Readings: Jos 24:1-2, 15-17, 18; Eph 5:21-32; Jn 6:60-69
“As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” On this Twenty First Sunday of Ordinary Time, Jesus’ Bread of Life Discourse reaches a climax and presents the audience a choice. But first a true story. The story is told about a woman who lived alone. Her life was literally saved because she decided to go to Church one Sunday morning. The Sunday was just like any other Sunday when she woke up, but she was not very enthusiastic about going to Mass that Sunday. However, she finally took the courage and went. On reaching the door of the Church she started having chest pains, but walked to find a place in the pews. Upon sitting down she still felt bad and started walking out of the Church but collapsed before reaching the door in front of some parishioners who immediately started CPR on the woman while another frantically dialled 911. The long story short is that the woman’s life was saved that day because she made a choice to go to Church that morning. I tell this story because the readings draw our attention to making choices. Our life is on a path with many choices as we go. Some choices are critical to survival and others not so serious. 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 not a matter of choice. It is a teaching to be accepted in faith.
In the first reading, the people challenge Joshua on questions of faith and Joshua places 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 made a choice and 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. In the Gospel, at the end of a lengthy discourse on the bread of life, some followers of Jesus find the teaching difficult and choose not to follow him. Jesus then turns to the Twelve and says, "Do you also want to leave?" Obviously Jesus loves them so much that he wants to respect their freedom of choice. They in turn 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 and 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 be the best version of ourselves. The message we take home is threefold: 1) Like the woman in the story, the choices we make can lead to saving our life or losing it. 2) We are challenged to affirm our choice like Joshua to serve the Lord. 3) Like the disciples of Jesus, the options for us are narrowed down to either accepting his teaching in faith or going away. Our choice is to affirm our faith with Peter, “Lord to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.”
©2015 John S. Mbinda