One-page Synopsis of OT XXI [B] (Aug 26) Sunday on John 6:60-69
Introduction: The main theme of today’s readings is that Christian life is a series of daily choices for God or against God, as we choose to live out or reject the truths He has revealed through His prophets in the Old Testament and especially through His Son Jesus in the New Testament. The fundamental choice we make determines how we live our lives, deciding whom we will serve.
Scripture lessons: In the first reading, Joshua challenges the Israelites to decide whom they will serve, the gods of the Amorites in whose country they were then dwelling or the God of Israelites Who has done so much for them. The Renewal of Covenant ceremony in Joshua chapter 24 reminds us that the Eucharist is a Covenant meal that calls for a decision of Faith. The second reading emphasizes the unity that must exist in the Body of Christ and the intimate relationship between Jesus and his followers. It also challenges the Ephesian Christians to make the right choices in life and build Christian marriages on mutual respect and love, accepting each other’s’ rights and dignity. Paul also uses the husband-wife relationship as an analogy to explain the close relationship between Christ and the Church. Paul reminds us that Jesus nourishes us, the members of his Church, through the Eucharist, making us His own Flesh and Blood, as husband and wife become one flesh. Concluding his long Eucharistic discourse, Jesus, in today’s Gospel, challenges his Jewish audience to make their choice of accepting him as the true Bread from Heaven who gives his Body and Blood as their Heavenly Food, or of joining those who have lost their Faith in him and left him, expressing their confusion and doubts about his claims. Today’s passage describes the various reactions of the people to Jesus’ claims. Jesus gives his twelve apostles the option of leaving him or staying with him. The apostles exercise their freedom of choice by choosing to stay with Jesus. In this Eucharistic celebration, we, too, are called to make a decision, profess our Faith in God’s Son and renew the Covenant ratified in Jesus’ life, death and Resurrection.
Life messages: # 1: Let us make our choice for Christ and live it: We Christians have accepted the challenge of following the way of Christ and making choices for Christ, fortified by the Bread Jesus gives and relying on the power of the Holy Spirit. The Heavenly Bread and the Holy Spirit will give us the courage of our Christian convictions to take a stand for Jesus, to accept the Church’s teachings and to face ridicule, criticisms and even social isolation for our adherence to sound Christian principles in our lives. That is what we mean by our “Amen” as we receive Jesus in Holy Communion. We express without any conditions or reservations our total commitment to him in the community to which we belong. Christ’s thoughts and attitudes, his values, his life-view must become totally ours. Above all, we are to identify with Jesus in the offering of his Flesh and the pouring out of his Blood on the cross by spending our own lives for others.
OT XXI (Aug 26): Jos 24:1-2a, 15-17, 18b; Eph 5:21-32; Jn 6: 60-69
Anecdote # 1: Martyrs’ choice for God, for Christ and his teachings: The Old Testament, the New Testament and the history of the Church tell the stories of brave men and women who heroically exercised their freedom of choice for God and His Commandments and so courted martyrdom. II Maccabees 6:18-31 describes how the 90-year-old saintly scribe, Eleazar, welcomed martyrdom rather than eat the flesh of a pig. The same book describes another heroic Jewish mother and her seven brave children who lost their lives by resisting the order of the Greek commander to reject their Jewish Faith. The martyrdom of St. Stephen is described in the Acts of the Apostles. The first three centuries saw thousands of Christians heroically choosing Christ and courting the cruel death inflicted by the pagan Roman Empire. St. Thomas More was the second-in-power in England and St. John Fisher the Vice-Chancellor of Cambridge University. Both were executed by King Henry VIII for choosing the teaching of the Church on marriage and divorce instead of choosing their king’s view. Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a German theologian and pastor, chose to resist the anti-Christian and non-ethical doctrines of Hitler and was executed at 39. Today’s readings challenge us to make a choice for God and His teachings or against God.
#2: St. Teresa of Calcutta (Mother Teresa)’s commitment: Malcolm Muggeridge accompanied a film crew to India in order to narrate a documentary on Blessed Mother Teresa. He already knew she was a good woman or he wouldn’t have bothered going. When he met her, he found a good woman who was also so very compelling that he titled his documentary, Something Beautiful for God. When he asked Mother Teresa why she went to Mass every day at 4:30 AM she replied, “If I didn’t meet my Master every day, I’d be doing no more than social work.” (Victor Shepherd, December 2001.) We are here today to meet Christ, not here for some other reason. We are here to listen for Christ’s word for our life. We will find what John and Simon Peter and St. Augustine and Blessed Mother Teresa found: “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We believe and know that you are the Holy One of God.”
# 3: Lady Sings the Blues: The movie Lady Sings the Blues tells the story of singer Billie Holliday. To play the role of Billie Holliday, singer Diana Ross spent almost nine months reading clippings about Billie, sifting through pictures of her and listening over and over again to her recorded songs. Diana Ross also researched Billie’s era of fame, the 1930’s and 1940’s, and the drug addiction that tragically ended her career. Diana Ross’ motion picture debut in Lady Sings the Blues was a huge success, not only because of the powerful story it told about Billie Holliday, but also because of Diana Ross’ commitment to honor a singer she admired so much. Commitment is one of the subjects of today’s readings. Diana Ross made a commitment to honor Billie Holliday, and so she did all the hard work necessary to live up to that commitment. Joshua in the Old Testament and the apostles in the New Testament made a commitment to follow the Lord, and so they were ready to make the sacrifices necessary to carry out their promises.
Introduction: The main theme of today’s readings is that Christian life is a series of daily choices for God or against God, as we choose to live out or reject the truths He has revealed through His prophets in the Old Testament and especially through His Son Jesus in the New Testament. They remind us that the fundamental choice we make determines how we live our lives. Joshua, in our first reading, and Paul, in the second reading, make similar challenges to the people to make their choice. Today we, too, are challenged to decide whom we will serve. In the first reading Joshua challenges the Israelites to decide whom they will serve, the gods of their fathers, the gods of the Amorites in whose country they are then dwelling or the God of Israelites Who has done so much for them. The Renewal of Covenant ceremony in Joshua 24 reminds us that the Eucharist is a Covenant meal that calls for a decision of Faith. The Response for today’s Responsorial Psalm (Ps 34), encourages perseverance to the end, when we shall eventually “taste” (fully realize through personal experience), and “see” (everything, past, present and future, falling into place), “the goodness of the Lord!” Paul, in the second reading, emphasizes the unity that must exist in the Body of Christ and the intimate relationship between Jesus and His followers. It also challenges the Ephesian Christians to build Christian marriages on mutual respect and love. Paul says that the Christian husband and wife should stand together in love before God, respecting each other’s rights and dignity. He also uses the husband-wife relationship as an analogy to explain the close relationship between Christ and the Church. That is why he urges his faithful community in Ephesus, “Live in love, as Christ has loved us.” He wants them to make the right choice in life. Paul reminds us that Jesus nourishes us, the members of his Church, through the Eucharist, making us his own Flesh and Blood, as husband and wife become one flesh. Concluding his long Eucharistic discourse in today’s Gospel, Jesus challenges his Jewish audience to make their choice of accepting the New Covenant he offers in his Body and Blood or of joining those who have lost their Faith in him and left him, expressing their confusion and doubts about his claims. Today’s passage describes the various reactions of the people to Jesus’ claims. As Joshua spoke to his followers, Jesus speaks to the twelve apostles and gives them the option of leaving him or staying with him. The disciples cannot reject Jesus after all that he has done for them. Peter, their spokesman, asks Jesus how they can turn to anyone else – Jesus is the only one who has the message of eternal life. The apostles exercise their freedom of choice by choosing to stay with Jesus. In the Eucharistic celebration, we, like Peter, are called to make a decision, profess our Faith in God’s Son and renew the Covenant ratified in his life, death and Resurrection.
First reading, Joshua 24:1-2, 15-17, 18, explained: In our first reading, taken from the book of Joshua (the leader who succeeded Moses), Joshua challenges the Israelites who have entered the Promised Land to make a choice. He challenges the people to reaffirm their Covenant relationship with Yahweh. By that time (12th century B.C.), the Promised Land had been divided up among the tribes of Israel. But a big concern is whether the tribes will remain faithful to the Lord God or drift away from their worship of and obedience to the God of Israel. So before departing from them in death, Joshua gathers the tribal leaders around him to issue his last words of advice. They gather at Shechem, 40 miles north of Jerusalem, where God had first appeared to Abraham and promised to make his descendants a great nation (Genesis 12:6ff and 33:18ff). It was a fitting place for the renewal of the Covenant. Joshua reminds the people of what God has done for them in rescuing them from slavery in Egypt, providing for their survival in the desert and giving them victory over their enemies. God has been their Deliverer, Provider and Protector. This is the God that Joshua calls Lord and with Whom he wants to be covenanted. Joshua’s challenge to the Israelites is to decide, then and there, whom they will serve, the gods of their fathers, the gods of the Amorites among whom they now live, or this God Who has done so much for them. They have to decide for the God of Israel or to reject Him in favor of the idols of their fathers and neighbors. Their decision for God should be reflected in their fidelity to the terms of the Covenant, i.e. the Law. Then Joshua sets the example for the rest of Israelites: “As for me and my household, we will serve the LORD.” Joshua’s challenge prefigures the choice the apostles must make in today’s Gospel. We, too, are asked today whether or not we choose to remain in discipleship to Jesus.
Second Reading, Ephesians 5:21-32, explained: In the second reading, Paul, writing to the Ephesians, gives us the criteria for our daily moral choices in the family, parish community and civil society. He wants the Ephesians to use in all spheres of Christian life the criteria for the relationship of a successful marriage. The husband is to use the authority that society gives him over his family, not to dominate and seek his own selfish satisfaction but rather to aid in the salvation and spiritual development of his family and household. Paul uses the image of a marriage relationship primarily to express the bond that exists between Christ and the Church. In addition, he uses the image of marriage to describe the relationship that should exist among believers. Those who enter into the Covenant of marriage should love and submit to one another in mutual care and respect, just as Christ submitted himself in loving sacrifice for the Church. Paul wants the Ephesians to accept, love, mutually respect, serve and recognize the true dignity of each member of Christ as the norms for all their relationships, both in the family and in their Faith community. Paul also reminds them, and reminds us, that Jesus nourishes the members of his Church through the Eucharist, making them His own Flesh and Blood, as husband and wife become one flesh. So, the norms of our every relationship must be acceptance, love, mutual respect, service and recognition of the true dignity of each member of Christ. Our choices in family life and parish life should be guided by this high ideal.
Gospel exegesis: A tough teaching without compromise: “This teaching is difficult. Who can accept it?” It was Jesus’ disciples who made this complaint. They were offended by Jesus’ language — his imagery — the metaphors he used in his Eucharistic discourse. It was Jesus’ dramatic way of saying that we must accept him totally, without any conditions or reservations. His thoughts and attitudes, his values, his life-view must become totally ours. Above all we are to identify with him in the offering of his Flesh and the pouring out of his Blood on the cross, the symbol of God’s unutterable love for us. But without giving any further explanation, Jesus simply challenges them, and us, to open ourselves to the gift of Faith that God is offering us: “No one can come to me unless it is granted by the Father” (v. 65). Jesus tries to help his remaining followers to make a leap of Faith, because it is only with Faith that they will be able to see and grasp the triple mystery which has been revealed to them, namely, (1) the Incarnation (I am the Bread that came down from Heaven, 6:41); (2) the Redemption (the Bread that I give is my Flesh for the life of the world, 6:51); (3) the Ascension and glorification of Jesus (the Son of Man will ascend to where he was before, 6:62). Having insisted earlier that the believer must eat the Flesh and drink the Blood of the Son of Man in order to have eternal life, Jesus now tells his disciples “that the flesh is of no avail.” But “flesh” here is not the Eucharist. Rather, “flesh” means natural sustenance, which cannot give spiritual nourishment. And the “Spirit” here means the life-giving Holy Spirit Who will be given to believers after Jesus’ ascent into heaven. Peter’s response, “Master, to whom we shall go? You have the words of eternal life,” reflects the Faith-filled, free and whole-hearted decision of the early Christian community to follow Jesus and his teaching. While giving Holy Communion, the priest says, “The Body of Christ” and we respond with a total, “Amen” or “Yes!” That “Yes!” is not just an act of Faith in the Real Presence but a total commitment of myself to Jesus in the community of which I am a member. Some Bible scholars consider Jesus’ question, “Do you want to leave me, too?” to Peter and the apostle’s response as parallel to Jesus’ question, “Who do you think I am?” and Peter’s confession of faith at Caesarea Philippi (Mark 8:27-30; Matthew 16:13-20; Luke 9:18-21).
We are reminded of Paul, who spoke of “the offense (scandal) of the cross” (Gal. 5:11), and who said, “The cross is foolishness to those who are perishing” (1 Cor. 1:18). The complaints of the disciples (v. 61), linked them to the Israelites who followed Moses into the wilderness. Those early Israelites were unhappy because their journey was hard. Faithful discipleship is seldom easy. Why is the Gospel offensive and scandalous? It is because God’s ways are not our ways. It is offensive because it is costly. When Christ calls us to eat his Flesh and to drink his Blood, he is inviting us to participate in his death. The Christians who first heard this Gospel experienced persecution. They knew martyred Christians, and they knew Christians who had avoided martyrdom by compromising their Faith. The Gospel with no offense would be like a surgeon with no scalpel — having no power to heal. Christ and his cross, truly revealed, will always be an offense, except to the redeemed. The Church must always be ready to give offense — to speak out for Christ and against the destructive beliefs and behaviors that the world finds so attractive. The total assimilation of Jesus’ spirit and outlook into our lives is very challenging. And it was a challenge that some of Jesus’ disciples were not prepared to face. The reason? “There are among you some who do not believe, do not trust me.” Faith is not simply a set of ideas to be held on to. It is a living relationship with a Person and His vision of life. It is a relationship that needs to grow and be deepened with the years. It is a relationship that has constantly to be re-appraised in a constantly changing world. We must hear Peter’s words to Jesus resounding through the centuries: “To whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.”
Life messages: # 1: Let us make our choice for Christ and live it: We Christians have accepted the challenge of following the way of Christ and making choices for Christ, fortified by the Bread he gives and relying on the power of the Holy Spirit. The Heavenly Bread and the Holy Spirit will give us the courage of our Christian convictions to accept the Church’s teachings and to face ridicule, criticisms and even social isolation for our adherence to sound Christian principles in our lives. 2) The very option or possibility of choosing for or against Jesus is repeated over and over again in the modern age. We should resolve to take a stand for Jesus and accept the consequences. We recognize, in our going to Communion, the accepting of that challenge to be totally one with Jesus. When the priest gives us Holy Communion saying, “The Body of Christ,” we respond, “Amen.” That “Amen,” that “Yes,” is not just an act of Faith in the Real Presence; it is a total commitment of ourselves to Jesus in the community of which we are members. We must accept him totally, without any conditions or reservations. Christ’s thoughts and attitudes, his values, his life-view must become totally ours, and must govern and shape our lives. Above all, we are to identify with him in the offering of his Flesh and the pouring out of his Blood on the cross, the symbol of God’s unutterable love for us.
JOKE OF THE WEEK: 1) Choose my God and my denomination and rite: Once I saw this guy on a bridge about to jump. I said, “Don’t do it!” He said, “Nobody loves me.” I said, “God loves you. Do you believe in God?” He said, “Yes.” I said, “Are you a Christian or a Jew?” He said, “A Christian.” I said, “Me, too! Protestant or Catholic?” He said, “Catholic.” I said, “Me, too! Latin rite Catholic or Oriental rite Catholic?” He said, “Oriental rite Catholic.” I said, “Me, too! Syrian or Armenian or Maronite Catholic?” He said, “Syrian.” I said, “Me, too! Syro-Malabar or Syro-Malankara rite?” He said, “Syro-Malankara.” I said, “Die, former heretic!” And I pushed him over the bridge. (Adapted from Emo Philips)
2) A climber fell off a cliff. As he tumbled down into a deep gorge he grabbed hold of a branch of a small tree. “Help” he shouted. “Is there anyone up there?” A deep majestic voice from the sky echoed through the gorge. “I will help you, my son. But first you must have Faith in me.” “All right, all right. I trust you.” answered the man. The voice replied, “Let go of the branch.” There was a long pause and the man shouted again, “Is there anyone else up there?” (L/18)
USEFUL WEBSITES OF THE WEEK
1) New USCCB app: http://www.usccb.org/myusccb/index.cfm
2) Christian moral stories: http://christian.moral-stories.com/search/label/Humour
“Scriptural Homilies” Cycle B (No 44) by Fr. Tony: email@example.com
15- Additional anecdotes: 1) Decision in crisis: In the course of a given lifetime, individuals are confronted by a variety of crises. When serious illness strikes, the crisis is a medical one. Political crises accompany the wresting of power from one group or party by another. An economic crisis is occasioned by the collapse of a stock market, the devaluation of a major currency or the bankruptcy of some important financial organization. An international crisis occurs when one nation suddenly invades, blockades or otherwise encroaches upon another. Lesser crises are also frequently encountered. . . the car won’t start and you have to give a presentation to your boss in twenty minutes. . . unexpected guests have arrived and you haven’t anything to offer them. Quite literally, a crisis is a turning point, a moment of decision which will determine a future course of direction; it is a time of sifting and separating and being committed to a choice. In today’s first reading and in the Gospel, readers of Joshua and John will detect an atmosphere of crisis. Jesus, in today’s Gospel, proffered a similar crisis situation to his disciples. In essence, he asked them to decide whether or not they would accept to be fed by the bread he offered. (Sanchez Files).
2) Do we stand for God? A group of Christians gathered for a secret prayer meeting in Russia, at the height of the persecution of all Christian churches. Suddenly the door was broken by the boot of a soldier. He entered the room and faced the people with a gun in his hand. They all feared the worst. He spoke. “If there’s anyone who doesn’t really believe in Jesus, then, get out now while you have a chance.” There was a rush to the door. A small group remained – those who had committed themselves to Jesus, and who were never prepared to run from him. The soldier closed the door after the others, and once again, he stood in front of those who remained, gun poised. Finally, a smile appeared on his face, as he turned to leave the room, and he whispered “Actually, I believe in Jesus, too, and you’re much better off without those others!” [Jack McArdle in And That’s the Gospel Truth: Reflections on the Sunday Gospels Year B (December 1999).]
2) “I’m Jesus! Don’t you choose me?” There is the story that during the Second World War certain Nazis shot down a group of Jews and buried them in a mass grave. A wounded twelve-year-old boy was still alive. He dug his way out of the shallow dirt and went around the neighborhood seeking shelter in homes. The people knew what had happened and, when they saw the boy caked with dirt, they hurriedly shut the door in his face. One woman was about to do the same when the boy said: “Mom, don’t you recognize me? I’m the Jesus you Christians say you love.” The lady broke into tears and received the boy into her home. She had made her choice for Jesus. In today’s Gospel, Jesus challenges his audience to believe him and to accept his promise of the Eucharistic food.
3) Olympian’s commitment to his wife: At the Olympic Games in Paris in 1924 the sport of canoe racing was added to the list of international competitions. The favorite team in the four-man canoe race was the United States team. One member of that team was a young man by the name of Bill Havens. As the time for the Olympics neared, it became clear that Bill’s wife would give birth to her first child about the time that Bill would be competing in the Paris Games. In 1924 there were no jet airliners from Paris to the United States, only slow-moving ocean-going ships. And so Bill found himself in a dilemma. Should he go to Paris and risk not being at his wife’s side when their first child was born? Or should he withdraw from the team and remain behind. Bill’s wife insisted that he go to Paris. After all, he had been working towards this for all these years. It was the culmination of a life-long dream. Clearly the decision was not easy for Bill to make. Finally, after much soul-searching, Bill decided to withdraw from the competition and remain behind with his wife so that he could be with her when their first child arrived. Bill considered being at her side a higher priority than going to Paris to fulfill a life-long dream. To make a long story short, the United States four-man canoe team won the gold medal at the Paris Olympics. And Bill’s wife was late in giving birth to her first child. So late, that Bill could have competed in the event and returned home in time for the birth. People said, “What a shame.” But Bill said he had no regrets. After all, his commitment to his wife was more important. A high price, yes, but not too high a price for someone he loved. I can hear that higher priority in Peter’s words: It is you we love Lord, to whom shall we go?
4) “Run, Patty, run!”: Robert A. Schuller tells about a young woman named Patty Wilson, who had a different kind of courage. As a preschooler Patty had a minor history of convulsions. Then one day when Patty was seven, she had a severe convulsive attack in school. She began to shake so hard that she fell to the floor. Her eyes rolled back in her head. The next day the other children avoided her, as children will often do. Over the years, Patty’s attacks increased and the doctors finally diagnosed her problem as epilepsy. But God told Patty to go on and make a normal life for herself despite her handicap. Patty was a young woman with great determination. When she was fifteen years old, she decided to run from Los Angeles to Portland, Oregon, to prove to others that epileptics are normal people and to raise funds for the National Epilepsy Foundation. By the end of the first day of her marathon, her foot was aching so badly she could hardly stand on it. But Patty would not stop. The pain grew progressively worse in the next few days. Finally, Patty’s parents convinced her to see a doctor. “You have a stress fracture,” the doctor said after examining her foot carefully. “You must stop the marathon so it can heal.” “But, doctor, I’ve got to complete the race,” she replied immediately. “Patty, that’s impossible!” said the doctor. “I’ve got to set the fracture.” “Well, what would happen if you set the fracture in a few weeks, when I’m done with the run?” Patty suggested. “I’ve made a commitment. I have to fulfill it.” “But, Patty, if I bind it so you can run, you will get blisters.” “What are a few blisters?” said Patty. “Nothing more than fluid under the skin. My mother could take a syringe and drain it, so I can keep going.” And that’s just what Patty did. The doctor showed her parents how to wrap her foot tightly with tape. Each day Patty ran twenty-five to thirty miles, despite the pain in her foot, despite two epileptic seizures. Patty ran for forty-two more days. When she finally got within a mile of the city of Portland, the mayor joined her. Together they ran into the city under a banner which read: “Run, Patty. Run.” Patty Wilson ran 1,310 miles on a fractured foot. [Getting Through What You’re Going Through (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, Inc., 1986), pp. 143-145.] Patty had a different kind of courage, but when push came to shove, Patty Wilson was willing to risk everything to honor her commitment. In today’s Gospel, Jesus challenges us to make such a commitment.
5) Carter, the taxi driver’s, commitment: Brian McLaren in his book The Secret Message of Jesus tells about such a man. His name is Carter. He is seventy-five years old. He is an African-American and he drives a taxicab in Washington, DC. But Carter isn’t just a taxi driver, says Brian McLaren. Carter is “a taxi driver in the Kingdom of God.” And that makes all the difference. Back in 1994, in his role as a taxi driver for the kingdom of God, Carter picked up a man from Malawi, Africa. Because Carter is committed to serving all people, he treated the man from Malawi with special respect. The man introduced Carter to some other Malawian friends, and soon Carter the taxi driver was invited to visit Malawi, which he did, in 1998.
In Malawi, Carter saw poverty he had never before imagined. He prayed, “Lord, help me bring some joy to this village.” And God answered his prayer. God did it through Carter. First, Carter realized that there was no road in the village, just a narrow path, rutted and muddy. Carter had brought some money to Africa, so he offered to pay for gas and oil and drivers if the people of the village would do the work. Soon Carter’s generous spirit became contagious. Someone provided a road grader and then more and more people volunteered to help. Three days later, they had built a proper road a mile and a quarter long. A year or so later, Carter returned to the village. A young man had been falsely accused of stealing and was stuck in jail. Since Carter seeks the kingdom and since justice for all people is an important part of that kingdom, Carter got involved, and soon the young man was set free. On this same visit, Carter met a boy who needed medical care that was available only in a distant city. Carter made it possible for the boy to get treatment on a regular basis by finding and convincing, who else? a taxi driver to take him. The next year, he went back again and this time helped some young men improve their farming by using money he had saved from his job to buy seed. He also made connections and got twenty-six soccer balls donated to the children of the village, because he knew that fun and play are important things. He even helped them get uniforms, because in the kingdom of God, dignity and self-respect are also important things. On another trip, Carter’s generosity inspired a shopkeeper in the village to donate money to help some sick children get treatment for ringworm. Soon a Bible school was launched, and it grew from seventeen to eighty-five students quickly. Who could imagine? A seventy-five-year old taxi driver from Washington, DC, and today in Malawi there are roads, rides, ringworm medicine, seeds, soccer balls and uniforms, a Bible school! There are signs of the Kingdom of God all over that little village. Carter said to Brian McLaren, “I don’t do any of this myself. God is doing it through me.” [Brian McLaren, The Secret Message Of Jesus (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2006), pp. 87-89.]
6) Choosing God and life: The following article in the Irish newspaper, Alive! (July-August 2009 issue, p. 6), extols the decision of a young Catholic couple to trust in God and accept the Divine will. The moral commitment of Austin and Nuala Conway gives us an insight into Christian marriage as Sacrament-Covenant and inspired by God’s fidelity. The parents of Ireland’s first ever set of sextuplets decided to put their trust in God rather than follow doctors’ immoral advice during their pregnancy. “These babies are a wonderful gift from God. Whatever God laid out for our lives we were taking it”, said 26-year-old Nuala Conway of Dunamore, Co Tyrone. Doctors warned the married couple about the risks of a multiple pregnancy, and “more or less” advised them to have several of their unborn babies aborted. But the young Catholic couple rejected such a heartless solution and opted to trust in God and accept his will. “Doctors gave us a couple of days to think about it, but we knew without discussion what we both wanted”, said Nuala. “Whatever God laid out for our lives, we were taking it.”
The four girls and two boys, weighing between 1 lb 7 oz and 2 lb 7 oz, were delivered by Caesarian section 14 weeks early at Belfast’s Royal Victoria Hospital, with the aid of 30 medical staff. In an interview with the Sunday Express, Mrs. Conway said, “I prayed as much as I could for a child. I would have been happy with one, but God blessed us with six, which is amazing.” It wasn’t until just three months before the birth that a scan showed she was carrying six babies. “I’m in love with every single one of them. I fell in love when they were in the womb. When one moved they would all move and I could definitely feel 24 limbs kicking”, she said. (Homilies Alive).
7) The missionary who chose to challenge Hitler: Dietrich Bonhoeffer was born in 1906 in Germany. Always a student of theology, he prepared for the ministry. But in the late 1920’s and 30’s as Nazism grew more and more prevalent in Germany, Bonhoeffer and other confessing Christians knew that they had to oppose the trend they saw their country following. And so, in sermons and in writings, Bonhoeffer opposed Nazism and Hitler. In an interesting twist, some friends of Bonhoeffer made a move to save his life. They saw the fervor of Nazism growing and Dietrich’s words of opposition growing stronger, and so they made arrangement in 1939 for him to be a visiting professor at Union Theological Seminary in New York. Their hope was that Hitler would soon be gone and then leaders like Bonhoeffer could return to rebuild German in faith and in values. And so, from New York, he watched as Hitler moved unimpeded toward his Arian goals. But after only a few weeks he made a decision. He wrote to friends: “I will have no right to participate in the reconstruction of Christian life in Germany after the war if I do not share the tribulations of this time with my people.” And Bonhoeffer returned to Germany – and then he made another choice. Although he had been a pacifist all his life, he joined with others in a plot that would have Hitler assassinated. He said that while he never ceased to believe that violence was inconsistent with the ideals of the Gospel, he also believed that the crisis of the times was so grave as to require that certain Christians willingly compromise their purity of conscience for the sake of others. Of course the plot did not succeed. Bonhoeffer was found out and he spent his last years in prison. From his prison he continued to believe and to write and to talk about what it meant to be a Christian – the cost of discipleship. On April 9, 1945 he was hanged with five other members of his resistance group. Dietrich Bonhoeffer continually struggled with what it meant to be a follower of Jesus. I suppose that, each day, as he responded to the events big and small that confronted him, he sought how to choose acts consistent with the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Like the followers of Joshua and the crowd that followed Jesus, he was given many choices. He chose Christ and his Way of the Cross.
8) “Those who want to go with me, cross this line.” You may have heard of the Spanish explorer, Francisco Pizarro. In 1530 he commanded a small fleet that mapped the Pacific Coast of South America. Pizarro had no formal education (he could neither read nor write), but he quickly realized that he had touched the edges of a great civilization, Even though he was fifty – quite old for an explorer back in the sixteenth century – he decided to lead an expedition to the heart of the empire. His soldiers thought he was crazy and said they would not go. Standing on a beach in Panama, Pizarro drew a line in the sand. He said, “Those who want to go with me, cross this line. I cannot promise you anything but hardships – and possibly death. Those who wish comfort can return to Europe. But you will lose a great adventure – and maybe great riches.” Well, 169 crossed the line. And they did conquer a vast, brilliant civilization – the Inca empire. Pizarro had many faults, some we would judge harshly today. But he also had something we often lack: courage, decisiveness, commitment to a cause. In today’s first reading Joshua asks the Israelites to cross a line: “Decide today whom you will serve.” Do you want to serve the gods of the culture – or the Lord? (Fr. Phil Bloom)
9) The song and the singer: There is a movie about a priest and a captain in the military service. The two of them have become great friends, but their views are radically opposed. The priest is a devout believer; the captain a lapsed Catholic and an atheist. The captain is mortally wounded on the battlefield, and at the risk of his own life, his friend the priest crawls to his side in a last, desperate attempt to save his soul. “Please”, he is begging “Let me hear your confession, let me give you the last rites!” whereupon the captain answers him: “No, my friend, I love the singer, I do not love the song,” meaning: “I love you, but I do not care for your religion.”…. Well, this may sound good in a movie, but it cannot really be done in our Christian religion. In our religion Christ can not be separated from His message; the Singer and the Song are one, and a genuine Christian must be committed to Christ and his teaching as demanded by Jesus in today’s Gospel.
10) “No! There is no other hand!” In the movie Fiddler on the Roof, Tevye is a Jewish dairy farmer, living with his wife and five daughters in Russia. It is a time of change and revolution, especially in the relationship between the sexes. First, one of his daughters announces that she and a young tailor have pledged themselves to each other, even though Tevye had already promised her to the village butcher. Initially, Tevye will not hear of his daughter’s plans, but he finally has an argument with himself and decides to give in to the young lovers’ wishes. A second daughter also chooses a husband for herself, an idealist revolutionary. Tevye is disappointed but after another argument with himself, he again concedes to the changing times. Then Tevye’s third daughter falls in love with a young Gentile. This violates Tevye’s deepest religious convictions. Once again, he has an argument with himself. He knows that his daughter is deeply in love, and he does not want her to be unhappy. Still, he cannot betray his deepest religious convictions. “How can I turn my back on my Faith, my people?” he asks himself. “If I try and bend that far, I’ll break!” Tevye pauses and begins a response: “On the other hand…” He pauses again, and then he shouts: “No! There is no other hand!” Today’s Gospel reminds us not to carry this relativizing thinking too far. In matters of Faith, we come to a point where we discover, like Tevye, that there is no other hand, no other option to consider, no other way. There is simply the right way and the wrong way. This is what we see in the response of Peter and the Twelve to the crisis of Faith that visited the followers of Jesus in today’s Gospel story. (Fr. Munacci).
11) Four Master’s degrees and committed to sports: I read recently about a man named Dave Moffitt who, like a lot of people, is passionate about sports. So passionate that for six years he has been living, eating, and sleeping in his car, driving across America watching sporting events. He has seen every NFL, NHL, MLB, and NBA team play in its home stadium or arena. He has watched hundreds of horse races, car races, golf tournaments, even Little League games. Dave’s passion doesn’t cost him as much as you’d think. He eats veggies from a can and sneaks hot dog buns into stadiums where he loads them up with free relish, ketchup, and mustard. He shaves in Wal-Mart bathrooms and showers at truck stops. Dave never pays to park, and he finds the cheapest tickets he can. He eats bananas for breakfast and orders lunch from the McDonald’s dollar menu. Dave is no dummy. He has earned four Master’s degrees but retired after more than thirty years of teaching junior high phys-ed. He just loves sports. His girlfriend teaches school in Japan. As far as we know, Dave’s relationship with his girlfriend is going fine, but should she tire of his passionate pursuit of sports, Dave says that they won’t be together any more. [Martha Bolton and Phil Callaway, It’s Always Darkest . . . (Minneapolis: Bethany House Publishers, 2006), pp. 27-28.] How difficult it is to find Sunday School teachers, how few people are willing to tithe, how few people are willing to do the hard, demanding work of following Jesus! We need people today who are willing to bell the cat. Christ is still looking for people who will not turn back. He is still looking for people who will put him first in their lives. He is still looking for people who are committed to the advent of God’s kingdom on earth.
12) Letter to the Editor: A Church goer wrote a letter to the editor of a newspaper and complained that it made no sense to go to church every Sunday. “I’ve gone for 30 years now,” he wrote, “and in that time I have heard something like 3,000 sermons. But for the life of me, I can’t remember a single one of them. So, I think I’m wasting my time and the pastors are wasting theirs by giving sermons at all.” This started a real controversy in the “Letters to the Editor” column, much to the delight of the editor. It went on for weeks until someone wrote this clincher: “I’ve been married for 30 years now. In that time my wife has cooked some 32,000 meals. But, for the life of me, I cannot recall the entire menu for a single one of those meals. But I do know this. They all nourished me and gave me the strength I needed to do my work. If my wife had not given me these meals, I would be physically dead today. Likewise, if I had not gone to Church for nourishment, I would be spiritually dead today!” (Fr. Lobo)
13) Is there is anybody here who believes in Jesus, stand up!”
This is a true story of something that happened just a few years ago at USC. There was a professor of philosophy there who was a deeply committed atheist. His primary goal for one required class was to spend the entire semester attempting to prove that God couldn’t exist. His students were always afraid to argue with him because of his impeccable logic. For twenty years, he had taught this class and no one had ever had the courage to go against him. Sure, some had argued in class at times, but no one had ever ‘really gone against him’. Nobody would go against him because he had a reputation. At the end of every semester, on the last day, he would say to his class of 300 students, “If there is anyone here who still believes in Jesus, stand up!” In twenty years, no one had ever stood up. They knew what he was going to do next. He would say, “because anyone who does believe in God is a fool. If God existed, he could stop this piece of chalk from hitting the ground and breaking. Such a simple task to prove that he is God, and yet he can’t do it.” And every year, he would drop the chalk onto the tile floor of the classroom and it would shatter into a hundred pieces. All of the students could do nothing but stop and stare. Most of the students were convinced that God couldn’t exist. Certainly, a number of Christians had slipped through, but for 20 years, they had been too afraid to stand up. Well, a few years ago, there was a freshman who happened to get enrolled in the class. He was a Christian and had heard the stories about this professor. He had to take the class because it was one of the required classes for his major. And he was afraid. But for 3 months that semester, he prayed every morning that he would have the courage to stand up no matter what the professor said or what the class thought. Nothing they said or did could ever shatter his faith, he hoped. Finally, the day came. The Professor said, “If there is anyone here who still believes in God, stand up!” The professor and the class of 300 people looked at him, shocked, as he stood up at the back of the classroom. The professor shouted, “You FOOL!! If God existed, he could keep this piece of chalk from breaking when it hit the ground!” He proceeded to drop the chalk, but as he did, it slipped out of his fingers, off his shirt cuff, onto the pleats of his pants, down his leg, and off his shoe. As it hit the ground, it simply rolled away, unbroken. The professor’s jaw dropped as he stared at the chalk. He looked up at the young man and then ran out of the lecture hall. The young man who had stood up proceeded to walk to the front of the room and share his faith in Jesus for the next half-hour. 300 students stayed and listened as he told of God’s love for them and of his power through Jesus. (Anonymous; quoted by Fr. Botelho).
15) Commitment and surrender to husband or to wife? As Craig S. Keener (Paul, Women and Wives, Marriage and Women’s Ministry in the Letters of Paul, Hendrickson Publishers, Inc., Peabody, MA: 1992) has observed, centuries before the New Testament Period, Aristotle argued that men were naturally superior and therefore fit to rule over women. Plato described a woman’s virtues as taking care of the home and obeying her husband. Plutarch insisted on the wife’s full submission in all social and religious matters; she was to share her husband’s friends and relinquish her own and to accept his gods and religion. Jewish writers from the first century were equally insistent; Philo and Josephus said that due to her inferiority, a woman was to be ruled by masculine authority. Was the Ephesians author simply following the lead of others before him? A careful, open-minded rending of the text will prove otherwise. St. Paul in the second reading, actually advises husbands and wives to “defer to one another out of reverence for Christ” (v. 21). (Patricia Datchuck Sánchez). (L/18)
“Scriptural Homilies” Cycle B (No 46) by Fr. Tony: firstname.lastname@example.org
Visit this new website: http://frtonyshomilies.com/for previous Cycle B homilies, 141 Year of Faith “Adult Faith Formation Lessons” (useful for RCIA classes too) & 196 “Question of the Week.” Contact me only at email@example.com. Visit http://www.vaticannews.va/en/church.html for the Vatican version of this homily.
Fr. Anthony Kadavil, Chaplain, Sacred Heart Residence (Little Sisters of the Poor), 1655 McGill Ave, Mobile, AL 36604.