One of the core themes of this Sunday’s readings is “Choices”. In the first reading, Joshua gets to the point and directly tells the Israelites to decide whom they will serve – the Lord, gods of their ancestors and of Egypt, or gods of the current land they inhabited. In the verses not included in today’s reading, 2b-15, Joshua, speaking as a prophet, outlines all the Lord had done for the Israelites from his covenant with Abraham to leading them to the Promised Land. Yet, the Israelites tended to worship other gods or idols, and now it was time for them to choose. They chose to serve the Lord. It may not have been a hard choice for them to make given the context of the message from the Lord through Joshua. As we reflect on the choices we make in our lives, do we always make choices that serve the Lord? Our human nature and free will tend to have us serving many “things” other than God. The Lord never abandons us despite our infidelity towards Him. He is as merciful and loving with us as He was with the Israelites. Let us pray we make the choices that serve the Lord.
In the second reading, St. Paul writes to the Ephesians regarding the husband-wife relationship in the Greco-Roman world of the early church. It is written in the context of the Christians of that place and time. When viewed through a modern lens, this scripture can be controversial. The disparities between women and men across multiple spectrums – societal, economic, civil and human rights – are well documented and fuels this controversy. However, this scripture describes the relationship of Christ to the Church – the Bride to the Bridegroom. In this context, the wife is called to be subordinate to her husband “as the church is subordinate to Christ”. Husbands must consider they too are the Church – the Bride. St. Paul also tells us, as Christ is the Head of the Church, husbands are the head of their wives to completely love and serve their wives even to the point of death as Christ “handed himself over for her” – the Church. Husbands are not called to dominate or lord over their wives but to nourish and cherish them as St. Paul instructs. If it is difficult to grasp this context, focus on two key points of this passage that are the bookends of St. Paul’s message: “Be subordinate to one another out of reverence for Christ.” (v21) and “A man shall … be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” (v31). To be subordinate is to be open to being served. To be the head is to sanctify and love the other with no limits. Husbands and wives are one flesh called to mutual love and sanctification as Christ loves and sanctifies his Church.
In the Gospel, we come to the closing of the Bread of Life Discourse. We find some of Jesus’ disciples unable to accept what He said:
“Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life … For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me and I in him.” – John 6:54-56
His teaching was radical for that time – it’s radical today! Many came to see and believe – but were they convinced? This teaching was more than many could handle. As the spokesman for the Twelve, St. Peter proclaims their choice to stay with Jesus with a resounding “we have come to believe and are convinced that you are the Holy One of God”. We are told in the Gospel that Jesus “knew from the beginning” who would not believe in Him. Then why is it important to hear St. Peter proclaim his belief? It is important because we must choose to believe and choose to serve the Lord just as St. Peter, the Rock, chose to believe and to serve the Lord, and we must do it convincingly!
This is especially important for Catholicism today. It has been estimated that 69% of Catholics to do not believe that Jesus is present in the Eucharist (Pew Poll 2019). We need to proclaim like the Rock – like St. Peter – our choice to believe that Jesus is Lord, is present in the Eucharist, and is the Word for eternal life.
Diaconate Candidate 2024