Peace and grace to you!
This weekend we are reminded of what it is to be in a covenant relationship with God. Our understanding of this relationship is enhanced through the image of Jesus’ love for the Church. It is also reflected in a marriage covenant.
In the first reading Joshua stands as the leader of the Israelites and informs them that they have a choice to make. The people are aware of their past and continuing struggles of fidelity to the Covenant that God established with them through Moses. Joshua affirms his intent to remain faithful in his statement “As for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.”
St. Paul’s letter to the Ephesians provides instructions for remaining in communion as a faith community and uses the Church’s relationship to Christ as the basis for all relationships, especially for those who are married.
The Gospel of John reemphasizes the reality that following the Lord is challenging and involves personal and communal choices. Over the past 5 weeks, Jesus has been revealing who God truly is and has also revealed that he is the Bread of Life. He began by teaching and feeding the five thousand with a few loaves and a couple of fish. The people loved it because the message was good and the miracle was sensational and tangible. Some came in search of him only because they wanted more fish and bread, they were never interested in his words and teaching about God. Last weekend when Jesus informed them that not only his words were food but also his physical body and blood would be food, the mood quickly changed to rejection and disbelief. Only a few remained. Jesus asks the disciples if they too will leave and Peter’s response is one of faith but without complete understanding: “Master, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.”
The journey of life is full of surprises! So many times in life, God gives us surprises that seem too good to be true—like his real and true presence in the Eucharist. Another unbelievably great surprise is how much God loves each of us and how, no matter how badly we may sometimes fail, God always remains faithful in love and mercy. God is always true to his promises! But not every surprise is a good one.
I say this as a back drop against any lack of understanding, lack of faith, or lack of fidelity on the part of an individual or the Church. Sometimes something unbelievably bad can happen and we are tempted to “throw the baby out with the bathwater” through rejection and disbelief. They are those who walk away from the faith and the Church. In such circumstances it is difficult to be humble and continue as disciples. Whenever there is pain and hurt all we can do is make Joshua’s assertion of fidelity my own: as for me, I will serve the Lord. And when others walk away, we can make Peter’s words our own: to whom shall we go? You alone Lord have the words of eternal life. Our faith does not reside in people because all human beings are flawed, even the best fall short of perfection. Our faith must always reside in God who will sustain each of us personally and the Church universal. The Church is the Sacrament of salvation to the whole world. May God bless you always! +++ Fr. Peter