21st Sunday in Ordinary Time - August 26, 2018 (Thoman)
Josh 24:1-2a, 15-17, 18b | Eph 5:2a, 25-32 | Jn 6:60-69
“To whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.”
I. Daily we make all sorts of choices. Many are small and usually inconsequential:
- should I have cereal for breakfast or do I have the courage for oatmeal?
- should I drive down Central or cut across the streets?
- should I have a lettuce salad or fruit?
But there are choices we make throughout the course of our life journey that alter
the direction of our lives:
- this past week I asked my dentist how it was he got into dentistry. He said that
even though he comes from a family of dentists, he explored the business world
as well and in the end decided upon dentistry. The choice of our career,
obviously, effects the direction of our life.
- or the choice of a marriage partner: should I ask her to marry me? Should I
accept his proposal?
- should I accept that job offer? Or should I stay where I am?
These are profound decisions – and they really do have far reaching effects.
II. When it comes to our faith life…the current abuse crisis in the Church is one of those
challenges that can provoke a profound choice: perhaps we hear Jesus ask us – Do
you also want to leave?
To hear about bishops who did not provide proper oversight – or did not take
reports seriously – or who themselves were abusers – bursts our bubble and shakes
our confidence in Church leadership to the core. What in the world is going on? Do I
really want to stay with this Church? Our response to such questions is one of those
Of course, there are other ways in which our faith can be shaken:
- I think of times when we must watch a loved suffer terribly, and eventually die of
a terrible disease. We grieve profoundly and find it difficult to make any sense
of this loss. We question God. We question our faith. We become bitter and
angry with God. We find it difficult to move on.
- This can happen when our life journey is a rough one – it seems some of us just
bounce from one crisis to the next: life never really settles down. It might be
illness, it might be job loss, it might be family turmoil, it might be abuse – or a
combination of these. Continuing challenges erode our faith – and we question
III. Both the ancient Israelites in the first reading and the apostles in the gospel must
answer the question: where do we go from here? Will we stick with our faith or go
in a different direction?
A. Joshua calls a meeting of all the tribes of Israel and they “stand before God” –
meaning this is a very serious meeting. And Joshua asks them: who are you going
to serve? You have three options: a) you can serve the gods of your ancestors, b)
you can serve the gods of the in whose land we are now living, c) or you can serve
the Lord God who brought you out of Egypt. What will it be?
And they respond: we will serve the God who brought us up out of the land of
Egypt and protected us all along the way. They decide to reaffirm their faith in the
one God. This effected their future because whatever choice they made
determined their identity.
B. In the gospel, the apostles need to make a decision. They, as well as many others,
have been following Jesus for a long. In these past weeks, we have been listening
to the Bread of Life Discourse in the gospel of John. Last week, we heard Jesus
declare that he is the bread that has come down out of heaven – whoever eats this
bread will live forever.
And today we heard many disciples say this was too much for them to believe.
This is a hard saying – and so many left Jesus’ company and returned to their
former way of life.
This must have been a heart wrenching moment for Jesus: will they all abandon
me? And so he turns to the apostles – those closest to him – and challenges them:
will you too go away? The apostles must make a life-altering decision: do we
stick with Jesus – or leave? Peter speaks up on behalf of the group: to whom
shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We are convinced you are the
Holy One of God.
IV. The apostles could have walked at that point, but they didn’t. That choice led them
deeper into their journey with Christ. The same is true for us: the choice we make
when our faith is shaken either takes us away from Christ or takes us deeper. If we
decide to remain faithful, then we are drawn more deeply into the mystery of the
For this is the most important way we come to know Jesus: in the Eucharist. In
the Eucharist, we become one with the living God. With Christ dwelling within us,
it just can’t get more intimate than that. In this sacrament we come to know love in
its purest form.
I would like to think our very presence here today is a continuing affirmation of
our faith. But I invite you today to consider your participation in the Communion
procession to be a recommitment – your re-affirmation of your faith – your way of
saying: I will serve the Lord – your way of saying: I have come to believe and am
convinced that you are the Holy One of God.
Fr. Dwayne Thoman