Last week I came across a talk by Roy Schoeman on YouTube who converted from being a practicing Jew to becoming a Roman Catholic. One of the things that struck me in his witness talk was his testimony about the incredible richness and giftedness of the Catholic Church. He referred to the New Testament story of the rich man feasting at the table who should be sharing his abundance with those who have less. Catholics, he said, are the rich men; there is no other religion that shares the abundance of giftedness and grace that we have. I think, at times, we all forget that. In our first reading this week, Jeremiah, having been enticed by God to be a prophet, complains about the hardships he had to endure because of that calling. And in our gospel, Peter challenges Jesus about the pain and suffering that await him and his followers. Jesus, in turn, states that his way is the way of the cross. This is the only path to glory.
So many times, when people criticize religion, they immediately speak of the demands, restrictions and moral imperatives which come as part and parcel of being a Catholic. This is why many Christians practice religion a la carte, that is, they pick and choose what they want to follow and ignore or reject the rest. We often are guilty in focusing so much on the demands of our faith and fail to acknowledge the unbelievable richness and gains of what we have been given.
As Jeremiah and the disciples of Jesus would eventually learn, the grass is not greener anywhere else as far as religion. The fact that Roman Catholics are so richly blessed is not for our own sakes or merit but is, in fact, a call to share our abundant riches with the world. The challenge ahead, as St. Paul writes, is not to be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of our minds so that we may discern what is the will of God – what is good and acceptable and perfect. It would serve us all well this week, if we paused for a moment to reflect on who we are, what we have and what we are called to do as Catholics.