YEAR B: HOMILY FOR THE 21ST SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME
HOMILY THEME: WHAT IS YOUR DECISION?
BY: Fr. Abbot Philip Lawrence
My sisters and brothers in Christ,
What is your decision? God asks us today to decide about Him, to decide about Jesus Christ. Jesus wants us to stay with Him but also to believe in Him. What is your decision?
The first reading today is from the Book of Joshua and speaks about the decision of our ancestors in the faith. They also had to decide to serve the one God or to continue with other gods. This decision always sounds simple but is very complex, just as it is for us. So often we say that we will serve the Lord and yet we go on as if we are serving other Gods. Our values remain foreign from this God who reveals Himself to us in the Scriptures. Today it is so very common for people to say that they are “Catholic” and yet reject most of the teachings of the Church. It is easy to say “I am a Catholic,” and it is truly difficult to be Catholic.
The second reading is from the Letter to the Ephesians and is another difficult reading because the teaching is barely acceptable to many people today. “Wives, be subordinate to your husbands.” That is a strong teaching and yet in the context makes perfect sense. So many people get upset with this teaching and yet in the same teaching, we are told that we should be subordinate to one another. This is not a one way street! The teaching also tells us that “husbands should love their wives as their own bodies.” Always we must listen to the whole context of a teaching. In this context, the author is speaking about a mutual care for one another. His way of expressing that care for one another comes from another time and another culture so we must listen attentively not to read in our own meanings or to take out the author’s meaning. It is as we hear so often in the books of Wisdom: Be attentive.
The Gospel of John today brings us back to the place of decision. Many of the followers of Jesus left Jesus because of his teaching about the Bread of Life, that He Himself is the Bread and that we must eat His body and drink His blood. If that teaching were only symbolic, it would not have offended those followers. So many today, even among Catholics, no longer believe in the Real Presence. Jesus Christ is truly present in the bread and wine, which become His body and His blood. Only when the strength of that teaching is present can we understand why followers left Him in His own time and why people today still find it difficult to accept the Divine Presence, Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity, in the Holy Eucharist.
When we come to communion in our Catholic Church, we affirm that Christ is truly present, not just as symbol and not just as remembrance—but truly present, Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity. This is why the early Christian believers could rejoice and could be strong when they were persecuted. They knew that Jesus is with us, now and always, and in this Sacrament. What is your decision?
Fr. Abbot Philip Lawrence, OSB Christ in the Desert Monastery, Abiquiu,