August 22, 2021
“Far be it from us to abandon the Lord to serve other gods!”
Then Jesus said to the Twelve:
“Do you also want to leave?”
Simon Peter replied:
“Lord, who are we going to turn to? You have words of eternal life;
we believe and know that you are the Holy One of God ”.
Reading from the Book of Joshua 24, 1-2a. 15-17. 18b
In those days, Joshua gathered the tribes of Israel to Shechem and called the elders of Israel, the chiefs, the judges, and the magistrates. And they came before God.
Joshua said to all the people:
“If you find it hard to serve the Lord, choose today who you want to serve: the gods that your ancestors served on the other side of the River, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose country they live; that I and my house will serve the Lord ”.
The people replied:
Far be it from us to abandon the Lord to serve other gods! For it is the Lord our God who brought us and our fathers out of Egypt, out of the house of slavery; who did those wonders before our eyes and kept us in all our pilgrimage and among all the peoples through which we pass.
We too will serve the Lord: because he is our God! ”.
Ps. 33, 2-3. 16-17. 18-19. 20-21. 22-23
A: Taste it and see how good the Lord is.
I bless the Lord at all times, his praise is always in my mouth;
my soul glories in the Lord: may the humble listen to him and rejoice. R.
The eyes of the Lord look to the righteous, his ears hear his cries;
but the Lord confronts the evildoers, to erase the memory of him from the earth. R.
When one cries out, the Lord hears him and delivers him from his anguish;
the Lord is close to the troubled, he saves the downcast. R.
Although the righteous suffer many evils, the Lord delivers them from all;
He cares for all his bones, and not a single one will be broken. R.
Evil kills the wicked, and those who hate the righteous will be punished.
The Lord redeems his servants, whoever embraces him will not be punished. R.
A reading from the letter of Saint Paul to Ephesians 5, 21-32
Be submissive to one another in the fear of Christ: women, to their husbands, as to the Lord; because the husband is the head of the wife, as Christ is the head of the Church; he, who is the savior of the body. As the Church submits to Christ, so are women to her husbands in everything.
Husbands, love your wives as Christ loved his Church: He gave himself for her, to consecrate her, purifying her with the bath of water and the word, and to present her glorious, without spot or wrinkle or anything similar, but holy and immaculate. So should husbands love their wives, as their bodies that they are.
To love his wife is to love yourself. For no one has ever hated her own flesh, but gives her food and warmth, as Christ does with the Church, because we are members of his body.
“For this reason a man will leave his father and his mother, and he will be united to his wife and the two will become one flesh.”
This is a great mystery: and I refer to Christ and the Church.
A reading from the holy Gospel according to John 6: 60-69
At that time, many of Jesus’ disciples said:
“This way of speaking is harsh, who can listen to it?”
Jesus knowing that his disciples were criticizing him, he said to them:
“Does this scandalize you? What if you saw the Son of man go up to where he was before? The Spirit is the one who gives life; meat is useless. The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life. And yet there are some of you who don’t believe. ”
For Jesus knew from the beginning who did not believe and who was going to hand him over.
And he said:
“That is why I have told you that no one can come to me if the Father does not grant it.”
Since then, many of his disciples have backed down and did not go with him again.
Then Jesus said to the Twelve:
“Do you also want to leave?”
Simon Peter replied:
“Lord, who are we going to turn to? You have words of eternal life; we believe and know that you are the Holy One of God ”.
Today’s Word of God places us squarely before a question, a choice and a decision that, necessarily, are preceded by a premise: God has created us free, to think, choose and act accordingly. Freedom, for better or for worse, is what most resembles us to God, it is the characteristic that best reflects the image of him in us. Those who seek to take possession of the freedom of others, in any of its forms or levels, are wanting to occupy the place due to God alone. Those who allow themselves to curtail personal freedom in the name of any reason or cause, no matter how just and noble it may seem, are allowing the most essential and valuable part of their person to deteriorate and perhaps disappear. Every human person, as being intelligent, free and capable of loving, similar to God, is qualified and called to choose his destiny and to make the opportune decisions to achieve it; to think, decide and act accordingly to being essentially free from it.
In today’s first reading we listened to the question that Joshua posed to the people of Israel, followed by the choice and the decision: which God or gods do they want to serve? He immediately invites them to choose. And the people, forcefully, responded: Far be it from us to abandon the Lord to serve other gods! They knew well that the decision to serve the Lord, and not other gods, would commit them to a fidelity in thoughts, words and actions with efforts and renunciations, and that, over time, not all were able to maintain. But within the people of Israel, in moments of crisis, there was always a remnant, a small portion, that kept the promise of fidelity that today reflects the text of Joshua: “We will serve the Lord because He is our God.”
In today’s Gospel we also find the scheme: question, choice, decision. Jesus had already been indoctrinating his disciples for a long time. Crowds came and went. And the moment came when he clearly and directly raised the demands and consequences of following him. He had taken them out of the idyllic and utopian idea of the liberating and triumphant Messiah over the Romans that they expected. He had spoken to them of serving and giving life, of the cross and sacrifice. He had explained to them that He was the Bread of life and that His flesh was food for the life of the world. And then, doubts arose in many of them, they began to abandon him, and Jesus then questioned his trusted group, the Twelve: Do you also want to leave?
I imagine that the subsequent silence was very dense, internalizing, decisive and definitive for all of them. It made them long. They knew that their future was at stake, that Jesus was gently but forcefully urging them to make a decision. And they all stayed with Him. Peter, acting as spokesman, manifests his choice and decision: “Lord, who are we going to turn to? You have words of eternal life; we believe and know that you are the Holy One of God ”.
Christians today also have to hear from the Lord the question before which we have to choose and decide. What God do you want to serve? Do you also want to leave? Certainly, if we are honest, in everyday life we always serve and walk with someone and something. Work and worries occupy us time. But also, almost without realizing it, we are indebted to fashions, ideologies, stereotyped forms. We are caught by money, pleasure, power. We belong to groups, we are followers of idols and stars. We even make the personal ego a little god who subdues and enslaves us to incredible levels. But nothing and nobody quenches our hunger and thirst like Jesus; no one has spoken to us and filled our hearts like the Lord. How can we replace God with other gods or little gods! Although the possibility always exists and the temptation does not abandon us, we must never deny God the Father who has given us life and preserves it, who loves us dearly, who has become flesh in the Son of Jesus for our salvation.
For this reason, we too today, reaffirming our Christian faith, in Jesus Christ the Lord and his Church, must say: “Lord, who are we going to turn to? Only You have the words of eternal life ”.
Father, source of light and warmth, send us your living word, and make us accept it without fear and accept being embraced by it.
Let your word come, Lord, and once your unquenchable fire is lit in our hearts, we ourselves will be bearers of that fire for one another.
Turn us, Lord, into warm and luminous words, capable of setting the world on fire, so that each man may feel surrounded by the infinite flames of your love.
(Father Ignacio Larrañaga, Meeting 56)