There is often talk about the way “modern” Catholics believe, picking and choosing what they believe and bypassing what they don’t. It has been termed cafeteria Catholicism — what it is in reality is intellectual sin. We accept Christ’s teaching only so far as it agrees with what we already think. When it challenges us, we ignore it.
Jesus didn’t accept this from his disciples. When he announced the doctrine of the Eucharist in John 6 many disciples ceased to follow him because they found the teaching too difficult (see John 6:66, notice the numbers). Did Jesus yell out, “Oh, that’s okay — take what you like, ignore the rest”? No, instead he turned to those who had not left him and asked, “Do you want to leave me too?”
Our reluctance to accept the Lord’s teaching,“in my thoughts and in my words, in what I have done and what I have failed to do,” may be our most persistent sin, one that we constantly need to confess openly, as we do at the beginning of every celebration of the Eucharist.
We are Always Sinners
One of my favorite prayers is the Jesus Prayer. It is a simple prayer, taken from the Scriptures, one that can be prayed anywhere simply by repeating the words “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of the Living God, have mercy on me, the sinner,” over and over slowly. I often pray it throughout the day, whenever I find myself waiting: in the car at a traffic light, in an airport waiting for a flight, in an office waiting for an appointment or at church waiting for the Eucharist to begin.
As I pray this prayer I often imagine that I am one of the blind men spoken of in the gospel who cried out to Jesus as he was passing by.
The Jesus Prayer is essentially an Eastern Christian prayer. Eastern Christians do not have a problem with acknowledging that they are sinners, but I think that Western Christians do.