Sunday, August 23, 2015

21st Sunday in Ordinary Time - To Whom Shall We Go?

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Thank you, God bless + Mary keep!

We have pretty much wrapped up Jesus' revelation to the Jews that He was the "Bread of Life."  In today's readings, we see how this affects the people who took His words as too hard to follow. This created a dilemma: do they follow Jesus or someone else?

In today's first reading, we read of Joshua who had taken the lead after the death of Moses (Deuteronomy 31). He gathered all the tribes of Israel, calling forward the elders, leaders, judges and officials.  Each stood before God as Joshua spoke to them.  He tells them if they are not happy with serving God then they must decide who they must serve. He puts before them the gods of the Amorites or the God of their ancestors.  As Israel began to expand, she found herself surrounded by other nations who worshiped different gods.  Many atheists love to claim that "Yahweh" is one of the gods of these nations who the Israelites adopted as their own. They claim that "Yahweh" was a "borrowed" god from the Pantheon.  However, this is not true. While "Yahweh" is listed in the pantheon, this only occurred after the Israelites mingled with the surrounding nations.  So naturally, those nations would add the God of the Israelites as part of their gods to reflect the diversity of cultures.  They were Henotheists, or people who worshiped a single deity but acknowledged that there were other gods.

Anyhow, Joshua gathers the top people of Israel and questions their loyalty to the God of the Hebrews - of their ancestors.  The people respond that they will not forsake their God for other gods because it was their God who rescued their ancestors from the Land of Egypt.  It was this God who wrought the miracles and protected the people (Exodus 20:2, Leviticus 22:33, Amos 2:10, Exodus 3:20, Psalm 40:5).  They chose God Yahweh.  We too should ask ourselves this question every day, especially every Sunday before we recite the creed.  Do we serve the one true God or the "gods" of today: money, sex, power, popularity, the self etc? Now we know there are no other gods out there, Yahweh is the only one (1 Kings 8:23, 2 Chronicles 6:14, Isaiah 45:5, Deuteronomy 33:36).  Today we understand that primitive man defined and named god the best way they could.  So they got the right idea that a supreme being existed, but got His name and description wrong. I address this more in this radio podcast (  Like the Israelites, we choose God, the real God.  We "taste and see the goodness of the Lord" as we repeat again in the responsorial Psalm.

We are called to "taste and see the goodness of the Lord."  In order to do this, we must be with God, bless Him, praise Him, let His glory shine in our being.  We must be happy and proud to be with God and not "blush with shame" (Mark 8:38, 2 Timothy 1:8). God hears us during our distress just like He heard Elijah (1 John 5:15).   God sends His angel to protect us and aid us just like with Elijah (Psalm 91:11).  He is with us when we are down or hurting.  The phrase that "He watches over all His bones; not one of them shall be broken" is a foreshadowing of Christ on the cross who was spared from having his legs broken by the Roman soldiers (Psalms 34:19-20, Exodus 12:46, John 19:36).

The second reading has been controversial in the last 40 years ago. This is why the Church gives us two versions.  One skips some controversial statements.  We read that we must be "subordinate to one another out of reverence for Christ."  This is something that causes shock in today's world where it is all about the self or "me me me."  We are taught at a very early age to strive to be better, to share and care.  Then all of a sudden when we get older, we are told that we have to be "go-getters" and step on others in order to climb the ladder of success.  But this is not how a Catholic is supposed to be.  We are supposed to serve others (Mark 9:35, John 13:14, Galatians 5:13).

Now, the next phrase is a big one that causes controversy, especially among radical feminists.  It says, "wives should be subordinate to their husbands as to the Lord.  For the husband is head of his wife."  Ouch!  Those are fighting words in today's culture.  However, the latter word is what it is all about, culture. During St. Paul's time, women did not have much of a role. They were considered the property of man. Now this does not mean that ancient people were evil or misogynist.  It simply was the way it was back then just like in America we had laws that allowed White men to buy Africans; and laws that said that they were 3/5th human!  Does this mean America is evil or racist?  Not at all. It was just the way people thought back then out of ignorance.  I guarantee you that centuries from now, kids will be in school having discussions about us who lived in 2015 and how we allowed abortion, same-sex marriage and other illogical and evil things as "normal."  So what did St. Paul really mean?  Remember, St. Paul was speaking to the people of his day so he used examples that related to them in order to convey the Gospel to them better.  The theme of this phrase is that we must be "subordinate to ONE ANOTHER."  So St. Paul made it clear that this is a two-way street, so to speak.  St. John Paul II helps us out in "Mulieris Dignitatem," he wrote,

"The author of the Letter to the Ephesians sees no contradiction between an exhortation formulated in this way and the words: "Wives, be subject to your husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife" (5:22-23). The author knows that this way of speaking, so profoundly rooted in the customs and religious tradition of the time, is to be understood and carried out in a new way: as a "mutual subjection out of reverence for Christ" (cf. Eph 5:21). This is especially true because the husband is called the "head" of the wife as Christ is the head of the Church; he is so in order to give "himself up for her" (Eph 5:25), and giving himself up for her means giving up even his own life. However, whereas in the relationship between Christ and the Church the subjection is only on the part of the Church, in the relationship between husband and wife the "subjection" is not one-sided but mutual."  Source:

So as you can see, St. Paul was using the cultural ideas of the time to convey the idea that Christ is the head of the Church and that we must be submissive to this head just like at the time wives were submissive to the husband as the head of the household. Unfortunately, many of our separated friends in the many fundamentalist Protestant sects take this "be submissive to the man" to heart and it can be abusive. Some Catholics have also fallen victim to this literal interpretation. Men and women are equal beings (Proverbs 22:2, Acts 17:26, Romans 2:11, Galatians 3:28).  The two cannot become "one body" in marriage if one is lesser than the other (Matthew 19:5). This is why God made Eve from Adam's side (rib), not his toes, feet or back (Genesis 2:22).  Eve (women) must stand with man side by side as equals before God.  Similarly, we must love the Church and as Church submit to Christ.

Like husbands love their wives, we must love our Catholic Church.  Some people in the Catholic Church may do wrong, it will happen.  This is no reason to abandon her or demand changes of her to fit our views. This week I had interesting chats on Twitter with Catholics who feel the Church's teachings on sex must change.  Another believes the Catholic Church went apostate at Vatican II and thinks only a few are "real Catholics."  These individuals are not following St. Paul's words in today's second reading. We must love our Church.  The Church that Christ died for, sanctifying her with the blood and water that flowed from His pierced heart (John 19:34).  We are the Church.  We are the body of Christ (1 Corinthians 12:27, Romans 12:5).  As St. Paul says, "no one hates his own flesh."  We cannot hate the Church. If we do, then we hate Christ's body and ourselves. We choose to do our own thing rather than what Christ wanted. Today's Gospel presents a similar dilemma where a choice is presented to follow Christ or walk away.

In today's Gospel, many of the followers of Jesus were murmuring among themselves saying, "This saying is hard, who can accept it?"  They were referring to Jesus' words stating that He is the "bread of life" and that this bread is His "flesh." He tells them that they have to eat His flesh and drink His blood in order to have eternal life.  These words are hard.  Imagine if someone tells you that you have to eat their arm in order to live forever?  How would you feel about this?  Jesus asks the people, "Does this shock you?  What if you were to see the Son of Man ascending to where he was before?  It is the spirit that gives life while the flesh is of no avail.  The words I have spoken to you are Spirit and life.  But there are some of you who do not believe."  Jesus knew that they were having trouble believing in Him. Because of His words, many of his disciples left and returned to their former lives. The Twelve remained and Jesus asks them, "Do you also want to leave?"

Here we see Simon Peter take the lead as the first Pope, speaking for the rest saying, "Master, to whom shall we go?"  You have the words of eternal life.  We have come to believe and are convinced that you are the Holy One of God."  Like in Joshua's day, the people were given a choice.  Either they accept Christ's words on the Holy Eucharist or return to their former lives worshiping money, success and what not. Unfortunately, they chose the latter.  Today we are presented with the same situation.  Do we accept Yahweh or the fake gods of today?  Do we accept Christ, the Holy Eucharist, and the Catholic Church or do we go back to our former lives, believe the Eucharist is a symbol and pick and choose what teachings of the Church to follow?  Jesus' words can be hard for us which is a cross, but we must not give up and walk away (Luke 9:23). Jesus asks us today, "Do you also want to leave?"  What will we respond?  We must respond like St. Peter did, "Master, to whom shall we go?  You have the words of eternal life. We are convinced that you are the Holy One of God."  May Jesus Christ be praised!


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