Homily for twenty-first Sunday B
For the past four Sundays, our readings have been on Jesus the bread of life. We have been talking about the Eucharist and its place in our lives, and today we conclude the discourse on the Eucharist. As we celebrate this Sunday, we are challanged to make decision, to respond to what we have heard these past four Weeks about the Eucharist.
Joshua in our first reading called the people of Israel to decide what they wanted. In chapter 23, Joshua reminded the people of Israel of how God has fulfilled his promises. He delivered them from the land of Egypt, gave them victories in their fight against their enemies and resettled them in the land flowing with milk and honey. God kept his own part of the covenant, and Joshua calls the people today to either keep their own part of the covenant or decide otherwise. If you will not serve the Lord, choose today whom you wish to serve, whether the gods that your ancestors served beyond the River, or gods of the Amorites in whose land you are now living. As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.
It was a time for personal decision; Joshua declared that he and his household would serve the Lord. The people had to decide for themselves, Joshua did what was required of him; to remind the people of what the Lord had done for them, and if God deserves to be served, then serve him. If not, choose whom to serve. The same question the Church puts before us today, choose whom to serve. If the Lord has done something wonderful in your life and you believe he deserves to be served, serve him. If not, choose whom to serve. We have to choose, we cannot serve two masters. We cannot claim to be Christians and live like unbelievers.
Christianity is not a hiding place as some have taken it; they belong to the other side but hide in the Church. You cannot serve two masters, choose today whom to serve. Though it is a personal decision, St. Paul however encourages us in our second reading to learn to submit to God. St. Paul admonishes husbands and wives to submit to each other just as the Church submits to Christ. We are part of the Church, we are therefore called to submit to Christ just as the people of Israel did when Joshua challenged them. The people answered, we have no intention of deserting the Lord our God and serving other gods. Was it not our Lord and God who brought us and our ancestors out of the land of Egypt, the house of slavery, who worked those great wonders before our eyes and preserve us all along the way we travelled and among all the people through whom we journeyed. We too will serve the Lord, for he is our God.
In our gospel passage, Jesus calls us to make that decision. He has been talking about himself as the bread of life, but the people complained saying; this is intolerable language. How could anyone accept it? For them, the teaching is unacceptable, and many in anger stopped following him.
They followed Jesus when he fed them with ordinary bread and satisfied their physical hunger, they followed him and praised him when he healed their sick; he was considered a good man. But when he tried to lead them into the truth of the gospel, to satisfy their spiritual hunger, they stopped following him, they defected.
They followed Jesus as long as they had enough of ordinary bread to eat, as long as their sick were healed. All they wanted to see was miracle, all they wanted to hear was things they selfishly desired. There’s nothing wrong in miracles, but something is certainly wrong with following miracle and not Christ. Christianity is not about miracle, it is accepting the word of God as it is, in faith. That was what the defectors from Jesus’ camp failed to understand, that following Jesus is more than miracle but relationship in faith.
Their defection did not make Jesus change his teachings, he rather insist that we must eat his body and drink his blood. He turned to his apostle and asked; what about you, do you want to go away too? He was ready to let them go rather than change his teachings. The teachings may be intolerable to some people, but it is the center of our worship as Catholics. The Holy Eucharist is the body and blood of Jesus Christ, and without fear or shame we preach it.
We are called today as Catholics to be part of this banquet prepared by Christ himself, let us therefore rise above whatever keeps us away from it, and nourish our Souls with the body and blood of Jesus Christ.