One of the things that I often find difficult about being a priest, is trying to preach the word of God. I love to pass on the teaching of Christ, but it can be very hard to make yourself do it sometimes. Why, you might ask? because it is not always what we want to hear. It may well make me unpopular and I don’t want to be unpopular. I want everyone to love me, just as we all do. We all have a need to be accepted and loved and no one wants to be unpopular. And if you preach the Word of God, it can make you very unpopular, because we don’t always want to hear it. It is much more tempting to preach about what is popular, what we want to hear, what is not so disturbing.
The problem is that if we don’t teach the Word of God, then we end up with nothing. We end up with a feel good religion, where nothing disturbs us and if we don’t like what we hear, then we just listen to something else that we do like to hear. That is not what our faith is about. Our faith isn’t just about feelings. It goes much deeper than that and if it doesn’t, there’s something wrong. The teachings of Christ make demands of us to live a certain way of life, to keep the commandments of God, to be faithful to the promises we make, not to give up because things don’t feel good. It is demanding. We’re told to love our enemies and pray for them. I don’t want to pray for them, I want to kill them! But that’s not what God is asking me to do.
I take consolation in the fact that Jesus was the perfect priest. He did everything perfectly. He was the ideal preacher, and healer. He knew exactly how to deal with people and awkward situations, and He preached the Word of God; and what happened? They killed him, and rejected a lot of what he said. When he taught them about the Eucharist, half of them walked away. He said, ‘Unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you can not have life within you.’ And they said, ‘Don’t be ridiculous, that’s crazy talk,’ and many of them left him. But he didn’t run after them. He let them go, and that gives me hope.
Let me just put a question to you. If you don’t like what you hear when a priest or someone is preaching, and I’m not just talking about bad preaching, but if it disturbs you, ask yourself this: why does it disturb me? Is it because it doesn’t suit our lifestyle and we would have to change if we are to try and live the word of God, or is it just because it is wrong? If we are listening to the word of God, then it should disturb us. If it’s the teaching of Christ, then it will disturb us every once in a while. The more you read Bible and listen to the what God teaches us, the more you realise that there is such great depth to it. It applies to every situation and every way of life. It applies to every one of us, if we are prepared to listen.
If we want a strong foundation for our faith—the house built on solid rock, as Jesus described it—then we have to build it on the teachings of Jesus; not just the bits we like, but his teachings whether we like them or not.
Finally, remember what the Lord says in the first reading, ‘Whether they listen or not they will know that there is a prophet among them’. God keeps sending us people to speak to us, sometimes they are priests, sometimes not; but God keeps speaking to us, but it’s up to us to listen.