A reflection by Fr. Bobby Cena on Acts 8.26-40 and John 6.44-51
“How can I, unless someone guides me?” was the Ethiopian eunuch’s response to Philip’s query if he understood what he was reading (Acts 8.31).
Definitely, there is a shortage of spiritual guides today. Of even greater scarcity are guides whose hearts are truly after the heart of the Good Shepherd. Guides who truly believe that laws are created for people, not people for the laws; guides who are convinced that the spirit of the law is above the letter of the law.
A woman came to a priest for advice. She has been living with her life-partner for quite some time and didn’t receive communion since then, because they were not married in the Church. She told the priest that she really wanted to receive communion but that there was no way they could be married in the Church because her partner belonged to another denomination. Do you know what the priest told her? He said, “And there is no way you can receive communion.”
Commenting in today’s gospel, St. Augustine noticed that Jesus used the word “draw” – “No one can come to me unless drawn by the Father” (John 6.44). There was a time in the Church’s history when people were pushed to faith, to believing. It was wrong; it should have never been done. It was definitely not the way of Jesus. But the depressing fact is this: the Church is still using the same method today, only in a more subtle and refined way and under the guise of parish procedures and order.
People are more easily drawn from in front than driven from behind, by attraction rather than by compulsion. And people cannot be attracted with inhumane laws; they can only be drawn with gentle love. Pope Francis says that it is not by persuasion that the Church grows, but by attraction (Evangelium Gaudium #15).