21st Sunday in Ordinary Time
August 23, 2009 – Year B
Jos 24:1-2a, 15-17, 18b; Ephes 4:32-5:2, 21-32;
Jn 6:63, 68
Do you also wish to go away?
“Joshua gathered all the tribes of Israel to Shechem, and summoned the elders, the heads, the judges, and the officers of Israel: and they presented themselves before God..
And Joshua said to all the people, “If you are unwilling to serve the Lord, choose this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your ancestors served in the region beyond the River or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you are living. As for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.”
Then the people answered, “For be it from us that we should forsake the Lord to serve other gods; for it is the Lord our God who brought us and our ancestors up from the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery, and who did those great signs in our sight. He protected us along all the way that we went, and among all the people through whom we passed. Therefore we also will serve the Lord, for he is our God.” [Joshua 24:1-2a, 15-7, 18b]
“brothers and sisters, be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ has forgiven you.. Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children, and live in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. Be subject to one another out of reverence for Christ.
Wives, be subject to your husbands as you are to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife just as Christ is the head of the church, the body of which he is the Saviour. Just as the church is subject to Christ, so also wives ought to be, in everything, to their husbands.
Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, in order to make her holy by cleansing her with the washing of water by the word, so as to present the church to himself in splendour, without a spot or wrinkle or anything of the kind – yes, so that she may be holy and without blemish.
In the same way, husbands should love their wives as they do their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. For no one ever hates his own body, but he nourishes and tenderly cares for it, just as Christ does for the church, because we are members of his body.
‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.’ This is a great mystery, and I am applying it to Christ and the church.” [Eph. 4:32-5:2, 21-32]
“Jesus said to his disciples: ‘Unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you.’
When many of his disciples heard this, they said: ‘This teaching is difficult; who can accept it?’
But Jesus, being aware that his disciples were complaining about it, said to them, ‘Does this offend you? Then what if you were to see the Son of Man ascending to where he was before? It is the spirit that gives life: the flesh is useless. The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life. But among you there are some who do not believe.’ For Jesus knew from the first who were the ones that did not believe, and who was the one that would betray him,
And he said, ‘For this reason I have told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted by the Father.’
Because of this, many of his disciples turned back, and no longer went about with him. So Jesus asked the twelve, ‘Do you also wish to go away?’
Simon Peter answered him, ‘Lord, to whom can we go? You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe and know that you are the Holy One of God.'” [Jn. 6:53, 60-9]
A disciple and his teacher were walking through the forest. The disciple was disturbed by the fact that his mind was in constant unrest.
He asked his teacher, “Why most people’s minds are restless, and only a few possess a calm mind? What can one do to still the mind?”
The teacher looked at the disciple, smiled and said, “I will tell you a story. An elephant was standing and picking leaves from a tree. A small fly came, flying and buzzing near his ear. The elephant waved it away with his long ears. Then the fly came again, and the elephant waved it away once more.”
This was repeated several times. Then the elephant asked the fly, “Why are you so restless and noisy? Why can’t you stay for a while in one place?”
The fly answered: “I am attracted to whatever I see, hear or smell. My five senses pull me constantly in all directions and I cannot resist them. What is your secret? How can you stay so calm and still?”
The elephant stopped eating and said, “My five senses do not rule my attention. Whatever I do, I get immersed in it. Now that I am eating, I am completely immersed in eating. In this way I can enjoy my food and chew it better. I rule and control my attention, and not the other way around.”
Upon hearing these words, the disciple’s eyes opened wide and a smile appeared on his face. He looked at his teacher and said, “I understand! If my five senses are in control of my mind and attention, then my mind is in constant unrest. If I am in charge of my five senses and attention, then my mind becomes calm.”
“Yes, that’s right”, answered the teacher, “The mind is restless and goes wherever the attention is. Control your attention, and you control your mind. Have patience and you will be filled with light. Restlessness will lead you to death”
We might wonder at the words of Christ, who throws a difficult challenge at the Disciples, who were taken aback at the words uttered. Hence it is a difficult and embarassing situation for all those who heard words about body and blood, which never had been uttered by any prominent personality or religious head in the entire human history. But Jesus justifies the words and says, are you also going to leave me and go away? Well, this situation is similar to those created by our own family members at times. We know that there are several of statements we utter, and our family members are not able to understand; and they in turn speak of things we do not understand. They are the words that cut our hearts and our belief.
Life is always filled with mysteries. Among these mysteries love is the one that has to be meditated upon. Love is manifested in the matrimonial relationship. Wives are to be subject to their husbands [Ephes. 5:22] and husbands are to love their wives, [Ephes. 5:25] just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her. As the Church is subject to Christ, the husband is subject to the Church. All these truths have been revealed to us by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit in the writing of the Holy Bible. While everyone is subject to someone of higher authority, this does not give the authority to anyone to abuse its power, nor to the husband to abuse his power. In love, we are to grow in holiness as brothers and sisters in Christ. We are to grow in holiness so the husband can present his wife to God in a beauty that is equal to the splendor in which Christ will present the Church to the heavenly Father, without a spot or wrinkle or anything of the kind. [Ephes. 5:27]. Well all this requires profound faith. Such acts require faith of those apostles who remained in the ocmpany of Jesus even after he had utterd those words on his body and blood.
In today’s context, where life is fast paced, where does patience fit in?
A driver wants to reach his destination as soon as possible.
A businessman wants to make his fortune quickly.
A tourist wants to visit as many places possible in the shortest time.
A funny way of looking at it is – even our washing machines are overworked just because we want to get more done in less time.
Many a time patience is one of the less exercised capacities of humans.
A boy spends his nights thinking about his examination results, when he can actually leave it to time and go about what he can do.
A businessman tries to figure out how his career will chart without any benefit.
A girl is hasty in settling for her life partner.
Such a thing called “impatience” steals our joy out of our life. How often do we remind ourselves of the fact that uncertainty is what adds up the taste to our life?
Suppose each one of us knew, to the minute detail, what is going to happen for the next 10 days. How will it be? We can be sure that we will lose our peace while thinking about the falls, bumps and hiccups that we are sure to meet within those 10 days.
Life would become a program, an automation, robotic..
Stories are wonderful to almost all of us; each one though liking different genre of them. But think if we all knew the end of the story from the beginning? Would we either keep the book aside, because we do not like the ending, or read it every now and then remind ourselves of the ending so that the charm of the characters in the story is lost?
Someone said, “Ignorance is bliss”. Now, I am not undermining the importance of planning or predicting in order to be prepared but I am just reiterating that serene patience, when employed in tandem, would help us achieve much more..
Patience is not just sitting around thinking something will happen; it is the grit and will to accept the flops and STILL WORK WITH ZEST, AS IF YOU ARE JUST STARTING YOUR VENTURE.
The blatant truth is that we actually kill the present time with our impatience.
Someone said, “Life need not be wonderful to be ENJOYABLE”. It would not be wise for us to damage our own present for an unknowing future. With all uncertainty, we can still enjoy our EVERYDAY life.
And hence the best thing to do is to say to ourselves, “Hey you there inside, remember, you are the most happy when you don’t know what is going to unfold the next moment.”
Let us take a reminder from the book of psalms which advices us, “Be calm and wait patiently for God.”
What Jesus is hinting at is just the same. Disciples did not have patience to hear his words and analyze them. They just jumped to conclusion. Many left him and others misinterpreted him.
Jesus had said words which none of the world religious leaders could utter: I am the light of the world, I am the door, I am the way, the truth and the life, I am the living water, I am the resurrection. All these expressions point to one thing that his entire life was filled with the spirit of God. That is why, his body and blood is his life and he wants to share it with his disciples so that they could continue the legacy he has left with them. But the disciples did not have patience, and we find Peter confessing his helplessness, “Lord to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life”..
In fact when we are impatient in life, we lose a lot of good sense and good things of life. Impatience kills us and we become robotic in our attitude.. We go with the mob, we go with what others say. We do not have time to meditate, analyze, watch, and deepen the meaning of the words uttered.
Our Holy Mother Church has invited us to patiently learn the words of Christ. Deepen them in our hearts. We are to be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ has forgiven us. [Ephes. 4:32] During the past few years, we have heard a number of messages from the authorities of the Catholic Church. We had messages that called for the forgiveness of the debts to the poor countries. We heard messages that called for the forgiving of sentences to show mercy towards prisoners in the hope of their conversion. These are perfect examples of the love of Christ in patience that has led the Church to greater heights of holiness. For if we cannot share our wealth with the poor by forgiving their debt, how can we call ourselves Christians? If we cannot show mercy towards prisoners by forgiving their sentences, how can we call ourselves Christians? Did Jesus teach us to execute Divine Wrath on our brothers and sisters or did He tell us to turn the other cheek? [Mt. 5:39] For it is the act of love that changes the heart, not the act of oppression and revenge! This is patience, this is the body and blood of Christ that is poured for the holiness and healing of the mankind.
In His teachings, Jesus said, “It is the spirit that gives life; the flesh is useless.” [Jn. 6:63] These words are echoed in The Letter of James where it states: “The body without the spirit is dead.” [Jas. 2:26] Among many other truths that Jesus was preaching, He was teaching that the new creation that we received during the Sacrament of Baptism, is the means through which we receive eternal life in the Kingdom of God. For, “no one can enter the kingdom of God without being born of water and Spirit.” [Jn. 3:5] No one can enter the Kingdom of God unless they were born again and have received the indwelling Holy Spirit. No one can come to taste the real life, unless he/she eats his flesh and drinks his blood, which means being nourished by the Spirit of Christ himself for our salvation.