No One Goes Away From Jesus Unchanged. A reflection on the fruitfulness of the Sacraments and the Liturgy

022513There is a very clear and consistent principle in the New Testament which stated simply is “No one goes away from Jesus Christ unchanged.” That is to say, no one encounters him and leaves that encounter in the same condition that they began it. The blind man came away seeing, the deaf man came away hearing, the lame left walking, lepers went away cleansed, the poor had the good news proclaimed to them, those without a shepherd gained a Shepherd, those without a teacher, were taught, the sick got well, and the dead were raised to life.

Sadly too there were some who went away changed for the worse. Yes some went away glad, but some went away sad and some went away mad. The rich young man went away sad, for his possessions were many. And though hearing the call, he could not embrace it. The Pharisees, and other unbelievers one away mad, so mad that they plotted to kill Jesus.

Thus, no one goes away from Jesus unchanged. Jesus is no neutral figure. He is one who compels a choice and brings about a change. Some had their hearts melted, some had their hearts hardened but no one was unchanged. Either they were mad, sad or glad, but never unchanged.

This scriptural principle is often under appreciated and poorly understood today. At one level there are those who think they can remain largely neutral about Jesus, appreciating certain of his ethical teachings but doubting his divinity or of worshiping him as Lord.

Sorry, no can do. There is no middle way with Jesus. Either he is the Lord he claims to be. or a lunatic and a liar who is to be shunned as a blasphemer. But if he is the Lord, then we must worship him, put faith in him and base our life on his teachings.

Tertium non datur (No third way is given), there is no third team on the field, and if you think you can play for some third team of for both teams I got news for you about what team you’re really on.

But even for believers there remains a mitigated way in which this teaching is often diminished. If it is biblically true that no one goes away from Jesus Christ unchanged, then the question becomes whether a believer really believes this when it comes to liturgy, sacraments, prayer, and the reading of Scripture.

If it is true that the liturgy and the Sacraments are an encounter with the living Lord Jesus Christ, (and it is), then what are the expectations I bring to these encounters?

In my discussions with Catholics down through the years I’ve come to realize that most do not have many high expectations of their walk with Christ. Frankly, they expect very little to happen that is dramatically different or healing. And these low expectations, possibly rooted in sloth, tend to close them off from the dramatic transformation that one ought to expect from being in a relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ.

Many people, in fact, put more faith in Tylenol than in the Eucharist. How? Because when they take Tylenol they expect something to happen, for the pain to go away, the swelling to go down. Yes, they expect healing and change. But when people come forward to receive Holy Communion do they expect anything like this, anything at all?

Frankly, it is been my experience at most don’t expect much and many see the sacraments and the liturgy more as tedious rituals than transformative realities.

I lay a lot of the blame for this low expectation at the feet of us clergy. Very few of us preach and teach people that they should expect dramatic transformation through the faithful celebration of the liturgy and sacraments, personal prayer, the reading of Scripture and walking in fellowship with the Church. For the most part, the faithful usually hear only vague reasons given, if any at all, as to why such things are important or necessary, and why and how they can change your life.

All of this has to change. For as we’ve seen, it is a biblical norm that no one goes away from Jesus Christ unchanged.

But of course the encounter with Christ must be rooted in faith. And where faith is weak, the encounter is often vague and unfruitful.

To illustrate this recall that a woman in the crowd who had a hemorrhage for 12 years, reached out in faith and touched the hem of Jesus’ garment. When Jesus asked who touched him, feeling healing power go out from him, the disciples were amazed by the question and retorted that the crowd was hemming him in and that probably hundreds of people had bumped into him! But Jesus did not ask who bumped into him, he to ask who touched him. There is a big difference, and the different Is faith. Jesus congratulations woman and with joy tells her that her faith has saved her. (cf Mk 5)

And therefore for us too a more robust faith must be the solution. We must have a lively faith in the biblical norm that no one goes away from an encounter with Jesus Christ unchanged. And good faith in this truth draws us to have high expectations, and to go to the liturgy, to the Mass, prayer, to the reading of Scripture, and the Sacrament of Confession with high expectations rooted in the lively faith that we are going to encounter the living God, and that encounter will forever change us.

This must be our faith, these must be our expectations, namely radical transformation through the Lord’s celebration of the liturgy and in the sacraments.

We priests have to do a better job of preaching it, and all the faithful with their priests must embrace this truth: No one goes away from Jesus Christ unchanged! Any faith-filled encounter with him can and will have large effects. But our faith is critical.

It is time is Catholics to reclaim our birthright that comes to us through faith that Jesus Christ is alive, and ministers powerfully and effectively through the liturgy, the Sacraments and his word. If we will accept this truth and faith we will go away remarkably changed and transformed by the Lord who ministers to us.

No one is to go away from Jesus Christ unchanged, this means you.

8 Replies to “No One Goes Away From Jesus Unchanged. A reflection on the fruitfulness of the Sacraments and the Liturgy”

  1. Monsignor, while I have experienced some huge changes in the past (beginning years of conversion), it is unfortunately a fact that any changes that may still be happening to me over the past several years have seemed fairly miniscule. I wonder if others have the same trouble? For quite a few years (10?), I begged and begged God, with tears, to be healed of certain things. I don’t seem to have received what I requested, or not by any means completely. I still ask at times, but I’m afraid I have grown a little weary of pleading. I believe some others are in that same boat. Is that sloth?

    1. If you are talking about the healing of sin, as in being freed from an habitual sin, I can say that I have had similar issues. I am not sure what you are talking about though.

      1. Partly that – the tendency to harbor hurt feelings and anger. I seem to have to forgive and forgive; always, I seem to have to start over as if I’d never forgiven before. I have asked Jesus, repeatedly, to give me His forgiveness for those people, and I don’t seem to receive it. I don’t know of anything I haven’t done. I am so very tired of trying to figure it out. There are other things, but this is one of the main ones.

        1. I saw this priest say one time, that when he first became a priest, it was only by an act of the will could he bring himself to believe that he had been the instrument to confect the Eucharist during Mass. When other priests said Mass, he had no trouble believing that they had been the instruments to confect the Eucharist, but with himself, it required an act of the will. I have had the same trouble with Confession. Sometimes, it is only by an act of the will on my part that I can believe that I have really been forgiven and am in a state of Grace after I go to Confession. Maybe, something is similar is needed on your part with respect to forgiving people. If that helped, then praise God. If those words didn’t help, please just let them slide by.

  2. Pam,
    I was raised in a Catholic household that followed a strict Orthodoxy, as my Irish Grandmother would pray the Rosary three times per day, and those that were at home would go to Mass daily, attended the anointing of the sick, etc. yet I fell from the path in my fourteenth year and I did not receive the Eucharist for 12 years as I knew I was unworthy of the Grace given to me by Jesus, I was unworthy to touch his cloak and ask for his grace and healing of my soul.

    I fell into alcohol and drug addictions, which led me to attempt to take my brothers life, resulting my incarceration and while I was in the dark depths of my cell the lord Jesus came to me and showed me two paths to follow, and I was to choose the path for me. I chose to follow the path that would lead me to him knowing the path was narrow and a hard one to follow, but I took up my cross and walked.

    one year later I received the Eucharist for the for the time in twelve years and I ever so slightly felt a change in my heart, I thought it would be a life changer but it was not, so I thought he had forsaken me and I was still unworthy of his saving grace. I forgot that my heart had been dark for many years and the journey would be long. I was then blessed to have Fr. Tony Fernando(mother Teresa’s last pastor) join our parish and I sat in awe as the gospels flowed from his lips, his voice but the words of Jesus, I forgot how to listen to the gospels as I was deaf and he touched my hears and I now hear..

    I asked the question you have of Msgr. Pope, about my many hours spent in prayer for the Lords saving grace to heal those I spend in prayer for, those afflicted with cancer, brain injuries etc. I asked Fr. Tony, why Jesus did not listen to me every time I prayed for his healing grace, how could he let so many suffer from such horrid diseases and horrible deaths. He answered by telling me about what the Blessed Mother Teresa said about the afflicted.

    paraphrasing here – We all carry a cross to bear, some are heavier than others and seem in-surmountable, some shall see his healing grace and others will not, those that do not are in away in a better grace as this is the Lord’s way of kissing us, holding us near to his heart as we bare our cross, fore he shall not give us more than we can carry.

    I know this is a little hard to believe but I have come to this state of readiness as my own body has come under affliction that cannot be cured by mere man and I to have prayed for his healing grace and it has not come to my physical being, but has come more fully in my spiritual soul, as his healing I feel inside my darkened heart, fore it has become full of his light.

    I have come closer to fearing sin more than death itself, and I remember my Irish grandmother in her time of suffering as she opened her arms and lifted her pain to our Lord at the time of her death, never once asking why it was her to suffer so much, because her pain was so trifling compared to the pain she caused our Lord savior Jesus Christ in his death on the cross.

    Pam, I pray for you this day and for the time to come, I shall offer your intention every week in adoration of the Eucharist, I shall ask for the Lord for his healing grace upon your affliction, I will ask him to enter into your heart so you may feel a sense of his touch, to give you the strength to carry on in your journey and fight. For the Adoration has given me a more fuller life in Christ and it is the only time my pains leave me, it is the time I spend kneeling for an hour and do not feel the pain, as the Lord is at my side holding my hand relieving the pain, if for just an hour at a time but I know when it is all done and he calls me to his Kingdom I will feel the pain no more.

    May the light of the Lord Jesus Christ fill your heart with grace and peace – may you reach out to touch his cloak and may he ask if it was you who touched him – may he heal your afflictions – as I now he holds you close to his heart – may you not plead for his grace but ask for his healing power and listen to his voice fore it is hard to hear sometimes and remember he does not forsake us if we do not receive instant healing.

    Amen I say to you, he who believes in me will have everlasting life and inherit my fathers Kingdom.

    1. Thank you, Mark. I have hoped that this affliction is part of my Cross, and not just a failure on my part, but I am not at all sure of this. If it is just a penalty, a repayment, for past offenses, I am willing to bear it, but if it is just more sin on my part, I can’t seem to remedy it. Thank you for your prayers. May God reward you.

      1. Pam, as a Catholic we believe God does not give us the pain he just does not always take the pain from us. We also believe that we do not suffer for past sins or the sins of our fathers, as the Israelite people did in the old Testament.
        I have a lose of patience for those that I disagree with and I pray desperately for his grace to have patience, and the more I pray it seems the more I am faced with chances to practice my patience, this I know is his way of healing my impatient heart.

        it reminds me of the story of a man that was adrift in the sea after his boat sank and he prayed for God to save him. A cruise ship came to his aid and asked if he needed help and the man replied I have prayed to God and he will help me. This he did two more times, to two different ships and soon after he drowned drowned. Upon entering Heaven he asked God why he did not answer his prayer for help. God replied “was not three ships enough”.

        God answers in mysterious way’s

        Peace to you Pam

        1. Well, we can (and do) suffer for past sins – we are required to make some form of recompense (penance), not just go to confession. We can offer what we suffer from others, or from our own failures (physical, mental, or spiritual anguish) as atonement for our sins – which atonement is only efficacious because, since we are part of the Body of Christ, is Christ’s, but we suffer it (in Him). That’s what I meant. I do think I still sin, before I remember to stop. I wish I would stop that.

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