23 August 2015
Joshua 24:1-2, 15-17, 18
A certain young man was in love with this girl. They had been together for a few years. One day the girl asked him ‘Are you going to marry me or not? He said that he wasn’t really sure, so he asked for more time. She said that she would give him 6 more months to make up his mind and then to choose. Because of his own parents’ bad marriage and the number of their friends who had got divorced he was afraid to risk. At the end of the 6 months the girl asked him what his choice was – to marry her or not. He said that he wasn’t sure and needed more time. So she told him that their relationship was over, as she couldn’t wait any longer.
The young man wanted to be sure before making his choice. He wanted to keep his options open. He was afraid to risk all by choosing to marry the girl. What if the relationship didn’t work out? What if she or he became seriously ill? What if he lost his job? Etc.
In the gospel today we have something similar. People 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?
In last Sunday’s gospel Jesus had said “Unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his Blood you will not have life in you.” The response of many to that is the beginning of today’s gospel. The said ‘This is a hard saying, who can accept it’
We know of course that the words ‘eat my flesh and drink my blood’ are not to be taken in their literal sense. It is Jesus’ dramatic way of asking us to accept him totally. His thoughts, attitudes, values, his lifeview must become 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 what is contrary to the attitude and spirit of Jesus cannot give true life, joy, peace etc. If we have 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 you and I 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 may be many reasons to turn away from Jesus:
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, and taking on his vision of life. 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, Moslems, Jews etc. Many have been brought to a high degree of union with God.
But we have choosen to follow Jesus. My experience has taught me that all he promises in the gospels have been confirmed for me in my life. I have found no other vision has given me a meaning for life as his one has. 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”
Fr. Jim Kirstein, SMA