21th Sunday of Ordinary Time (Cycle B) – August 26, 2018

This Sunday’s Theme: Faith Based Decisions.

Today’s scripture texts are about communities making a collective public statement of faith in the saving power of the God of Israel (Reading 1) and of the Savior sent by God (Gospel). Reading 2 talks about faithful relationships.

Faith is a gift from God that we can accept or reject (It is a free gift but we have to be willing to receive it.). That is, it is the Holy Spirit working within us to enlighten us and help us to have the courage to use our Free Will to accept the initial invitation from God (i.e. we must open up this gift) and then help us mature our faith through attaining knowledge of scripture, Church attendance, and listening to the proclamation of  His Word. Proof of our faith is shown by the Godly actions and works performed by us as we progress from our initiation into a life of obedient belief. This obedient belief protects our faith. “May your faith be joyful, because it is based on awareness of possessing a divine gift (St. John Paul II). “As the outcome of your faith you obtain the salvation of your soul” (1 Peter 1:9).

Catechism 166 – Faith is a personal act – the free response of the human person to the initiative of God who reveals himself. But faith is not an isolated act. No one can believe alone, just as no one can live alone. You have not given yourself faith as you have not given yourself life. The believer has received faith from others and should hand it on to others. Our love for Jesus and for our neighbor impels us to speak to others about our faith. Each believer is thus a link in the great chain of believers. I cannot believe without being carried by the faith of others, and by my faith I help support others in the faith.

Reading 1 – Joshua 24:1-2a,15-17,18b     Joshua and the people declare that they will serve the Lord.

Responsorial Psalm – Psalm 34:2-3,16-21     The Lord hears the cries of the just.

Reading 2 – Ephesians 5:21-32      Husbands and wives should love one another as Christ loves the Church.

Gospel – John 6:60-69     Simon Peter confesses his faith that Jesus alone has the words of the eternal life.

Reading 1     Joshua 24:1-2a,15-17,18b                   (Serving the Lord)

Context – Joshua was born as a slave in Egypt, about 40 years before the Exodus. Joshua was an active participant in the Exodus, and was Moses’ military commander. Before Moses’ death, the leadership of Israel was formally transferred to Joshua. Moses passed all his authority on to Joshua, with the exception of his priestly powers, which went to Eleazar, the son of Aron. Joshua lead the Israelites into the Promised Land which was located on the other side of the Jordan river from where they were encamped. The crossing of the Jordan River involved a miracle – despite being at spring flood level, The Lord stopped the flow of water so that the Israelites, led by the Levelites carrying The Ark Of The Covenant, could cross on dry ground. Once across the Jordan, the Israelites camped at Gilgal where they observed the Passover. The next day, when they began eating from the produce of the Promised Land, the Manna stopped being supplied to them as it had been through their journey for the past 40 years in the desert. After the Promised Land came under the effective control of Israel, Joshua divided the land among the tribes, according to God’s instructions. Joshua died at the age of 110, 25 years after entry into the Promised Land.
Today’s Reading – This reading takes place in a covenant ceremony at Shechem, just prior to the Israelites entering the Promised Land, where new tribes of people and their gods will be encountered. Joshua gathers all the tribes of Israel, who just completed 40 years of desert living, and challenges them to make a very important decision as to which god they will serve: i.e. the gods of the new homeland or the Lord who delivered them from Egypt. Joshua makes it clear whom he will serve: “As for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.” Following Joshua’s lead, all the people pledge their allegiance to their faith in their God who has been so good to them.
This reading is included in the lectionary as an Old Testament story of faith in parallel to St. Peter’s profession of faith at the end of John 6 – in our Gospel reading today.

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 (Euphrates) or the gods of the Amorites in whose country you are now dwelling. As for me and my household, we will serve the LORD.”[i]

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.”

PAUSE and reflect on how the above speaks to you.          Hebrews 11:1 – “Faith is the assurance (confidence) of things hoped for and the conviction (certainty) of things not seen.” The Israelis were confident that the God of their forefathers, Yahweh, was capable of providing for them when Joshua asked them who they wanted as their god. This was based upon their faith in Yahweh. 1. He delivered their parents from slavery under the Egyptians and after that, He provided provisioning for them during the past 40 years in the desert. (Memories of God’s activity in the past enables us to embrace the future.). 2. Plus, they were certain that Yahweh would continue to do the same for them based upon them being part of the chosen people, loved by Yahweh.

Responsorial Psalm.     Psalm 34:2-3,16-21                        (Refuge in the Lord)

Today’s Psalm – In these verses, the Lord says that He will hear the cry of the just (the faithful) and respond to their needs.

R. – Taste and see the goodness of the Lord.
I will bless the LORD
[ii] at all times; Hs praise shall be ever in my mouth. Let my soul glory in the LORD; the lowly will hear me and be glad.
R. – Taste and see the goodness of the Lord.
The LORD has eyes for the just, and ears for their cry. The LORD confronts the evildoers, to destroy remembrance of them from the earth.
R. – Taste and see the goodness of the Lord.
When the just cry out, the LORD hears them, and from all their distress He rescues them.
[iii] The LORD is close to the brokenhearted; and those who are crushed in spirit He saves.
R.- Taste and see the goodness of the Lord.
Many are the troubles of the just one, but out of them all, the LORD delivers him; He watches over all his bones; not one of them shall be broken.
R. Taste and see the goodness of the Lord.

PAUSE and reflect on how the above speaks to you.

 Reading 2     Ephesians 5:21-32                   (Relationship Between Christ and His Church)

Context – Ephesians sets before us a vision of Christ reigning in Heaven next to the Father and renewing the earth through His Church. It shows God’s saving work through Jesus. The Church is nothing less than God’s new creation in Christ.
Today’s Reading – In these verses, the relationship between husbands and wives is patterned after the relationship between Christ and His Church. The apostle has developed an analogy whereby husband represents Christ and wife represents church. This teaching has its roots in the Old Testament where the relationships between Yahweh and His people are expressed, through the preaching of the prophets, in terms of the relationships between husband and wife. A Christ-like love would never cause a husband nor wife to dominate the other but rather lay down his/her life for the other—just as Christ laid down His life for His Church.

Brothers and sisters: Be subordinate to one another out of reverence for Christ.[v] 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[vi], 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[vii]. 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.[viii] This is a great mystery, but I speak in reference to Christ and the church.

PAUSE and reflect on how the above speaks to you.  

Gospel     John 6:60-69                                  (Words of Life)

Context – John’s Gospel was written around 90 AD. His Gospel has an evangelistic purpose – preaching about Christ for conversion to Him.  John explains the mystery of the person of Jesus – His eternal origin, divine and human nature. He is eternally present with God. So much of this Gospel is devoted to the heavenly identity and mission of Jesus that John was known as the “spiritual” Gospel in the ancient Church. The “divine family” of God revealed as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit is the towering mystery of this Fourth Gospel.
Today’s Reading – Today’s reading follows the miracle in which Jesus fed more than five thousand people with five barley loaves and two fish. Jesus explains that He is the Bread of Life, given so that those who believe may have eternal life.  Jesus is calling His listeners and disciples to have faith in Him as the One sent by God.  But the people resist and continue in disbelief. Their faith is “shaken” by Jesus’ words but Jesus makes no effort to water down what He has been teaching them.  In fact, He questions them, “If you were troubled by the thought of Me descending from heaven, what will you think of Me when I ascend and go back to heaven?” Jesus is telling us that if we live only in the “flesh” (i.e., on the natural level), we can never understand who He is or what He is about.  We must become spiritually connected to Him by faith which, of course, is a gift—but it demands our cooperation. At this point, many disciples walk away. They just cannot embrace Jesus or His claims. But the apostles remain and represented by Peter, professes faith in Jesus with Peter’s profession of faith: “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.”.

Many of Jesus’ disciples who were listening said, “This saying is hard[ix]; 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[x], 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[xi].”

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?[xii] You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe and are convinced that You are the Holy One of God.”

PAUSE and reflect on how the above speaks to you.

Catechism 153 – When St. Peter confessed that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God, Jesus declared to him that this revelation did not come “from flesh and blood”, but from “My Father who is in heaven”. Faith is a gift of God, a supernatural virtue infused by Him. “Before this faith can be exercised, we must have the grace of God to move and assist us; we must have the interior helps of the Holy Spirit, who moves the heart and converts it to God, who opens the eyes of the mind and ‘makes it easy for all to accept and believe the truth.'”

Catechism 161 – Believing in Jesus Christ and in the One who sent Him for our salvation is necessary for obtaining that salvation. “Since “without faith it is impossible to please [God]” and to attain to the fellowship of his sons, therefore without faith no one has ever attained justification, nor will anyone obtain eternal life ‘But we who endures to the end.'”

[i]  Reading 1 Footnotes:
Joshua asks the people whom they will serve. That is, in whom do they want to place their faith for delivering their salvation. = By this method of free choice, the minds and hearts of the people are compelled to make the free and decided selection of, which god alone can ensure their eternal happiness.
[ii]  Responsorial Psalm Footnotes:
 “I will bless the Lord” = I will thank the Lord and honor His name by an exclamation of gratitude and admiration to Him, from the depths of my soul, for His works and His blessings that show His love for us.
[iii]  “When the just cry out … He rescues them” = God grants the petitions of the righteous when they pray for deliverance.
[iv]  “Not one of His bones shall be broken” = Keeping his bones from breaking expresses complete protection in spite of cruel opposition. The Apostle John used this verse to describe God’s care of His Son during His crucifixion. Not one of Jesus’ bones were broken (John 19:36).
[v] Reading 2 Footnotes:
“be subordinate to one another” = Christ’s self-sacrificing love for others (emptying Himself of His divinity to be like us) is the model for home and Christian life.
[vi]  “Christ is head of His church” = Being the head of something involves responsibility for cherishing and protecting something.
[vii]  “that she might be holy and without wrinkle” = St. Augustine and others expound this to be the glorious Church of Christ in heaven, and others even of the Church of Christ in this world, as to its doctrine, sacraments, and discipline, or practices approved by the Catholic Church. In today’s tragedy within the Catholic Church, it is important to remember that Jesus originally created His Church – “holy and without wrinkle”.  Hopefully, with God’s help, the Church will recover and become once again – “holy and without wrinkle”.
[viii]   “the two shall become one flesh” = This describes the marriage relationship between man and woman which is analogous to the relationship between Christ and His Church.
[ix]  Gospel Footnotes:
“This saying is hard” = This “saying” relates to Jesus telling His disciples about His Eucharistic teaching – eating His flesh and drinking His blood. In addition, it also includes Jesus telling them that He has come down from heaven. So this “saying” is hard because it is difficult to believe and to some, offensive.
[x]  “It is the Holy Spirit that gives life” = It is the grace of God, given by the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, that gives a spiritual life. A body without a spirit is dead, a corpse. Without the Holy Spirit, they are spiritually dead.
[xi]  “no one can come to Me unless it is granted him by My Father” = It requires faith to “come to Jesus”, and that faith comes to us as an initial gift from God.
[xii]  Peter said “to whom should we go”? = Peter is saying – We don’t fully understand your message, but we have enough faith in You because of He who sent You that we will stay with You. You have given us God’s promise of eternal life if we are faithful.