Fr. Bill Peckman – The Real Jesus Challenged Me Like a Great Forceful Coach

Fr. Bill Peckman – The Real Jesus Challenged Me Like a Great Forceful Coach

By Fr. Bill Peckman …

This morning I gave a homily that has stuck in my mind all day.

The gist is this: many times we want to believe in a God of our own creation. We can slap the name of Jesus on it if we wish, but it is a fiction of our desires. We don’t want the actual Jesus, like the people of Nazareth in the Gospel today. We want a more individually stylized model. We want one who turns over the tables in other people’s lives but pats on on the head for our good and who ignores our bad. We want a Jesus that condemns other people’s sins but overlooks mine. We want a Jesus who socially, politically, and otherwise aligns with our predispositions. We want a Jesus who condemns the people we hate and coddles the people like us. Fire and brimstone for thee and rainbows and unicorns for me.

We want Jesus to be an ATM, and EMT, a shepherd who is okay with our wandering from the flock, and a scapegoat when our lives spin out of control. We want a Jesus who makes us comfortably numb.

And heaven knows there more than enough clerics or all forms who will encourage you to form your own personal Jesus. It is a lot easier and far less risky to do that than present the actual Jesus. That way we don’t have to talk about sensitive topics that might…gasp!….trigger people. Just keep writing those checks though!

But the more our personal Jesus is a wimpy effeminate weakling the easier it is to wander away altogether. A Catholicism of love, hugs, and crunchy granola for me and blistering hellfire for my enemies (real or imagined) sooner or later seems and is ineffectual. When the voice of this world is far more demanding, people will gravitate to it. I know that was true for me as a young man. My own personal Jesus wasn’t up to the task of dealing with the truly heart wrenching things I had to deal with. Like a spent orange peel, He was easy to throw away. And with it, I was able to casually toss aside religion as well.

But here I am a priest! Why? Why did I come back to the Catholic Church? Because I started to look for the real Jesus. The real Jesus challenged me like a great forceful coach to greater holiness. He wants us to share in His victory, which can only happen by our picking up our crosses and following Him. He didn’t take my whining excuses, but called for my conversion. He wasn’t some weakling with soft hands, but a carpenter with rough scarred hands who didn’t ask of us what He Himself didn’t do. The actual Jesus comforts and chides, draws us closer to Himself but challenges our sins. He loved us enough to die for us. He tells us our motivations matter, that our faith has to be authentic, and our love , especially for our enemies, must be on par with His.

I truly believe that one of the major reasons why so few Catholics go to Church and believe is because of the spiritual malpractice of clergy who basically gave you the starter kit for forming your own personal Jesus (the horrid catechesis of the last several decades), fed cotton candy in homilies (and we know how substantial cotton candy is), and weaseled out of moral issues to gain approval or spare themselves confrontation. It is hard to maintain moral authority when one never exercises it or is exercising an authority based in their personal Jesus. Want to know how clerics of any church can prey on their flocks or rob them blind? Here you go.

If you haven’t caught on, I am dedicated to preaching the Gospel in its entirety. Both the comfort and the challenge. The real Jesus can be Dies Irae and come to me all of you who are burdened. He is merciful AND just. I would have it no other way.


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