21st Sunday of Ordinary Time: Year B.
Commentary Theme for this Sunday:
“Free to choose Christ”.
There are two ways we can decide to live our lives – two opposite paths: the path of love or the path of selfishness.
The first reading informs us of the type of choice and decision made by the people of Israel at the great assembly of Shechem: they decided to choose YHWH and reject all idols.
The second reading states clearly the meaning of “to love.” In the life of a married couple, love is manifested by being subject to and serving the other. This reciprocal decision of service of two partners is an authentic sign of their love.
The central idea of today’s Gospel is that a life based on love is neither easy nor comfortable; it is challenging, it demands self-denial, self-giving and control of one’s passions. When Christ says that we must identify ourselves with him, be with him, walk with him along the way that leads to self-sacrifice for others, many prefer to leave him and ‘accompany him no more’. Jesus asks us today, “What will you choose to do”?
It is recommended that the actual readings are first studied and then meditated upon with a prayer to the Holy Spirit to grant you the gift of ‘wisdom’ to understand the meaning of the messages of Love, Forgiveness and the Offer of Salvation that the Lord has for each one of us in the Holy Bible.
These commentaries, which have been extracted and summarised for our meditation are from the published works of priests who have by their Divine inspiration become acclaimed scholars of the Scriptures and generally reflect the Church’s understanding of the readings.
These commentaries are not meant to replace the Sunday Homily at Holy Mass but are provided as an additional guide to assist and further enhance our understanding of the Sunday Liturgical Readings.
‘Daily Reflections’ and a Prayer are included to enable us to ‘Live the Word’ during the week following the Sunday Mass. We will begin to understand the meaning of gratuitous love and our life’s true purpose. Through His Word we will follow the Light to help fulfil the mission that has been given to each one of us by our Creator.
“Ignorance of the Scriptures is ‘Ignorance of Christ’.”
Joshua 24:1-2, 15-18.
After Moses died, Joshua led the people out of the desert, across the Jordan, and into the land that was promised. When he realized that death was near, he gathered the people to make a critical choice. Would they serve the Lord, who had brought them all this way, or the pagan gods of the land? Joshua asks the people which gods they intend to serve, the false gods that Abraham’s ancestors had served back in Mesopotamia or the local gods of the pagans among whom they now lived? Joshua proclaims that he and his family will serve the Lord God.
The people recall that it was the Lord God who had freed them from slavery in Egypt and that it was also the Lord God who had protected and guided them through the years of the wandering in the desert despite their disobedience, lack of faith and constant complaining.
The people swore to follow the Lord. Joshua pressed the issue a second time. “You may not be able to serve the Lord,” he tells later in this chapter. But the people vow obedience to their God. Joshua then takes a rock and calls it witness before the people, laying it the base of the sanctuary established in that place.
Do the animators of our communities profess their faith in front of their brothers and sisters with the same firmness and determination? We do have such milestones in our lives that testify for us: Our baptism, confirmation, and each Eucharist proclaim our willingness to follow the Lord. The community of faith to which we belong testifies for us. By signs, words and membership, we testify for ourselves.
Still we know Joshua’s warning is true: we may fall short of our witness if our lives do not also cry out the faith that we profess. Each one of us has had occasions and still sometimes fail, when we have found it difficult to choose between the Lord and his will or some ‘idol’ (materialism) attracting us.
This reading and the Gospel (John 6:60-69) are both about decisions. Joshua calls on the people to re-affirm the decisions they had already made. Jesus asks his apostles and us to decide whether we will continue to follow him. Our profession of faith is not done just once and for all; it must be renewed continuously, since circumstances that surround our lives keep changing and each new situation challenges us: “Do you – today – believe with all your heart in Christ the Lord?
Psalm 34:2-3, 16-23.
Our Psalm guarantees the protection of God to the just, such as those who commit themselves to him at Shechem. It is quoted by Peter as encouragement to his readers to live a just life (1 Pt. 3:12) and by John when he wrote that not a bone of Jesus was broken (Jn. 19:36).
Ephesians includes a household code to give advice to different members of the household. Christian authors use them to prove that Christianity is not an enemy of social order. This controversial passage has both conservative and liberal Christians trembling in either passion or anger. How can we continue to employ an admonition that supports an unequal relationship between women and men?
Many try to rewrite the text speculating on what Paul might have said if he were teaching today; a more sensible approach is to consider his intent. Paul seeks order in the Church. Husbands must love their wives and care for them: (reading further in this passage), children should not be provoked needlessly; masters should not bully slaves. These were brave words in the first century.
Social structures can Glorify God (Col. 3:16-4:1; 1 Pt. 2:18-3:7). Thus marriage is not merely a human institution but is a relationship patterned on the love that Christ has for his Church. The prophets had taught that God was the husband of his people (Is. 54:6).
Ephesians tells us that Christ is married to his Church, and it is in this marriage that the text of Genesis (2:24) finds true fulfilment. The tension between the need for order and the changes demanded by the new creation remain within the Church.
Jesus has challenged his disciples to a difficult act of faith. He asks them to believe not only that he comes from God, but also demands that they eat his flesh and drink his blood in order to come to full life. Most take his words literally and are scandalized. They fail to see any deeper meaning in his words.
Jesus is inviting them to enter into a completely new relationship with him and to recognize that only he can bring them to fuller life, the life of God that is in him. How does Jesus react as he sees the crowds who had so eagerly looked for him at first now turn their backs on him and abandon him? He simply lets them go. He does nothing to persuade them to stay. He respects their decision to leave him.
God gave us the gift of freedom. He never forces us. He respects our decisions even when we choose wrongly. We often follow our own inclinations and fail to find the way to the true life that God offers us. We are free to suffer the consequences of our choices.
Sometimes Christians try to make others accept their own held convictions. This is not Jesus’ way! Christians must give witness by a Christ-like life and so show others the way to a fulfilled life by their actions and examples of love for one another.
John often tells us that Jesus knew what was in people’s hearts. We may say that Jesus knew because he was God and there is nothing hidden from God. Jesus knows that his words would challenge us at our deepest level and the kind of answer his word is meant to evoke in us. He reads our hearts and can sense whether we will respond to him or not.
God is holy and everything about him is holy. Like God, Jesus fed the people in the desert. When he demands to be food for life for all and to be the only source of true life for everyone, he is asking something that only God can demand.
It’s not surprising that the faith of the twelve has now become stronger. Jesus is left with the twelve. Jesus gave them the choice of going or staying. Peter professes on behalf of the others their faith in Jesus: “You are the Holy One of God”.
We are often tempted to abandon Jesus and his ‘way’ of life, to live a life less demanding, which will bring us more immediate satisfaction and pleasure with less responsibility to others.
Decisions and choices once made do not always persist with the same intensity that they had at the beginning. Both the ancient Israelites and the apostles experienced this. Often we make decisions which will affect our lives and then take them for granted or put them on the back burner so that we give attention to more immediate matters, or even back away from these decisions in times of trials. It’s easy to lose sight of what we are doing as we go about doing it, if we don’t put our love for God foremost in our minds and our hearts and his will first in our lives.
That is why we need to renew and enliven our decision every so often. It is not so much that we want to reconsider the commitments we have made with view to changing. It is rather a matter of bringing our decisions back to their original intensity so that we can exercise a deeper and more explicit influence on the way we live our lives.
Every Eucharist celebrates a decision: the decision of God’s Son to become a human being, the determination of Jesus to give his life in love for our salvation. Every Eucharist invites us to a decision, too. Every Eucharist calls us to associate ourselves with Christ’s gift of himself, to renew our basic decision of faith, ‘Our Profession of Faith’ and to become one in ‘Christ’.
Over and over again as we move forward toward the heavenly ‘Promised Land’ to which God is leading us, the Lord says to us as Joshua said to the Israelites: “Decide whom you will serve and how.” Over and over again Jesus invites us to make Peter’s words our own: “Lord, to whom shall we go? You alone have the words of everlasting life.” When Peter proclaims that Jesus is the Holy One of God, he is saying that Jesus is indeed the Messiah that Israel has been waiting for who will lead us to real life with God.
If Jesus is the Messiah, how can we possibly leave him? If we lose him, we lose the source of true life.
‘Acknowledgement and Thanks’ to ‘Recommended Source Material’ by:
Archbishop Daniel E. Pilarczyk, Fr. Fernando Armellini SCI, Peter Edmonds SJ, Richard Baawobr M.Afr, Joseph A. Slattery Ph.D, Adelmo Spagnolo MCCJ, Silvester O’Flynn OFM Cap, J.E. Spicer CSsR, John R. Donahue SJ and Alice Camille – Master’s degree in Divinity.
Reflections for each day this Week to lead us in the ‘Way, the Truth and the Life’:
Almighty God and Father, on the … of the week following the 21st Sunday of Ordinary Time Year B, we reflect on …
Sun. … In today’s first reading, Joshua gathers his people to make a critical choice. Will they serve the Lord God or other false gods? This reading challenges us with this critical choice today, “Who or what comes first in our lives”? “God or………………..”? The wide space for the answer is given because many of us unconsciously put so many other things first in our lives. Take time to think honestly about your answer and how you need to change your priorities!
Mon. … Joshua warns the people of Israel, “You may not be able to serve the Lord!” Each one of us will at some time or another, fall short of our witness to our God. Our lives do not always profess our faith. We often find it difficult to choose between the Lord or an ‘idol’ attracting us. The ‘Profession of Faith’ that we made at our Confirmation is not made once and for all. Neither is our ‘Profession of Faith’ made at Sunday Masses sufficient. It must be renewed continuously and daily if necessary. Circumstances in our lives are changing continuously and new and unexpected choices confront us and can lead us away from God. We need to always ask God for his guidance.
Tues. … The decisions and choices that we once made do not unfortunately persist with the same intensity that they held in the beginning. We regularly need to reflect on our ‘critical life choices’ and where they are leading us. Are they leading us to God, or to destruction? Never take for granted our ‘critical life choices’ that may affect our salvation.
Wed. … St. Paul tells us that social structure based on love and righteousness glorifies God. Ephesians tells us that Christ is married to his Church and it is within the structure of the Church we become ‘one’ body in Christ.
Thurs. … Jesus invites us to enter a completely new loving relationship with him today. God gives us the ‘Gift of Free Choice’. God never forces us. He always respects our decisions even when we willingly make the wrong choices. Jesus gives us the choice of ‘going or staying’. When we choose Christ, the ‘Light’ in our lives, we find the ‘Way’ to the true life that God offers us. If willingly we choose darkness, we will suffer the consequences of our choices for an eternity.
Frid. … In every Eucharistic celebration we fully partake in, is a renewal of our basic decision of faith. In every Eucharistic celebration in which we truly offer up our lives and love in holy sacrifice to God, we confirm that decision.
Sat. … Each day we are moving closer to or further away from the ‘Promised Land’ to which Jesus wishes to lead us. Each time we experience doubts in our faith and temptations to despair on whom to serve and how, we need to repeat Peter’s words in asking Jesus: “Lord, to whom shall we go? You alone have the words of everlasting life”. Lord, we believe, help our unbelief.
Prayer after the Daily Reflection.
God our Father, help us to look for those things which will bring us true joy in this changing world. Guide us to make the right choices in our lives so that we may follow the ‘One’, our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ who will lead us in the “Way’ to the ‘Promised Land’.
This we ask through our Lord Jesus Christ, Your Son, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, One God, forever and ever. Amen.
Compliments: Bible Discussion Group. Our Lady of the Wayside, Maryvale.
“Discovering the Truth through God’s living Word”.