Does Not Compute

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There’s a meme that has become popular in some parts of pop culture, especially the science fiction genre. You might have seen this in Futurama or the Simpsons or Alien the movie, but the meme goes something like this: there’s a computer robot shaking his hands and saying, “Does not compute. Does not compute.” And then what happens? His head explodes. Have you seen that? He kind of blows up and explodes.

The idea is that there are things that artificial intelligence will never be able to do as well as humans can do. Have you ever had that experience where you ask Alexa, or you ask your Siri to do something, and Siri says, “I’m sorry. I can’t help you with that.” Does not compute. Sometimes there are things in our lives that simply don’t compute. They don’t make sense to us, and we become like that robot. We hear this in the Gospel.

The first scandal that ever happens in the Church is in the Gospel today. It is the Bread of Life discourse. Jesus is saying that unless you eat my flesh and drink my blood you do not have life within you. What happens at that moment? Some of the people following Him say, “Does not compute.” And what do they do? They walk away. They leave. And, later on in that Gospel, Jesus chose 12 disciples.

One of those disciples would betray Him. He actually calls that disciple named Judas the devil. He calls him Satan. Isn’t that strange that Jesus would choose 12 disciples and get one of them wrong. Does that make any sense? Does not compute, right? Why would Jesus choose a disciple that’s going to become Satan?

We are at a time in our Church where there has been scandal. Anytime that there’s scandal, especially in our Church (and from those in high ranking positions within our Church), we should be saying, “Does not compute.” That doesn’t make sense.

Why would God allow that? It doesn’t compute. We hear in the second reading that a husband shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife. The two shall become one flesh. They are no longer two, but one flesh. We believe that marriage is free, total, faithful, for life – yet fifty percent of marriages end in divorce. Does not compute, right? It doesn’t make sense.

The reality is that at times we’re going to be disappointed by people. At times, the people we love and trust the most might hurt us and might disappoint us. There will be times when we’re going to be just as confused as a robot and look at the world and say, “Does not compute.” The temptation when something doesn’t compute is to walk away. The temptation is to leave. The temptation is to be like Judas, one of the followers of Jesus, who simply can’t wrap his mind around it.

Do we give up and leave? At some point in our lives each and every one of us will be challenged in our faith where there is a temptation to walk away. Where there’s that reality where we say, “Does not compute.” It’s at those times especially that we have to go to God and we have to tell Him that, we have to say, “God, this doesn’t make sense.” There are some questions that only God can answer. It really takes us down to the mystery of sin.

Why does God allow it? Why is there sin in our world? Why am I a priest capable of sinning? Why are married couples capable of sinning? Why does God permit it? It does not compute. But, instead of walking away, we can turn to Christ. Remember how scandalous it was for God, the word of God, to take flesh so He could be seen in us and received by us? It doesn’t compute, but there’s a mystery deeper than we can see. And, that’s true for sin.

Why does God allow sin? I don’t know, but I have to believe that it’s for His greater glory. He believes in us and loves us so much that He wants to give us that free choice. We can choose to love Him. Maybe in your life there’s something that does not compute. The temptation is to walk away, but I give you the invitation to draw closer to Christ. Bring that “does not compute” to the Eucharist. Bring it to one of us priests in confession. Really be challenged by this reality that God takes on human flesh. He works with the Church as sinners. Sometimes this does not compute but hopefully, as with all sin, God can uproot.

About the Author Fr. Michael Denk

Fr. Michael was ordained into priesthood in the Diocese of Cleveland on May 12, 2007. He is dedicated to helping others encounter Christ through the celebration of the Eucharist, preaching, the Sacrament of Reconciliation, spiritual direction, and prayer.

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I'm Father Michael J. Denk, a priest of the Catholic Diocese of Cleveland. I am a contributor of content to The Prodigal Father Productions, Inc., a non-profit corporation functioning in accord with the traditions and the teachings of the Roman Catholic Church. The corporation and I are separate, it doesn't speak for me, the parish, or on behalf of the Diocese of Cleveland, and I do not speak for it.