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Simon Peter answered him, “Master, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. John 6:68.
Words highlighted in red are links to supporting material.
Today’s three readings seems to refer to different situations. Joshua, talking to the tribal leaders of the Hebrews, seems to challenge them by asking who they will serve in their newly-conquered Promised Land, the God of the Hebrews, or the local gods of the conquered peoples. Then the second reading seems to be talking about marriage and its implications for a married couple. Then the gospel talks about the aftermath of Jesus’ stunning claim that his followers must eat his flesh and drink his blood to remain his followers. Some who heard that had heard enough, and went their way, leaving him.
There does, however, seem to be a theme running through all three readings today, one of unity. There seems to be agreement throughout that we humans are naturally disposed to uniting ourselves to others rather than choosing solitude. That being the case, all three readings seem to suggest what kind of union, in total freedom, we should accept. The ancient Hebrews, having achieved their Promised Land did, indeed, see the attractions of the local gods of the people they had conquered. Even though the reading has them state they will not forsake the God of Abraham, we know from historians, and Scripture itself, that that was not completely true. The attractions of fertility gods, gods of power and even gods who demanded child sacrifice, were not completely rejected. It was a problem that played constantly with the prophets right down to the conquest of the Hebrews by the Babylonians centuries later. Only that disaster managed to convince them where their true loyalties lay (When the Jews Believed in Other Gods).
The marriage teachings talk of the unity of two people and the respect and sanctity each must have for the other, paralleling the love Christ has for his Church and the care he bestows on her. And then the gospel itself. Jesus, with a directness that even today sounds overwhelming, spelt out the conditions necessary to be his follower. Today’s gospel deals with the after effects of that teaching. It is not too surprising to see that some of his followers could not accept the implications of his demand. His disciples, however, though perhaps knocked for six over his words, still trusted him to the extent of accepting him for who he was, the one who had the words of eternal life, the Holy One of God. They had no idea that the full revelation of his teaching would take place at the Last Supper, where the new and eternal covenant he made with them was to be sealed in his blood, the consecrated wine of the Passover Dinner, celebrated by eating his flesh, the consecrated Passover bread.
Each of these readings speaks of unity, but where do our loyalties lie? Do they lie with the popular values of the day, money, power, sex, drugs, etc., or with the One True God of Love? Do they lie with total loving commitment to another, rather than in domination or possession of another? Do they lie in acting and believing in oneself as god almighty, to be served and worshipped exclusively in utter selfishness, or acknowledging that One greater than us, who loves and cares for us to the extent of dying for love of us, is the true choice? Only each of us can answer those questions and respond appropriately. And note that they correspond to the prime teaching of the Lord, to love God as seen in the gospel passage, to love your neighbor, especially to the one you have vowed to love, and then yourself, as seen in the first reading, where clear choices of what that means in action. God waits for our response…..
The Crucifixion, Jackson 2011, The Saint John’s Bible, St. John’s University, Collegeville, MN. USA.
Reflections on next Sunday’s Mass Readings will be posted on Wednesday.
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