22 August 2021
Joshua 24:1-2, 15-17, 18 Ephesians 5:21-32 John 6:60-69
In today’s Gospel we are being asked to make a choice, as we are, to choose to follow Jesus or not. Will we choose to follow him for a while and see how things work out and if they don’t we can always opt out of our choice of him?
We know from the New Testament that to follow Jesus we must make his thoughts, attitudes, values, his way of seeing things, totally ours. Above all we are asked to imitate his life-giving and loving service of all others, even at great cost to ourselves if necessary. This is far from easy. It is demanding and challenging. It doesn’t mean that we always follow Jesus perfectly. We don’t, but we must keep trying. Jesus says in the gospel, that it is having the same spirit as he had which gives life. The flesh or whatever is contrary to the attitude and spirit of Jesus cannot give true life, joy, peace etc. With the Spirit of Jesus, all is possible. So if we do things according to the spirit of Jesus, we will do them out of love and service for others. If because of fear or cowardice we are afraid to risk for Jesus we simply won’t experience real life and peace within.
So where do you and I stand? Jesus, like Joshua in the first reading, is offering us a choice: to follow him and serve God and therefore experience real life, joy and happiness. We can, as Christians choose to turn away from Jesus because we feel the demands are too much.
If we are honest, we can all say that at times when the demands of following Jesus were too much, we might have turned back but soon realised we were always loved and accepted and forgiven for whatever wrong we did and we started off again trying to be faithful.
In our world today there are many reasons to turn away from Jesus including
1) an incorrect understanding of the gospel message
2) negative witnessing by followers of Jesus, i.e. scandalising behaviour from other Christians, be they priests or lay people
3) the powerful attractions of a seductive world, which are not compatible with the Christian vision etc.
Ultimately faith is not simply a set of ideas to be held on to. It is a living relationship with a person, Jesus. This relationship – through the Mass, prayer, the sacraments and the help of the powerful Holy Spirit – we can grow and deepen our relationship. But being a Christian today had different demands to being one 20 or 30 years ago. What is Jesus asking of me now? Where is he leading me? How am I responding?
There are many people in our world who don’t follow Jesus: Hindus, Buddhists, Muslims, Jews etc. Many of them have been brought to a high degree of union with God through their faith.
But we have chosen to follow Jesus. Experience teaches us that all Jesus promises in the gospels have been confirmed in our lives. No other vision has given me a meaning for life as the one of Jesus has.
Personally, I value his friendship, his accepting of my weaknesses and helping me to get up again when I fall. Like Peter, I too can honestly say “Lord to whom shall I go, you have the message of eternal life. I believe and I know that you are the Holy One of God”. What about you? Will you stay or go away?
“Lord Jesus, give us the powerful Holy Spirit to see that you have the true message for life here on earth and for the next life too. May your Spirit help us to deepen further our personal relationship with you so that by our witness others may come to know and follow you too. Amen.”
Edited from a homily by the late Fr. Jim Kirstein, SMA