August 23: 21st Sunday in Ordinary Time Year B
Readings: Joshua 24:1-2, 15-17, 18; Ephesians 5:21-32; John 6:60-69
The Gospel passage this Sunday, the final section on Jesus’ teaching on the bread of life, ends with a dramatic challenge to make a choice. Indeed all three readings speak about the necessity of making choices. Our life progresses on a path where we have to make choices as we go. Some choices are critical to survival other not so serious. We choose to believe in persons, in institutions, in values and causes. All our real and good relationships, our good commitments arise out of such choices. This process of faith invariably involves a certain amount of risk. Our faith too is a matter of choice. The problem is that because we have been brought up in a society that believes in freedom of choice, we tend to consider even what the Church teaches in terms of choice. What the Church teaches about the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist is something to be accepted in faith. Some Catholics would want to dilute the faith in such a way that they can accept it. Others would not want the Church to speak on certain moral issues such as abortion, cohabitation, sex before marriage as sin. These are questions that require a leap of faith to accept in freedom what the Church teaches.
The Chosen People before entering into the Promised land were challenged by Joshua on questions of faith. In the first reading, Joshua placed a clear option before them. “If it does not please you to serve the Lord, decide today whom you will serve, the gods your fathers served beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites…As for me and my House, we will serve the Lord”. After Joshua reminded the people of all that the Lord had done for them, the people said, “we also will serve the Lord”. In the second reading, Paul presents a more familiar form of choice making. He speaks of the decision made by engaged couples preparing for marriage. They must choose one partner, and that choice is sealed at the marriage covenant in the Church. Paul uses this image to describe the loving relationship between Christ and the Church in order to underline the choice we make at Baptism to serve Christ. At the end of a lengthy discourse on the bread of life, some followers of Jesus found the teaching difficult and they no longer went with him. Jesus then turned to the Twelve and said, "Do you also want to leave?" Obviously Jesus loved them so much that he wanted to respect their freedom of choice. They in turn would respond in love and freedom through Peter. "Master, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe are convinced that you are the Holy One of God". We live in a world full of life choices and a plurality of options. But when we come to matters of faith, God loves us so much that He wants us to choose in freedom to do His will. The message is threefold: 1) Like the Israelites and the disciples of Jesus, you and I are faced with the same challenge of making vital decisions in our faith commitment. 2) Like the disciples of Jesus, the options for us are narrowed down to either accepting his teaching in faith or going away; saying yes to Jesus or saying no to him. 3) This Sunday we are challenged to affirm with Joshua, “As for me and my household we will serve the Lord” Similarly, we are challenged to profess our faith with Peter, “Lord to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.”
©2009 John M. Mbinda