As the Sundays of Ordinary Time pass by during the hot days of late summer, they seem to be one repeating the one before. But the last three are anything but ordinary, at least in this cycle. For the previous two Sundays the reading from John's gospel have been about Jesus' sayings that he is the bread of life and that we are to consume him, to eat his flesh and drink his blood, so that we become him. Today's reading from Ephesians re-enforces that idea by using another metaphor from everyday life, the relationship between husband and wife.
Paul writes that that the relationship between Christ and the church is as intimate and other-serving as the relationship between a loving and committed couple. Sometimes I find myself caught by misunderstanding of the term church. Too often our immediate response to the word "church" is to think of the institutional church of buildings, bishops, councils, doctrine, liturgies, etc. However if I let the insights of Vatican II inform my response, I realize that the church is the community of disciples joined together. It is the group of people I will see this morning in "church." Christ is present to us in the same intimate way that a loving and committed couple are present to each other.
From within this reality the readings from Joshua and John take on even greater meaning. Joshua puts the question to the leaders of the new nation as it enters the land promised by the Divine through Moses: Who will you worship? The gods of the Amorites or the God that brought you out of slavery and with whom you have made a covenant? The choice is stark, unavoidable. It is one or the other. This is the same choice that Jesus provides in the reading from John. You either eat my flesh and drink my blood and thus become me or you choose not to. Many of those listening including some disciples found this too much to take and "returned to their former ways" and away from the path to eternal life.
This is not simply a one time choice but rather a continuing dynamic of my life. The choice between the way of Christ and the way of the world is a constant choice confronted in the realities of my daily life, as it is for everyone. Like most, I would rather not think about that choice except on certain occasions, like Sunday Mass, rather than think it is something I need to be constantly alert to. The world never presents itself as a conscious alternative to the way of Christ. It knows that in such a bald choice it has less likelihood of prevailing. Mindlessly going along with the prevailing values is the world's constant message. Mindfulness and attentiveness naturally move one in the direction of life choices different from those provided by the world.
Even though I make and remake commitments to follow Christ, my life is filled with failures to do that throughout my life. But isn't that truly the underlying theme of both the Jewish and Christian scriptures? My life mirrors that ongoing struggle to become divine, to become Jesus. As Peter says when the question is put to him by Jesus, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have words of eternal life. We have believed and have come to know that You are the Holy One of God.” When I face that choice directly, even in the midst of evidence that I often fail to do so, I know that I can only choose to follow Jesus. What choice do I have if I truly believe that he has the words of eternal life?
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Location:Charissa Run,Rochester,United States