Homosexuality, marriage and chastity

Homosexuality Marriage Chastity

Reports in mainstream media related to the recent Synod on the Family, based partially on an erroneous, misleading, unapproved draft report – have done much to confuse the Catholic faithful and non-Catholics alike. The official, approved, final report is excellent but is likely to be largely ignored by the media.

The purpose of the synod is to focus on a broad array of challenges to the family. That is a family formed by a “traditional,” faithful, permanent union between a man and a woman. Also to be considered is the pastoral needs of those in “re-marriage” situations and forms of homosexual unions. The headlines have unfortunately been only on this subset and have generally been very inaccurate.

Will there be changes in doctrine?

No. None whatsoever. Not on this or any other doctrinal issue, ever.

The Church can not change truth. No meeting of Synod Fathers, the Magisterium, bishops, cardinals (princes of the Church), or the Pope (the Vicar of Christ) can change doctrine. It is simply impossible. In other ecclesial communities (e.g. Protestantism), it is common for meetings to be held and official changes to belief enacted (typically by vote). This is not so in the Church established by Jesus, protected by the Holy Spirit and led by successors to the Apostles.

Marriage and Sex

Valid marriages (formed without impediments) persist until the death of a spouse. No earthly power can set aside a valid marriage. Jesus said “I say to you, whoever divorces his wife (unless the marriage is unlawful) and marries another commits adultery.” (Matthew 19:9)

All people are called to chastity. Sexual union within a valid marriage, open to life, is a beautiful and proper response to God’s vocational call. All other sexual relations are non-chaste and gravely sinful. This includes promiscuity, cohabitation, “re-marriage” and any homosexual unions.

Civil authorities do NOT have the power in God’s eyes to set aside a valid marriage. Nor do they have the power to redefine marriage as anything other than the permanent covenantal union between a man and a woman.

Is divorce a sin?

Not necessarily. That may surprise a lot of folks.

The civil act of divorce, as a last resort, is sometimes necessary for the legal protection of a spouse or children. Contrary to what the state says, it can not end the marriage. The “divorced” person remains married and is not free to attempt another marriage. There are many faithful Catholics, in good standing, who are unfortunately separated from their spouse in this way.

Since those in valid marriages who civilly divorce remain married in the eyes of God, marrying another is not possible. Those who do, or more properly put – attempt another marriage, remain married to their “first” spouse and are at the objective level, persisting in an adulterous relationship.

However, it is possible (for many reasons) that a marriage — upon very careful and thorough investigation — may be found to be invalid due to impediments at the time it was entered. For example: a brother marries his sister, a person marries someone who is already married, a person is coerced into marriage, or even if a person enters into marriage without fundamentally understanding its nature. In such circumstances that marriage would not be valid and thus never actually existed. The Church provides a means for such investigations and when invalid marriages are confirmed, can issue a decree of nullity (an “annulment”).

Is attraction to others of the same sex sinful?

No. That also may surprise a lot of folks.

All people have equal human dignity. We all face temptations. We are all sinners, who sometimes yield to temptation and sin – damaging or breaking our communion with God. Thus, all sin is disordered. Through our Lord’s sacrifice, we are not condemned by our sins if (and only if) we are sorry for them and seek forgiveness.

We can not “accidentally” sin. All sin is by our consent and purposeful (mortal sin is also of a grave matter). Temptation, not acted upon but rejected, is NOT sin. People who are attracted to the opposite sex, but do not act sexually on that attraction outside of marriage, commit no sin. This is an important distinction between desire and action. Likewise, people who are attracted to the same sex, but do not act on it sexually also commit no sin. There are many faithful Catholics, in good standing, who suffer from attraction to those of the same sex.

Are homosexual unions sinful?

All non-chaste sexual acts are gravely sinful. Sexual acts between people of the opposite sex who are not validly married are gravely sinful. For example: promiscuity, cohabitation and “re-marriage.” Since it is not possible for two people of the same sex to be validly married, sexual acts between them are always gravely sinful.

What can be done about non-chaste unions?

The world wants to change the Church to accept and even celebrate non-chaste unions (so long as “nobody is hurt,” or something like that). The Church exists not to be changed by the world, but to change the world. To lead people away from the false promises of sin and to Christ, to true happiness and eternal peace.

The solution was offered by Jesus to the woman caught in adultery. Our Lord did not bless her sinful union, but offered forgiveness that she “sin no more.” Where there is no contrition, no repentance, no intention or attempt to stop sinning — the separation from God is chosen and the sin not forgiven.

The Church invites humbly begs all sinners, including those in any form of non-chaste union to return to God. Only in Him can we find the peace that surpasses all understanding.

Is the Church homophobic?

Jesus Christ (God) and His Church (inseparable from Him) is not homophobic. That is absurd. Quite the opposite, people with same sex attraction are loved equally to everyone else. It is in genuine charity for all sinners that the Church speaks in truth. When people you love act in ways contrary to their own good, being truthful with them expresses that love. Remaining silent to avoid unpleasantness, awkwardness, name calling, legal action, physical threats, and so on means avoiding those things are more important to you than expressing real love.

The Church wants only the best for all people who are attracted to those of the same sex and for all people suffering other temptations. The universal call to holiness is to all of us, including rejecting temptation to sin – and seeking forgiveness and amending our lives when we fail. When we are judged, we will be judged in mercy for the sins we repented that we may hear “Well done, my good and faithful servant. Since you were faithful in small matters, I will give you great responsibilities. Come, share your master’s joy.” (Matthew 25:23)

Some regretfully, have treated our brothers and sisters suffering with same sex attraction poorly. In doing so, they have themselves sinned. There is no excuse for that — only the same properly ordered response to all sin (contrition, amendment, reparation). Note that the Catechism says the following:

The number of men and women who have deep-seated homosexual tendencies is not negligible. This inclination, which is objectively disordered, constitutes for most of them a trial. They must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity. Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided.

Church Teaching on Homosexuality

My comments above are little more than a summary. So much more could be said! Likewise, the content below is but a sampling.

Catechism of the Catholic Church

Always the gold-standard for understanding our faith, the Catechism contains the following excellent text on homosexuality.

2357 Homosexuality refers to relations between men or between women who experience an exclusive or predominant sexual attraction toward persons of the same sex. It has taken a great variety of forms through the centuries and in different cultures. Its psychological genesis remains largely unexplained. Basing itself on Sacred Scripture, which presents homosexual acts as acts of grave depravity,141 tradition has always declared that “homosexual acts are intrinsically disordered.”142 They are contrary to the natural law. They close the sexual act to the gift of life. They do not proceed from a genuine affective and sexual complementarity. Under no circumstances can they be approved.

2358 The number of men and women who have deep-seated homosexual tendencies is not negligible. This inclination, which is objectively disordered, constitutes for most of them a trial. They must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity. Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided. These persons are called to fulfill God’s will in their lives and, if they are Christians, to unite to the sacrifice of the Lord’s Cross the difficulties they may encounter from their condition.

2359 Homosexual persons are called to chastity. By the virtues of self-mastery that teach them inner freedom, at times by the support of disinterested friendship, by prayer and sacramental grace, they can and should gradually and resolutely approach Christian perfection.

Included in the text are references to two footnotes, #141 and #142. #141 is 4 scripture references: Genesis 19:1-29 which is the entirety on the Destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah. This section as properly interpreted by the Church, is on people engaged in homosexual acts. Since it is long, I have not included it here (follow the link to review it). It has sometimes been incorrectly re-interpreted by those not in communion with the Church as being about “hospitality” (really!).

The other three verses are as follows (bold highlights are mine):

Therefore, God handed them over to impurity through the lusts of their hearts for the mutual degradation of their bodies. They exchanged the truth of God for a lie and revered and worshiped the creature rather than the creator, who is blessed forever. Amen. Therefore, God handed them over to degrading passions. Their females exchanged natural relations for unnatural, and the males likewise gave up natural relations with females and burned with lust for one another. Males did shameful things with males and thus received in their own persons the due penalty for their perversity.

Do you not know that the unjust will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither fornicators nor idolaters nor adulterers nor boy prostitutes nor sodomites nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor robbers will inherit the kingdom of God.

We know that the law is good, provided that one uses it as law, with the understanding that law is meant not for a righteous person but for the lawless and unruly, the godless and sinful, the unholy and profane, those who kill their fathers or mothers, murderers, the unchaste, sodomites, kidnappers, liars, perjurers, and whatever else is opposed to sound teaching, according to the glorious gospel of the blessed God, with which I have been entrusted.

Footnote #142 is from the Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith entitled Persona Humana — Declaration on Certain Questions Concerning Sexual Ethics.

At the present time there are those who, basing themselves on observations in the psychological order, have begun to judge indulgently, and even to excuse completely, homosexual relations between certain people. This they do in opposition to the constant teaching of the Magisterium and to the moral sense of the Christian people.

A distinction is drawn, and it seems with some reason, between homosexuals whose tendency comes from a false education, from a lack of normal sexual development, from habit, from bad example, or from other similar causes, and is transitory or at least not incurable; and homosexuals who are definitively such because of some kind of innate instinct or a pathological constitution judged to be incurable.

In regard to this second category of subjects, some people conclude that their tendency is so natural that it justifies in their case homosexual relations within a sincere communion of life and love analogous to marriage, in so far as such homosexuals feel incapable of enduring a solitary life.

In the pastoral field, these homosexuals must certainly be treated with understanding and sustained in the hope of overcoming their personal difficulties and their inability to fit into society. Their culpability will be judged with prudence. But no pastoral method can be employed which would give moral justification to these acts on the grounds that they would be consonant with the condition of such people. For according to the objective moral order, homosexual relations are acts which lack an essential and indispensable finality. In Sacred Scripture they are condemned as a serious depravity and even presented as the sad consequence of rejecting God. This judgment of Scripture does not of course permit us to conclude that all those who suffer from this anomaly are personally responsible for it, but it does attest to the fact that homosexual acts are intrinsically disordered and can in no case be approved of.

Some Additional Scriptural Quotations

(Note: all quotations in this piece – above and below – are from the New American Bible and the links are to the USCCB website.)

Likewise, Sodom, Gomorrah, and the surrounding towns, which, in the same manner as they, indulged in sexual promiscuity and practiced unnatural vice, serve as an example by undergoing a punishment of eternal fire.

You shall not lie with a male as with a woman; such a thing is an abomination.

If a man lies with a male as with a woman, they have committed an abomination; the two of them shall be put to death; their bloodguilt is upon them.

Some Statements from the Early Church Fathers

This is a particularly brief sample from a large number of statements.

“You shall not commit murder, you shall not commit adultery, you shall not commit pederasty…” [pederasty is sexual relations between a man and a boy]

“Conversation about deeds of wickedness is appropriately termed filthy speaking, as talk about adultery and pederasty and the like.”

Clement of Alexandria (AD 193)

“All other frenzies of the lusts which exceed the laws of nature, and are impious toward both [human] bodies and the sexes, we banish, not only from the threshold but also from all shelter of the Church, for they are not sins so much as monstrosities.”

Tertullian (Modesty 4, AD 220)

“effeminate manners are disapproved.”

Novatian (AD 250)

“He who is guilty of unseemliness with males will be under discipline for the same time as adulterers.”

Saint Basil the Great, Doctor of the Church (AD 367)

Certain men in church “come in gazing about at the beauty of women; others curious about the blooming youth of boys. After this, do you not marvel that bolts are not launched, and all these things are not plucked up from their foundations? For worthy both of thunderbolts and hell are the things that are done; but God, who is long-suffering, and of great mercy, forbears awhile his wrath, calling you to repentance and amendment.”

Saint John Chrysostom, Doctor of the Church (AD 391)

“All of these affections…   were vile, but chiefly the mad lust after males.”

Saint John Chrysostom, Doctor of the Church (AD 391)

St. John Chrysostom also argued that homosexual acts are worse than murder and so degrading that they constitute a kind of punishment in itself – and that enjoyment of such acts actually makes them worse.

“Those shameful acts against nature, such as were committed in Sodom, ought everywhere and always to be detested and punished. If all nations were to do such things, they would be held guilty of the same crime by the law of God, which has not made men so that they should use one another in this way.”

Saint Augustine, Doctor of the Church (Confessions 3:8:15, AD 400)

Saint Thomas Aquinas (AD 1225 to 1274) considered homosexuality unnatural, since it involves a kind of partner other than the kind to which the purpose of sexuality points. He considered it second only to bestiality as an abuse of sexuality.

Some Statements from Recent Popes

“At stake is the identity and survival of the family: father, mother, and children. At stake are the lives of many children who will be discriminated against in advance and deprived of their human development given by a father and a mother and willed by God. At stake is the total rejection of God’s law engraved in our hearts. Let us not be naive: this is not simply a political struggle, but it is an attempt to destroy God’s plan. It is not just a bill (a mere instrument) but a ‘move’ of the father of lies who seeks to confuse and deceive the children of God.”

Pope Francis (as Cardinal Bergoglio speaking on homosexual “marriage”)

“Although the particular inclination of the homosexual person is not a sin, it is more or less strong tendency ordered to an intrinsic moral evil, and thus the inclination itself must be seen as an objective disorder.”

Pope Benedict XVI

“There is no denying the crisis that threatens it [the family] to its foundations – especially in the Western world. When such commitment is repudiated, the key figures of human existence likewise vanish: father, mother, child – essential elements of the experience of being human are lost.”

Pope Benedict XVI

“People dispute the idea that they have a nature, given to them by their bodily identity, that serves as a defining element of the human being. They deny their nature and decide that it is not something previously given to them, but that they make it for themselves. The manipulation of nature, which we deplore today where our environment is concerned, now becomes man’s fundamental choice where he himself is concerned.”

Pope Benedict XVI

“It is legitimate and necessary to ask oneself if this is not perhaps part of a new ideology of evil, perhaps more insidious and hidden, which attempts to pit human rights against the family and against man.”

Pope Saint John Paul II (speaking on same-sex “marriage”)

Certainly no pope, but even the “father” of the Protestant revolution minced no words:

“The vice of the Sodomites is an unparalleled enormity. It departs from the natural passion and desire, planted into nature by God, according to which the male has a passionate desire for the female. Sodomy craves what is entirely contrary to nature. Whence comes this perversion? Without a doubt it comes from the devil. After a man has once turned aside from the fear of God, the devil puts such great pressure upon his nature that he extinguishes the fire of natural desire and stirs up another, which is contrary to nature.”

Martin Luther

The Synod on the Family, FINAL Report

In conclusion, I return back to where I started on the Synod of the Family.

“There are absolutely no grounds for considering homosexual unions to be in any way similar or even remotely analogous to God’s plan for marriage and family.”

Synod on the Family
(approved, final report)

The devil made me do it

The Devil Made Me Do It

No he didn’t.

Comedian Flip Wilson did a famous piece – The Devil Made Me Buy This Dress!. It was hilarious. Some people think the devil makes them do things too.

The devil is real. He prowls through the world like a roaring lion looking to devour, seeking the ruination of souls. He is very powerful and smart, but he is NOT in any way equal to God’s might.

The devil can only tempt us. To sin, we must accept his proposal and be a willing participant. We have the power to say no (unless we are actually possessed, which is rare and itself required our cooperation). Sin is disordered, cooperating with evil (thus separation from God) and VOLUNTARY. We can not be forced to sin (although we could conceivably be forced to do sinful things against our will). Similarly, we can not sin accidentially.

A related, but flawed, theory many people have is that all temptation is from the devil. He certainly creates his share — particularly the most clever temptations custom tailored for our particular personal weaknesses. He is not however, responsible for all temptation.

There are two other sources of temptation: the world and the flesh. The world seems to be a hotbed these days, with immodesty and pornography everywhere, secular “values” and relativistic thinking. It is easy for the careless to follow the heard through the wide gate.

The flesh means us. No blaming the devil or the world on this one. It is our disordered attraction to sin (concupiscence) passed on to us through original sin.

You were dead in your transgressions and sins in which you once lived following the age of this world, following the ruler of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the disobedient. All of us once lived among them in the desires of our flesh, following the wishes of the flesh and the impulses, and we were by nature children of wrath, like the rest.

To summarize, there are three things which tempt us (tria autem sunt quae nos tentant). These enemies of the soul are:

  1. the world (mundus)
  2. the flesh (caro)
  3. the devil (et diabolus)

Finally, no discussion of temptation would be complete without mentioning the Our Father. “And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.” I am aware of no better explanation for this important intention than that found in the Catechism:

2846 This petition goes to the root of the preceding one, for our sins result from our consenting to temptation; we therefore ask our Father not to “lead” us into temptation. It is difficult to translate the Greek verb used by a single English word: the Greek means both “do not allow us to enter into temptation” and “do not let us yield to temptation.” “God cannot be tempted by evil and he himself tempts no one”; on the contrary, he wants to set us free from evil. We ask him not to allow us to take the way that leads to sin. We are engaged in the battle “between flesh and spirit”; this petition implores the Spirit of discernment and strength.

2847 The Holy Spirit makes us discern between trials, which are necessary for the growth of the inner man, and temptation, which leads to sin and death. We must also discern between being tempted and consenting to temptation. Finally, discernment unmasks the lie of temptation, whose object appears to be good, a “delight to the eyes” and desirable, when in reality its fruit is death.

God does not want to impose the good, but wants free beings….   There is a certain usefulness to temptation. No one but God knows what our soul has received from him, not even we ourselves. But temptation reveals it in order to teach us to know ourselves, and in this way we discover our evil inclinations and are obliged to give thanks for the goods that temptation has revealed to us.

2848 “Lead us not into temptation” implies a decision of the heart: “For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also….   No one can serve two masters.” “If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit.” In this assent to the Holy Spirit the Father gives us strength. “No testing has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your strength, but with the temptation will also provide the way of escape, so that you may be able to endure it.”

2849 Such a battle and such a victory become possible only through prayer. It is by his prayer that Jesus vanquishes the tempter, both at the outset of his public mission and in the ultimate struggle of his agony. In this petition to our heavenly Father, Christ unites us to his battle and his agony. He urges us to vigilance of the heart in communion with his own. Vigilance is “custody of the heart,” and Jesus prayed for us to the Father: “Keep them in your name.” The Holy Spirit constantly seeks to awaken us to keep watch. Finally, this petition takes on all its dramatic meaning in relation to the last temptation of our earthly battle; it asks for final perseverance. “Lo, I am coming like a thief! Blessed is he who is awake.”

Priest or Christ?

Priest Or Christ

Hamburgers do not have ham. English muffins are not. Strangely, an alarm goes off when it is on. Language can be very misleading indeed. As a convert, I noticed that Catholicism has added to this list a good bit!

One rich area of saying one thing while meaning another is on the role the priest fulfills in the sacraments. We say things like:

  • The priest absolved my sins in confession.
  • Father Joe confected the Eucharist at Mass.
  • They were married on Saturday by Father Paul.

Strictly speaking, it is not the priest who absolves your sins or who confects the Eucharist. He does not have the power, but he does stand-in for Christ who most certainly does. By virtue of Holy Orders, passed in an unbroken chain directly from Christ Himself (apostolic succession), priests are uniquely configured to the one High Priest. It is Jesus who, in these examples, absolves our sins and transubstantiates ordinary bread and wine into His Body and most Precious Blood.

“Stand-in” is not the best way to describe the priest’s role. More precisely we say that he is acting in the person of Christ (in persona Christi). He is, to put it another way, acting sacramentally for Christ (“another Christ” or alter Christus) from whom sanctifying grace is conferred. It is Christ and His power at work, through His ministerial priesthood (we are all in His common priesthood via our baptisms).

The distinction is important. Consider a confession where the penitent knowingly omits a mortal sin (a/k/a a “bad confession”). The priest, if given no reason to suspect this, will say the words of absolution. Never-the-less, the sins are NOT absolved and the penitent remains in a state of mortal sin. Priests can be deceived, Christ can not. The priest acts for, not in replacement of, Christ.

The traditional words of absolution were actually clearer than the current formula:

May our Lord Jesus Christ absolve you; and by His authority I absolve you from every bond of excommunication (suspension) and interdict, so far as my power allows and your needs require. [making the Sign of the Cross:] Thereupon, I absolve you from your sins in the name of the Father, and of the Son, + and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.

My third example (marriage) is a tricky one. In this case, the priest is not the minister of the sacrament – just a witness. It is the couple themselves who are the ministers…   even if they are not Catholic. Barring impediments, every validly baptized man and woman enter into a sacramental marriage (whether they realize it or not).

Back to my main point, when a non-Catholic says only Christ, no man, can forgive sins they are correct. It is Christ working in the confessional who absolves our sins, doing so through the ministerial priesthood He commissioned and ordained.

Bread of Life

Bread Of Life

St. John tells us in chapter 6 of a very special time in the ministry of Jesus. Our Lord’s public ministry was at a peak. He was a superstar, for a while, then some might say that He had something of a PR disaster.

The chapter opens with a large crowd of disciples following our Lord. Scripture tells us there were 5,000 men – a large number by any measure, but with their families may have numbered several times that in total. As you know, they all “had their fill” from only 5 loaves of barley bread and 2 fish. Even so, these were not depleted but expanded in abundance to 12 baskets of left-overs. The people wanted to make Jesus king!

Later that night, the Apostles witnessed Jesus walking on the water 4 miles from shore.


Then, as recorded beginning in verse 22, everything took a dramatic turn. It begins with the crowds finding our Lord in Capernum and asking how he got there. They were eager to follow him and be fed.

“Amen, amen, I say to you, you are looking for me not because you saw signs but because you ate the loaves and were filled. Do not work for food that perishes but for the food that endures for eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. For on him the Father, God, has set his seal.” So they said to him, “What can we do to accomplish the works of God?” Jesus answered and said to them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in the one he sent.” So they said to him, “What sign can you do, that we may see and believe in you? What can you do? Our ancestors ate manna in the desert, as it is written:

‘He gave them bread from heaven to eat.'”

So Jesus said to them, “Amen, amen, I say to you, it was not Moses who gave the bread from heaven; my Father gives you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is that which comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.”


  • there is food that perishes and food that that endures for eternal life
  • the food that gives eternal life is given by the Son of Man
  • the work of God is accomplished by believing in the one God sent
  • God (not Moses or anyone else) provides for us, as illustrated in Exodus manna
  • bread from heaven gives life to the world (physically and supernaturally)

Jesus was preparing them. The disciples were interested and eager for this food He spoke of.

So they said to him, “Sir, give us this bread always.” Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me will never hunger, and whoever believes in me will never thirst. But I told you that although you have seen [me], you do not believe. Everything that the Father gives me will come to me, and I will not reject anyone who comes to me, because I came down from heaven not to do my own will but the will of the one who sent me. And this is the will of the one who sent me, that I should not lose anything of what he gave me, but that I should raise it [on] the last day. For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who sees the Son and believes in him may have eternal life, and I shall raise him [on] the last day.”

Jesus knows they do not understand, so He explains His divinity and coming atoning sacrifice that all may be saved. None-the-less, a person claiming to be God was blasphemy. We can imagine how unsettling this was.

Moreover, the food they seek is – confusingly – Jesus. Had He gone no further, the “food” might arguably be dismissed as “symbolic” — something along the lines of being spiritually nurturing.

The Jews murmured about him because he said, “I am the bread that came down from heaven,” and they said, “Is this not Jesus, the son of Joseph? Do we not know his father and mother? Then how can he say, ‘I have come down from heaven?'” Jesus answered and said to them, “Stop murmuring among yourselves. No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draw him, and I will raise him on the last day. It is written in the prophets:

‘They shall all be taught by God.’

Everyone who listens to my Father and learns from him comes to me. Not that anyone has seen the Father except the one who is from God; he has seen the Father. Amen, amen, I say to you, whoever believes has eternal life. I am the bread of life. Your ancestors ate the manna in the desert, but they died; this is the bread that comes down from heaven so that one may eat it and not die. I am the living bread that came down from heaven; whoever eats this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give is my flesh for the life of the world.”

Jesus “doubles-down.”

  • No one comes to Jesus unless the Father draws him.
  • Everyone who listens to and learns from the Father, comes to the Son.
  • Only the Son has seen the Father.
  • Jesus will raise them on the last day.
  • Jesus is the bread of eternal life, not just a temporary sustainer of physical life like mana.
  • Jesus FLESH is this bread of eternal life.

Needless to say, this did not calm the Jews. They did not say “oh, we see…   that explains it!” In fact, this was quite upsetting. It sounds like cannibalism and that is about as abhorrent to Jews as you can get. Jesus had moved well beyond the point where this might have been considered a symbolic thing. The Jews got that.

The Jews quarreled among themselves, saying, “How can this man give us [his] flesh to eat?” Jesus said to them, “Amen, amen, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you do not have life within you. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him on the last day. For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me and I in him. Just as the living Father sent me and I have life because of the Father, so also the one who feeds on me will have life because of me. This is the bread that came down from heaven. Unlike your ancestors who ate and still died, whoever eats this bread will live forever.” These things he said while teaching in the synagogue in Capernaum.

Way past doubling-down.

  1. “eat the flesh of the Son of Man”
  2. “drink his blood”
  3. “Whoever eats my flesh”
  4. “drinks my blood”
  5. “my flesh is true food”
  6. “my blood is true drink”
  7. “Whoever eats my flesh”
  8. “and drinks my blood”
  9. “the one who feeds on me”

I can not think of another place in scripture that is as clear as this. The point not made once or even twice, but again and again and again. That we understand this is clearly important. Doing so in order that we remain in Him and He in us, to have life because of Him and to live forever.

The early Church knew Jesus meant this literally. It was understood throughout the 1st century, the 2nd, the 3rd, the 4th, the 5th, the 6th, the 7th, the 8th, the 9th, the 10th, the 11th, the 12th, the 13th, the 14th and the 15th century. This was not in dispute until some (not all) of the divergent branches of the Protestant schism took a new position after 1,500 years.

“Bible based” though they may be…   there are, incredibly, those who persist in believing Jesus was speaking symbolically. They are sincere but wrong. I can not imagine how Jesus could have said this more forcefully.

Back in Capernum, these words were taken neither symbolically nor lightly. There were immediate consequences.

Then many of his disciples who were listening said, “This saying is hard; who can accept it?” Since Jesus knew that his disciples were murmuring about this, he said to them, “Does this shock you? What if you were to see the Son of Man ascending to where he was before? It is the spirit that gives life, while the flesh is of no avail. The words I have spoken to you are spirit and life. But there are some of you who do not believe.” Jesus knew from the beginning the ones who would not believe and the one who would betray him. And he said, “For this reason I have told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted him by my Father.”

As a result of this, many [of] his disciples returned to their former way of life and no longer accompanied him.

Superstar status over. This was the truth and many could not accept it. Jesus knew that and did not stop them from leaving. They understood correctly and chose to no longer follow Him. Were His words only symbolic and simply misunderstood, He would have corrected them.

Those who stayed did so by faith, not understanding. They too did not understand how they were to eat Jesus flesh and drink his blood. This remained an open question until the Last Supper.

Jesus then said to the Twelve, “Do you also want to leave?” Simon Peter answered him, “Master, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe and are convinced that you are the Holy One of God.”

Life and death

Life And Death

Life and death are interesting terms which mean different things depending upon context. In the mortal, physical sense, we understand that the body has life and that life will one day end in a permanent state called death.

On the flip side, few would argue with the scientific fact of life beginning at conception. Many would argue unfortunately against all life being of the same human dignity. They say that some life is of a lower value that can be terminated by the choice of the mother – should she find it to be inconvenient or if it falls short of her notion of perfection. Other life may be too old to “invest” in, a burden on family and society, and best concluded “with dignity” for all concerned.

This great debate is about when life is of value. Is it when conceived or does it vary by the circumstances of conception, at implantation, at a certain point in gestation, upon certain conditions of viability or pain sensing, by gender, at birth or maybe when able to cast votes? Likewise is it over when it is too sick, too old or too depressed? Who decides for that life? These are very, very difficult questions…   unless you are Catholic. In that case the answer is the true one taught by Holy Scripture (the 5th commandment), Jesus and His Church. Life begins at conception and ends at natural death. Simple.

So there is life and there is death. It is a binary thing, a person is alive (putting aside value judgments) or is dead. So what then do we make of this recent Gospel reading:

A thief comes only to steal and slaughter and destroy; I came so that they might have life and have it more abundantly.

This is huge! While human dignity is equal, “abundance” is not. It is quality of life right now, but very different from the secular sense of material things, good fortune, family or even health. It is true joy in life through embracing Jesus Christ with our whole heart and trusting in Him above all else. It is living “God’s way,” by His will and not our own.

We see example after example of proud people who live life on their own terms (a secular ideal) — and they are miserable. They may even have great fame, immense power, incalculable wealth…   but not happiness. Perhaps they are of more modest means, chasing the American dream. Priority goes to their family, their house, their job, political ideology, sports, hobbies, and so on. If God is on their list at all, knowing Him and His will are secondary to those other priorities. When His will is known and conflicts, personal reinterpretation readily handles it. God understands – if He is love as He claims to be, then He must yield to the primacy of our will and be completely tolerant and accepting of whatever we want to do, right? If His Church says otherwise, they must be hateful and not know the golden calf god we fashioned. This is delusional, separation from the one, true God and a prideful rejection of the abundant life He wants for them.

You probably know “saintly” people. We often see them as exceptional, as inspired. They are responding to God’s grace in the same call to holiness we all share. We usually refer to saints as those already in Heaven, but scripture uses the term more broadly to include the Church Militant as we poor banished children of Eve struggle to reach it. We are “a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people of his own” (1 Peter 2:9a). Our happiness right now is directly related to how we embrace that.

This has nothing to do with worldly success. It is also not opposed to worldly success, only that things of the world always and without exception must never come before God. He said to him, “You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and the first commandment. The second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” (Matthew 22:37-39)

Finally, there is eternal life or death beyond our mortal lives. The good news is there is no death in the sense of ceasing to exist. We all will exist forever. That existence can be independent of God (a/k/a Hell, death), which is simply a continuation of how many live their mortal lives today — or it can be with Him (a/k/a Heaven, life). It is our choice, one which we may taste the fruits of now. It is too late only when our last breath has been exhaled. Why not joyfully accept God’s full gift, in obedience, humility and thanksgiving?

Therefore, my brothers, whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, in this way stand firm in the Lord, beloved.

Rejoice in the Lord always. I shall say it again: rejoice! Your kindness should be known to all. The Lord is near. Have no anxiety at all, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, make your requests known to God. Then the peace of God that surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is gracious, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. Keep on doing what you have learned and received and heard and seen in me. Then the God of peace will be with you.