Sunday, August 2, 2015

Crucial Conversations With Jesus (18.B)

About this time last year I went to a conference in Chicago called the Global Leadership Summit. One of the most impressive speakers was Joseph Grenny, co-author of a best-selling book called Crucial Conversations. The book defines a crucial conversation as “a discussion between two or more people where (1) stakes are high, (2) opinions vary, and (3) emotions are strong.”

I think that the crowd in this Sunday’s Gospel is having a crucial conversation with Jesus. (1) The stakes are very high—he’s just fed 5,000 people with a few loaves of bread and a basket of fish.

(2) Opinions vary—we know that Jesus always had his opponents, and there are doubters in the crowd who aren’t satisfied with the recent multiplication of the loaves and fish: they want their own miracle.

And (3) emotions are strong—obviously. The people are both physically and spiritually hungry, and this new rabbi might have the answer to a lot of their problems.

The authors of the book tell us that crucial conversations matter a great deal. The consequences of getting them wrong can be severe. But stepping up to a crucial conversation and handling it well can change our lives.

So what do you think? Is this crucial conversation on the shore of the Sea of Galilee going well or poorly? Will it change the lives of those who are speaking with Jesus?

It doesn’t get off to a great start. The people are confused when they find Jesus, because they haven’t a clue how he got to the other side of the lake. We started reading the sixth chapter of John’s Gospel last week, and we continue it today and for the next three weeks—but the Lectionary cut out the story of Jesus’ crossing over by boat.

So their first question isn’t particularly helpful: how on earth did you get here?

But Jesus, who is the master and the model of all crucial communication, follows the first rule in the book: start with heart. He doesn’t get side-tracked by the unimportant issue of how he got across the lake, but turns the conversation immediately to what it’s really about: Him.

There’s a contemporary Christian song by Matt Redman that has this simple refrain: “I'm coming back to the heart of worship—And it's all about you, it's all about you Jesus.”

How often do we sidetrack crucial conversations about faith or about the Church by forgetting that it’s all about Jesus?

Throughout his dialogue with the crowd, Jesus keeps bringing the conversation back to him. The people ask what they should do, but instead he tells them to believe in him.

The people ask for another physical miracle, but Jesus tells them about the greatest miracle of all, the Word made flesh.

We all need to have a crucial conversation with God today—a conversation that starts with our own hearts.

We need to tell the Lord what we hunger for. We need to look into our hearts and find the empty places that need to be filled.

Martin Luther King once said that “our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.” That’s true of our spiritual lives, too. If we won’t talk to God about the things that matter to us most, we can’t have much of a spiritual life.

Of course—and this is a key to any crucial conversation—we need to listen.

What does Jesus say to you this morning as you sit here at Mass? Are his words in today’s Gospel an answer to some of your doubts and fears?

“Whoever comes to me will never be hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.”

Are we here expecting to be fed? Here to break the bread of God has come down from heaven and gives us life? Because if we’re not, we are overdue for a crucial conversation with Jesus, the Bread of Life.

We live in a post-Christian world where the stakes are high, opinions vary, and emotions are strong. Our friends and neighbours, even some members of our own family, think us fools or worse for going to church.

In such a climate, we will not persevere in our faith journey unless we know why we are here, what we have been promised, and talk freely with Jesus in this great sacrament of his body and blood.

The heart of our worship today, and every day, is Jesus. It’s all about him.

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