Homily, 21st Sunday in Ordinary Time

May we ask God for two key gifts:  Wisdom and Courage

Twenty-First Sunday in Ordinary Time

Joshua 24:1-2a, 15-18b; Ephesians 5:21-32; John 6:60-69

For the past several weeks as we’ve journeyed through the sixth Chapter of John’s gospel, we’ve encountered Jesus as the one who can relieve physical hunger and as the nourishment necessary for fulness of life.  Today’s readings call us to think about difficult matters and to make decisions about what we believe, who we believe and how we choose to live.  

When God created us, he could have made us as robots. That way God would have total control over us. But God didn’t do that. God gave us freedom, that is the power to choose. We could choose to obey or to disobey, to do good or to do evil. We value freedom very highly. But with freedom comes responsibility. Because we are free, we are responsible for our choices and have to answer for them.

In both the Old Testament reading from Joshua and the Gospel of St. John, we consider who is worthy of our life’s devotion. Joshua, the successor to Moses, gathered the tribes of Israel to ask them if they will serve the one God or if they prefer other gods. He made it perfectly clear that he and his household would stay loyal to the Almighty. The people agreed with him. They too, would serve the God who had rescued and protected them, and shown them great miracles. And in the Gospel, many of Jesus’ followers make a different choice. They thought He asked too much by speaking of Himself as the Bread of life and of His coming down from heaven. Although we hear a hint of Judas’ future betrayal, Peter and the other Apostles chose to stay faithful through the grace of the Eternal Father.  

People had difficulty with Jesus because he did not fit their concept of God and holiness. He was too simple, too much like them. Jesus appeared too unimposing to claim to be the one sent by God as the new "bread come down from heaven." Jesus was scandalously ordinary, except in how he loved God and made God's love available to others.

A life of discipleship is not easy. We are called to accept the teachings that are difficult and commandments that, at times, may seem impossible. For instance, Jesus asks us to love our enemies (Mt 5:43-45), to turn the other check (Mt 5;39) ...to forgive not seven times seventy times (Mt 18:22), and to embrace the same vulnerability and humility that he embodies on the cross. To any of these requests we might be tempted to say, “This is hard, who can accept it?”. And yet, Jesus reminds us today that these words, which cause consternation and challenge are “Spirit and Life”. They bring those who accept them fullness of life. When we follow Christ, we can come to know happiness, a sense that our lives have purpose and meaning. Words that if taken to heart and truly lived out help us to live the way God created us to live.

By our baptism, God has rescued us from the slavery of sin, given us the hope of eternal life, and guided us along right paths. As we know, alternate paths may be easier or more socially acceptable, but our moral conscience tells us that these are not the values that will lead us to our eternal home. 

Let’s face it.  There are times in life when we struggle to make and carry out the right choice.  Perhaps we don’t know what to do; perhaps we know but we struggle to do it.  Sometimes it can seem like the weight of the world rests on our shoulders as we muddle through hard sayings and tough decisions. Reflect on a time when you struggled with something in the privacy of your heart.  What helped you? Perhaps you know someone who is facing a difficult time alone.  How might you reach out to them? May we ask God for two key gifts:  Wisdom and Courage.  We ask for wisdom to know what to do to make right choices, and we pray for courage to carry it out!

 

 

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