Fr. James' Letters

Hard Sayings

I wonder if Jesus is coming back soon. We are living through some unsettling times. With a pandemic that is ravaging the world and the country that is in turmoil, some people are wondering whether the end times are near. Believe me, I do not believe in spreading fear because of what is happening around us. And yet, this unprecedented time in the history of the world and also of our country asks me whether the time is ripe for Jesus to return.

I have often wondered how I would react to Jesus if He came back. How would I respond to the challenges that Jesus issued to his contemporaries? Would I follow Him as did His disciples? Would I be willing and ready to lay down my life for Him as so many saints and martyrs have done down the centuries? Or, would I have walked away because his teachings were too hard to accept?

As we are celebrating Corpus Christi this Sunday, my mind goes to the story of Jesus multiplying the loaves and fish. The evangelist dedicates a whole chapter to the Lord’s discourse on the Bread of Life. Jesus tells His disciples that He is the Bread of Life, and that unless they eat His body and drink His blood, they will not have life in them. Some of His listeners no longer walk with Him; they leave His side. Then Jesus looks at the faithful ones and asks, almost with disappointment in His voice, “Would you also go away?” Jesus does not water down His teaching; He does not sugarcoat His serious claim that He gives His very body and blood for our nourishment.

The Master addresses the same questions to each one of us: “Will you go away from Me? What are my teachings that you find hard to accept? Are you prepared to walk with Me even to the heights of Calvary?” What words of Christ do I find hard to accept? What words shake my determination and undermine my commitment?

Jesus said, “I am the Bread of life. Unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you shall not have life in you.” Are these words hard to accept? Do I firmly believe in the Real Presence? Or, do I rather look at the Eucharist merely as a fellowship meal that mourns the death of a friend?

Jesus said, “Unless a grain of wheat dies, it remains a single grain. But if it dies, it produces much fruit. He who saves his life will lose it. He who loses his life for my sake will keep it for everlasting life. Take up your cross and follow me. What does it profit a man if he gains the whole world but suffers the loss of his soul?” Are these words hard to accept?

Jesus said, “No one can serve two Masters. You cannot serve God and money. Where your treasure is, there your heart will be. If you will be perfect, sell all you have and give it to the poor. Then come and follow me. It is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the Kingdom of God.” How do I react to those words?

Jesus said, “Do not worry about tomorrow. Look at the birds of the air and the lilies of the field. They do not reap or spin. Yet your Heavenly Father takes care of them. Will He not take care of you? Seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness and all these things will be added unto you.” Are these words hard to live by?

Jesus said, “Blessed are the peace-makers for they will be called children of God. Love those who hate you. Pray for those who hurt you and calumniate you. If they strike you on one cheek, show them the other.” Is Jesus asking too much?

Jesus said, “Do not judge and you will not be judged! Why do you look at the speck in your brother’s eye and you have a plank in your own. The measure you use to measure against others will be used to measure against you. Be compassionate as your Heavenly Father is compassionate.” Do you think that Jesus is too unrealistic?

Jesus said, “How often should you forgive your brother? Not once, not twice. Not seven times, but seventy times seven. If your Father forgives you without question, should you not forgive those who hurt you?” Are these words too hard to accept?

Jesus said, “Blessed are the pure of heart for they shall see God. What comes out of a man’s heart is what makes him unclean. If a man looks at a woman with lust in his heart, he has committed adultery.” Is Jesus out of touch with the real world?

Jesus said, “The Son of Man has come not to be served but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for the many. You have seen me wash your feet. You must now wash each other’s feet. If you want to be the first, you should be the last. You should be the servant of all.” Am I ready to live by these words?

Will you say that these are hard sayings? Will you leave his side? Or, with Peter, will you declare, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life”?

To be a true follower of Jesus is not easy. Let us pray that God will give us the grace to rise up to the challenge.

Who is Fr. James?

Father James Wallace grew up in Winnetka, Illinois and attended Sts. Faith Hope and Charity grammar school, New Trier High School, and then The George Washington University in Washington DC, where he earned his undergraduate degree in Political Science in 2007. He attended seminary at The Pontifical North American College in Rome and was ordained a priest in 2012 for the Archdiocese of Chicago. In addition to being the pastor of Saint Paul of the Cross Parish, he serves as a canon lawyer for the Archdiocese, a dean in Vicariate II, and a professor of canon law and spiritual director at Mundelein Seminary. He is also one of the featured Mercy Home Sunday Mass celebrants, airing Sundays at 9:30am on WGN.

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St. Paul of the Cross

320 South Washington Street
Park Ridge, IL 60068

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HFC = Holy Family Chapel

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8:30 am (UC)


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7:30 am (UC)

9:00 am (UC and HFC)

10:30 am (UC and HFC)

12:00 pm (UC)