see them as full members of our parish, and indeed to make every effort to educate them in our school and in our religious education programs. I am very grateful that our Latinos know it in their bones that they are fully accepted in our parish.
The other issue has been the leadership I have given on the Catholic understanding of marriage, particularly in regards to what we want to communicate in our Catholic school. This stand is not a "common sense" stand. It isn't common sense to uphold Catholic teaching about marriage in a time when society is redefining society's definition in such a way as to make our belief appear to be ludicrous. It would be much easier to "go along so as to get along." However, our call as Catholic educators is to teach what Jesus teaches.
All of the baptized are called to undergo an ongoing conversion of heart, to be more and more faithful to the Gospel. Not easy in a time of great moral confusion, eh?