Twenty-first Sunday in Ordinary Time (B)
To be a human being is to make decisions regarding small and big things in life, and to make them always in relation to events, people, work, family, church and country. Making decisions make people distinct from other creatures. But people can make good or bad, right or wrong decisions, depending on their objectives in life, on who are involved and on their capacity to decide.
We always need to consider making responsible decisions. To make a decision is to leave something behind. If I decide to stay healthy, I have to quit smoking and give up uncontrolled drinking. If a married couple has to remain faithful to one another they have to give up the ways of a single state and unhealthy relationships. If I have to grow up spiritually I have to avoid ways that hinder me from being close to God. Likewise, to make a decision means to prefer something over the other: right over wrong, good over bad. Culture, education, formation and habits are factors that will determine a person’s capacity to make responsible decisions.
Making decisions permeate our readings today. At Shechem Joshua confronted the Israelites whether or not to serve the Lord. In faith, they proclaimed: “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…protected us along our entire journey… Therefore we also will serve the LORD, for he is our God” (Jos 24:16-18).
When a man and a woman say “yes” to each other in marriage, they do so “in the Lord,” and in faith and hope in the power of God. They profess their decision to love each other for as long as they live, in good times and in bad, in sickness and in health. There is also a risk that this decision will be attacked as the years go by, but faith will keep that decision rooted in truth and in goodness, the immovable pillars against all attacks that the devil makes to destroy the family.
St. Paul did not only write this for husband and wife, but in relation to the Church, for each one of us, as we relate with one another. He said: “Brothers and sisters: Be subordinate to one another out of reverence for Christ” (Eph 5: 21). To be related and to be rooted in Jesus Christ is to be related and rooted in others, to be brothers and sisters. It is a decision that cannot be based on mere feelings, tastes, whims or personal convenience, but on our faith and on our total confidence in the faithfulness and power of God. To be subordinate then to one another is to abandon pride, arrogance, jealousy and domineering attitude, and to maintain a humble spirit, to live in solidarity with others and to be open to the movements of the Holy Spirit.
The Jews were scandalized with Jesus’ words “to eat my flesh and drink my blood.” And many of them found His words intolerable and unacceptable that they returned to their former way of life and left Him. So Jesus confronted 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” (Jn 6:67-68). The disciples of Jesus had to make their decision in faith, in hope and in love for Him.
To make our decision to follow Jesus, we have to leave behind our life of sin and to be reconciled with Him and with others. We have to leave behind our comfort zones and the complexities of life, so that we can participate and get involved in the activities of the church and understand the plight of the needy and be able to serve them. We also have to keep our minds and hearts focused and formed in truth and in goodness and in the understanding of the life of God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. His words may be hard but we can also proclaim with Peter: “We have come to believe and are convinced that you are the Holy One of God” (Jn 6:69).
As Jesus renews His commitment to love us in the Eucharist, let us also renew our promise of fidelity to Him, and let our decision to follow Him and to be with Him be a lifetime act of faith and confidence in His providential protection. Jesus does not fail those who are faithful to Him.