“Lord, to whom can we go?” (Jn 6:69)

Twenty-first Sunday in Ordinary Time

Joshua 24:1-2A, 15-17, 18B

Joshua gathered together all the tribes of Israel at Shechem, summoning their elders, their leaders, their judges, and their officers. When they stood in ranks before God, Joshua addressed all the people: “If it does not please you to serve the LORD, decide today whom you will serve, the gods your fathers served beyond the River or the gods of the Amorites in whose country you are now dwelling. As for me and my household, we will serve the LORD.” But the people answered, “Far be it from us to forsake the LORD for the service of other gods. For it was the LORD, our God, who brought us and our fathers up out of the land of Egypt, out of a state of slavery. He performed those great miracles before our very eyes and protected us along our entire journey and among the peoples through whom we passed. Therefore we also will serve the LORD, for he is our God.”

Ephesians 5:21 - 32

Brothers and sisters: Be subordinate to one another out of reverence for Christ. Wives should be subordinate to their husbands as to the Lord. For the husband is head of his wife just as Christ is head of the church, he himself the savior of the body. As the church is subordinate to Christ, so wives should be subordinate to their husbands in everything. Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ loved the church and handed himself over for her to sanctify her, cleansing her by the bath of water with the word, that he might present to himself the church in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. So also husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. For no one hates his own flesh but rather nourishes and cherishes it, even as Christ does the church, because we are members of his body. For this reason a man shall leave his father and his mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh. This is a great mystery, but I speak in reference to Christ and the church.

John 6:60 - 69

Many of Jesus’disciples who were listening said, “This saying is hard; who can accept it?” Since Jesus knew that his disciples were murmuring about this, he said to them, “Does this shock you? What if you were to see the Son of Man ascending to where he was before? It is the spirit that gives life, while the flesh is of no avail. The words I have spoken to you are Spirit and life. But there are some of you who do not believe.” Jesus knew from the beginning the ones who would not believe and the one who would betray him. And he said, “For this reason I have told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted him by my Father.” As a result of this, many of his disciples returned to their former way of life and no longer accompanied him. Jesus then said to the Twelve, “Do you also want to leave?” Simon Peter answered him, “Master, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe and are convinced that you are the Holy One of God.”

I have to admit that the past year had been tumultuous. Frustrated by professional and personal situations, and my inability to fix everything and everyone; coupling with a growing sense of discontentment and restlessness, I have often found myself chasing after one invisible enemy after another; battling even my own shadow! Obviously, all my efforts had been futile; however, without these struggles, I would have never arrived at a place of genuine trust and peace.

In this week’s readings, we are asked to make some difficult choices: truth versus falsehood; faithfulness versus betrayal. In short, we are challenged to trust and choose God above all even amidst adversities and turmoil every single day. Both Joshua and the Psalmist have offered compelling logic for choosing the one true God; the ever faithful and merciful God of their ancestors. In the Gospel of John, Jesus echoes Joshua’s sentiments that choosing God is not easy; however, His words are “spirit and life” (Jn 6:63). In the second reading, Saint Paul explains the implications of choosing God and how this choice permeates every aspect of our daily life.

In the first reading, when Joshua gives the “tribes of Israel” an ultimatum, “choose this day whom you will serve”, he is asking the people to choose truth over falsehood: to serve the Lord or the false gods their ancestors worshipped in Egypt and Syria (ref. Jos 24:15). It seems to be easier for the Israelites to turn their backs to Yahweh and continue their practices since that implies the status quo. However, in remembering how God has “brought [them] and [their] ancestors up from the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery” and journeyed with them even when they abandoned Him during their long journey in the desert, the Israelites recognize God’s faithfulness and mercy during one of the most trying periods in their history, they choose to return and place their trust in the one true God (Jos 24:15,17). Thank goodness the Israelites have excellent memories! Similarly, the Psalmist affirms the faithfulness of God: “When the righteous cry for help, the Lord hears and rescues them from all their troubles” (Ps 34:15). Indeed, these Old Testament figures remind us of God’s faithfulness and though it may be easier to choose falsehood, only God can “save the crushed in spirit” and bring peace (Ps 34:18).

Like Joshua, Jesus challenges his disciples to choose the difficult truth: “Very truly, I tell you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you” (Jn 6:53). Some disciples are offended and immediately begin to complain, “This teaching is difficult, who can accept it” (Jn 6:60)? Like Jesus’ disciples, it may be easier for us to go about our everyday busy-ness; continue to do things our own ways and ignore God’s voice; pretend that we can conquer everything on our own. In truth, could we? Jesus holds “the words of eternal life”; His words are “spirit and life” that sustain our whole being (Jn 6:69,63). The Psalmist reminds us to not only “see” God like bystanders, but also “taste” the goodness of God. Contrary to some of Jesus’ disciples, let us be courageous to accept this most precious gift from God, the body and blood of Christ, and proclaim Jesus as “the Holy one of God” (Jn 6:69).

Finally, in the second reading Saint Paul invites us “to be imitators of God, as beloved children” (Eph 5:1). Choosing God; choosing truth and faithfulness, implies working hard every single day as we strive to “be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving one another” (Eph 4:32). Choosing God is hard work, therefore, “be still” (Ps 46:10) and walk with confidence that God is our constant and faithful companion who hears the cry of the righteous (ref. Ps 34:15).

Life’s adversities are, in fact, our opportunities to grow in wisdom and strength. Even John the Baptist and Jesus take their time to mature physically and spiritually under the “favour of God” (ref. Lk 1:80, 2:40). Without these opportunities, how would our spiritual muscles be strengthened and our love and trust in the Lord be fortified? The Psalmist offers a beautiful image of God, “The Lord is near to the broken-hearted, and saves the crushed in spirit” (Ps 34:18). Therefore, during times of doubt or turmoil, “to whom can we go” (Jn 6:69)?

Posted: August 26, 2018

Susanna Mak

Susanna深信,信仰需要在日常生活中顯露出來,尤其是當與別人相處時,需要分擔對方所面對的困境、抉擇和挑戰。她有着很多不同的身份:女兒、姐姐、朋友、姨姨、妻子、老師、校牧、終身學習者和偶爾替《生命恩泉》寫作的作者。在每一個身份當中, 她努力為天主的愛和希望作見証。 她在多倫多擔任高中教師近二十年,擁有英語、學生讀寫能力、青年領袖活動、校牧組等經驗。 她是多倫多大學商業和英語學士,教育學士,亞省Athabasca大學綜合研究碩士,以及擁有多倫多大學Regis學院神學研究碩士證書。她對於成為《生命恩泉》寫作團隊的一份子, 深感榮幸。 Susanna has a deep conviction that faith needs to be manifested in daily life, particularly, in one’s encounters with others as well as amidst dilemmas, choices, and challenges. She strives to be a living sign of God’s love and hope as a daughter, sister, friend, aunt, wife, teacher, chaplain, life-long learner, and occasional writer for FLL. She has been a high school teacher in Toronto for almost 20 years, with experiences in English and literacy, youth leadership initiatives, the Chaplaincy Team, to mention a few. She has a B. Comm, B.A. in English, and a B. Education from University of Toronto, an M.A. in Integrated Studies from Athabasca University, and a Graduate Certificate of Theological Studies from Regis College, U of T. She is humbled by the opportunity to be part of the FLL Writing Team.

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