21st Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B
Joshua 24:1-2a, 15-17, 18b
Psalm 34:2-3, 16-17, 18-19, 20-21 (9a)
August 22, 2021
Today we come to the conclusion of Jesus’ Bread of Life Discourse. Many people had been there when Jesus fed the multitude with just five barley loaves and two fishes. Then, they heard Jesus preach.
Now, “Many of Jesus’ disciples who were listening said, “This saying is hard; who can accept it?”’
What saying is hard?
Jesus had told them, “I am the bread that came down from heaven.” Many of them had murmured at this because they did not understand that He had come down from Heaven. They limited themselves to seeing him as the son of Mary and Joseph. Now, as they say, “This saying is hard”, He responds, “Does this shock you? What is you were to see the Son of Man ascending to where he was before?” He had come down from Heaven and would return there.
They did not yet understand. We know that Jesus will die, rise, and ascend to Heaven.
That was not all that Jesus said that was difficult to understand. Last Sunday we celebrated the Assumption of Mary. Otherwise, we would have heard John 6:51-58. Here Jesus says, “Amen, amen, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you do not have life within you.”
This saying is very difficult. We must eat his flesh? We must drink his blood? It might sound like cannibalism. It sounds disgusting. Yet, it is true.
They did not understand. Why? They did not know of the Eucharist. They did not know that at the Last Supper that was yet to come, Jesus would take the bread and wine and transubstantiate it into his Body and Blood.
When we receive the Eucharist, we are receiving Jesus’ Body and Blood that He gives for us on the Cross. We are partaking of his flesh and blood. We become what we receive, the Body of Christ. It is the food that sustains us.
To believe in the Real Presence of Jesus flows from Jesus’ words, this is body, …this is my blood. Yet, it also requires faith.
Following Jesus is not always easy. Jesus shows us “the way and truth and the life.” He helps understand how we should live.
Note that I said how we should live. It is our choice. God gives us commandments and helps us understand them. God also gives us free will. We are free to choose how we live.
Joshua presented the Israelites with a choice. They had been slaves in Egypt. Joshua reminds them of how God set them free from slavery. God led them across the Red Sea. God provided food for them in the desert. God led them into the promised land.
After recalling them of what God had done for, Joshua said, “If it does not please you to serve the LORD, decide today whom you will serve.”
They answered, “Far be it from us to forsake the LORD for the service of other gods.”
That day they choose the Lord who had brought them “out of a state of slavery.” I emphasis “that day” because they will not always choose the Lord. At times they will choose sin over the Lord.
You made a choice to come here today. You made a choice for the Lord.
Do you always choose the Lord? Or do you yield to temptation, falling into sin?
Sin is powerful. If we allow ourselves to choose sin, we become slaves to sin. Our desires for the physical pleasures take over our free will.
Know that there is hope. Jesus came to give his life on the Cross to set us free from sin. As the Lord sets the Israelites free from slavery in Egypt, He sets us free from slavery to sin.
We choose to be set free from slavery to sin when we confess our sins in the Sacrament of Reconciliation.
Yet, our choice is not something we do once and have it over with. We must constantly make choices for the Lord or we will fall back into sin.
It is hard to make good choices. We need to recognize that the words Jesus speaks to us are “Spirit and life.” In our opening prayer we ask the Lord, “grant your people to love what you command.”
It is not easy to follow what the Lord commands. We must listen to what the Lord teaches. We use the gift of reason that God has given us and rely on the Holy Spirit to help us apply what the Lord teaches to our lives today.
We may not always understand. For instance, there are people who take what Paul writes to the Ephesians, “wives be subordinate to your husbands,” out of context. They take it by itself and think wives have to obey their husbands no matter what. They miss the verse before that says be subordinate to one another. We need to care for one another. We need to surrender our wants when others are in need. We also need to understand “wives be subordinate to your husbands” in the context of the later verse, “husbands, love your wives.“
Still, we may not always understand. Many of Jesus’ disciples “returned to their former way of life” because they did not understand.
As they left, “Jesus then said to the Twelve, “Do you also want to leave””
“Simon Peter answered him, “Master, to who 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.”
Peter did not claim to understand everything that Jesus had said but he did come to believe, to believe that Jesus is “the Holy One of God.”
We may not understand but we can believe. In faith, we love what God commands.
Lord, help us always love what you command and embrace the gift of Jesus’ Body and Blood as we celebrate the Eucharist.