Homily for the 21stt Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B 2015 (Aug 23)
Homily for the Twenty-first Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B 2015 (Aug 23)
Today the readings are once again about the Eucharist – the bread from heaven – but it is our last foray into that topic for a while. The first two readings, however, are more about service. In the Book of Joshua we find Joshua gathering together all the tribes in a great assembly to praise God. They have entered a land where there were many gods being worshipped, each nation, sometimes each city, having its own God and protector. Joshua knew that moving into these lands and cities would tempt the Hebrews to start to fall in line with he inhabitants and worship other gods, which is exactly what happened in the years to come. This day, however, he asks the people to make a choice. He said you can choose other false gods or you can choose the one true God. Joshua said he had made his decision; he would not be influenced by other cultures but remain dedicated to the God of Israel. The people, having travelled forty years to get to this new land, agreed with him. They recognized, because they had lived through some of it, what God had done for them in taking them out of the slavery of Egypt, feeding them in the wilderness with the bread from heaven, protecting them along the way. that the God of Israel was not to be abandoned. Their thankfulness was so great they as a group they chose Israel’s God to be true to.
The psalm refrain today is once again “Taste and see that the Lord is good.” But the psalm itself is extended and we hear of how God will protect righteous people, even though they have many sufferings and afflictions. In the New testament this becomes the healing power of the eucharist.
The theme of servitude is again picked up by Paul in Ephesians. Again, I remind you that this may not have been Paul since some of the things here go against what he had previously written in the epistles we know to be his. The idea of servitude or “subjection” as it is translated here, is that we are to be subjected to each other – we are to act as servants to each other because that is what Jesus did. The example he uses is a marriage and we have to understand that he was writing from a world view where men were totally in charge. His view of marriage is to see the male as Christ-like and wives like the people of God who are to do service, to be subject to Jesus or the husband. If you can get beyond that thinking of male superiority, it can be an apt image, however, for relationships. The dominant image is of the love that Christ had for us that led even to his death. Husbands, being the Christ image, must love their wives, to the death. Paul actually puts a lot on husbands today. They are to help their wives become holy, to help the wives be without blemish, to love the wives as much as they love their own bodies, they must nourish and care for their wives. The husband as the image of Christ is a daunting model for men who have to also realize that instead of lording it over another, they are to be their servant as Christ was. So, in a sense, husband and wife serve each other in a healthy relationship. The ideal is oneness, the great mystery as Paul calls it, of the two becoming one flesh in marriage.
The Gospel then creates the same kind of question that Joshua generated about choosing the God of Israel or other gods. Jesus has explained ‘the bread of heaven” and told them that those who will follow him will have eternal life. They need to choose – go back to the Jewish rituals and continue to follow the Law or follow Jesus and become something quite different within the LAw. Some could not make that choice. We are told that many left over Jesus’ teaching about him being the bread from heaven. Some stayed, but all the apostles continued to follow him as one who spoke the words of eternal life, and their belief that Jesus was the Holy One of God.
Just a note on a very debated line from this reading today which seemed to some to say that there was predestination. “For this reason I have told toy that none can come to me unless it is granted them by my Father.” Jesus seems to be saying that believing in him is a gift from God, and God doesn’t give the gift to everyone. Therefore only a few people will have eternal life by following him. John Calvin during the Protestant Reformation took this as doctrine, and they believe to this day that some have been chosen to be saved and others have not.
I see this line, though, in context as referring to the Jews who had been chosen by God. God had prepared them for a Messiah and had given clues throughout their history in the writings of the Torah. Without those clues, how could they ever hope to understand what was happening through Jesus. After Jesus’ death this was opened up so that the rest of the world could participate in this knowledge, to become God’s people. Once you see what is before you, but reject it and do not believe, as did many of the people who heard Jesus, then it was not God’s fault. God has drawn you, but you have refused to believe it.
When all is said and done, the most beautiful words in the readings today may be Peter’s: Lord, to whom can we go?”
What else is there? Once we have been made aware of what God has done and is doing for us, once we have been made aware of the bread from heaven come down to earth for us, once we have been made aware that we can share in that bread and in eternal life and have our sins forgiven, to whom else can we go? Is there a choice if we want to live!
And those are the words of Good News that I ask you to think about this week, the last week of our vacation with the Gospel of John.
Bishop Ron Stephens
Pastor of St. Andrew’s Parish in Warrenton, VA
The Catholic Apostolic Church in North America (CACINA)
[You can purchase a complete Cycle A and Cycle B of Bishop Ron’s homilies, one for every Sunday and Feast, from amazon.com for $9.99 – “Teaching the Church Year”]