The other day what should have been a routine "walkabout" became something surreal for me. It was very ordinary, yet extraordinary all the same. I was leaving the Parish Center on my way to the noontime daily Mass. There in front of me was a little baby (juvenile) robin. I greeted the bird, at least in my mind, and then began to walk towards it. It did not move, not one inch.
I bended down to it but it still did not move, except for its eyes looking back at me. No chirp, no flight from me (I am surely a scary interloper to this simple wild species), no reaction whatsoever. It was as if this was my pet and not a wild animal!
I petted the bird, then picked him/her up to move it to safer ground. It being a few feet outside one of the parish buildings near the sidewalk and worse still the street did not seem like the best place to hang out. Next it flew out of my hand and across to the parking lot, a short distance away near the parish fence line. I checked on it briefly and then went about my business. It seemed OK.
Later that evening I saw it again. It was just a few feet where I had seen it before, now on the pavement where many of the cars park for evening meetings and there was a meeting that night. Now I became alarmed that it was not simply a little stunned or slightly injured; the bird must truly be completely "off".
Again I picked it up, but this time with both hands. I brought it over to a nice little garden spot near the rectory as the sun was beginning to set. I thought this to be better than the parking lot. After eating dinner I checked on him/her and saw it was just standing just a few feet away near some bushes. Then it happened-- my conscience got to me.
What it "informed" me, or rather asked (challenged) me was if there was anything else I could do to make sure the bird did not become a midnight snack for some local feline predator. I immediately thought yes that there was and so I followed through by calling a friend who knows how to take care of injured or wounded wild birds and nurses them back to help. Now I was sure I did all I could and the little bird is in better hands than mine and out of the danger of the "elements".
As people of faith, as Catholics our consciences should play a role in the details of our everyday lives. We speak of having a properly formed conscience through our prayer, adoration and living the teachings or keeping within the moral teachings of Holy Mother Church.
Saint Paul speaks of conscience as he exhorts the Corinthians in our second reading today. He strongly rebukes them to turn away from secular things as the unbaptized Gentiles do. They are acting in the "futility of their minds" because of their weak moral code. He is referring to the philosophers of the day who could justify some immoral behavior by affirming it by false teaching against the natural law. Perhaps here the Apostle is referring to Hedonism, sexual depravity and generally destructive and irresponsible behavior.
His remedy? TRUTH IS IN JESUS!
"Put away the old self of your former way of life,
corrupted through deceitful desires,
and be renewed in the spirit of your minds,
and put on the new self,
created in God's way in righteousness and holiness of truth".
We hear about the greatest TRUTH from the Lord himself in Saint John's Gospel. In this section of what is commonly referred to as the bread of life discourse (Chapter 6), Jesus reveals that he himself is the bread of life.
What has all of this to do with our conscience?
First we must grasp a better understanding of the word. According to the Catholic Encyclopedia, Catholic Encyclopedia: Conscience
"The natural conscience of the Christian is known by him to act not alone, but under the enlightenment and the impulse derived from revelation and grace in a strictly supernatural order."
Finally, we receive supernatural grace from worthy reception of the Eucharist. This is a very important, in fact the most important aspect of our faith and in fact is the greatest reason to come to Mass. Sure we are enlightened by revelation (sacred Scripture) but His body and blood feed us.
Our Gospel passage today concludes with a promise: we will never hunger or thirst when we receive the bread of life. What greater gift than to receive Him not just in our hearts and minds, but totally and completely in our bodies. This should transform us forever each and every time we receive it so that we can make spiritual progress so that one day we can join Jesus in the kingdom of heaven, forever.