21st Sunday of the Year, B – August 22, 2021.
Readings: Joshua 24:1-2a.15-17.18b; Ps 34:1-2.15-16.17-18.19-20.21-22(R.8a);
Ephesians 5:21:32 & Gospel – John 6:60-69.
Theme: A Choice for God!
Our liturgy this Sunday talks about making choices. The age-old adage “our choices either make or mar us” is instructive here. According to Kofi Annan, “To live is to choose. But to choose well, you must know who you are and what you stand for, where you want to go and why you want to get there.”
In his autobiography, Martin Luther King Jr. stated: “Of course I was religious. I grew up in the church. My father is a preacher, my grandfather was a preacher, my great-grandfather was a preacher, my only brother is a preacher, my daddy’s brother is a preacher. So I didn’t have much choice.” This sets the tone for our reflection.
Background & Summary of the Readings
Our first reading (Joshua 24:1-2a.15-17.18b) discloses Joshua’s charge to the people of Israel: “Choose this day whom you will serve.” The most interesting part of the text is his unalloyed response to the people: “…as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord” (Joshua 24:15). The events leading to that declaration puts it as one of the high points in the history of the journey faith of the Israelites.
In the second reading (Ephesians 5:21:32), St. Paul makes the point that we are covenanted to Christ as living parts of his body like the love which exists between husband and wife.
The gospel (John 6:60-69) also teaches us about the importance of “making a choice for God.” When Jesus gave what seemed like a difficult teaching about the Eucharist, some people left him but he did not change his teaching. In fact, he respected the choice of the Apostles by asking if they too would like to leave. Peter responded by saying: “Lord, to whom shall we go to? You have the words of eternal life” (John 6:68). Although he had brought them this far; although he was their Lord and Master, and although he had the words of eternal life, he implied rather frankly: “This thing is not by force. You can go if you want!”
Making Choices: The Two Wolves & Retiring Carpenter Narratives
There is this story by an unknown author about an old Cherokee who on a cool evening told his grandson about a battle that goes on inside people. He said, my son, the battle is between two “wolves” inside us all. One is Evil – It is anger, envy, jealousy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority and ego.
The other is Good – It is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion and faith. The grandson thought about it for a minute and then asked his grandfather, “Which wolf wins?” The old Cherokee simply replied: “The one you feed.”
Another story is told of an elderly carpenter who was ready to retire. He told his employer about his plans to leave the company’s quarters. The employer begged him for a last contract to construct a house for someone. He reluctantly agreed but chose to do a shabby job. His employer surprised him by giving him the house. The carpenter was shocked and said to himself, if I had known I was building my own house, I would have made the best choices to make it one-in-town. See what I have done to myself!
- Make a Choice for God: Like Joshua and his family and Martin Luther King Junior who made a choice to serve God with their whole hearts, minds, souls and strength, we too are challenged to make a deliberate choice for God.
- Be Covenanted to Christ: We are challenged by Paul in the second reading to be covenanted to Christ as living parts of his body as expressed in the love between husband and wife.
- Believe in the Real Presence: Because Jesus has “the words of eternal life” (John 6:68), we are charged to reaffirm our faith in the real presence which is the surest way to the eschatological banquet.
- Pray for Skeptics: That some Jews doubted the real presence shows that we should pray for those among us who do not belief in the real presence so that the Eucharistic Jesus would transform their lives into faithful followers.
- Feed the Good Wolf: We are challenged to feed the good wolf in us like the old Cherokee told his grandson by building a one-in-town house for ourselves as we heard in the story so that we might reap the fruits of eternal life at the end of time.
- Our first reading discloses Joshua’s charge to the people of Israel: “Choose this day whom you will serve.”
- In the second reading, St. Paul makes the point that we are covenanted to Christ.
- The gospel teaches us about the importance of “making a choice for God.”
- He [Jesus] respects the choice of the apostles by asking if they too would leave.
- “Lord, to whom shall we go to? You have the words of eternal life.”
Our liturgy urges us to make a choice for God. It is sad that instead of making a deliberate choice for God in the Eucharist, Christians are busy making alternative choices or paying allegiance to mundane things. It was Albert Camus who said, “Life is a sum of all your choices.” As such, our choice for God entails backing out of a toxic relationship or choosing to follow Christ wholeheartedly over and above every other thing. May the Holy Spirit assist us in fulfilling this task through Christ our Lord. Have a terrific week!