Reflection for the 21st Sunday in Ordinary Time Year B
(Joshua 24:1-2, 15-17, 18; Eph 5:1-32; Jn 6:60-69)
Joshua was quite dramatic. He summoned the tribes of Israel at Schechem and asked them to choose whether to serve the Lord God or the other gods. The people responded that they would serve the Lord God. Their reason being that the Lord God did great wonders for them. They made a free choice but informed by God's miracles for them. Human beings are always looking for a model; our hearts often tend to incline to something or someone. But we have the inherent capability to choose where to hang our hearts. Those who do not want to worship the One God end up worshipping many gods!
Faith in God is a free choice. In the Gospel many of the disciples of Jesus deserted him because they could not come to terms with the revelation of Jesus Christ as the Bread of life. They chose to walk away, and Jesus respected their choice. He asked the twelve, “will you also go away?” Peter answered on behalf of the rest, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the message of eternal life; and we have believed, and come to know, that you are the Holy One of God.”
Peter's choice to remain with Jesus is based on a relationship that grasped his person as the Son of God. The miraculous deeds of Jesus could not sustain the faith of the disciples that walked away. But the acceptance of the person of Jesus kept the twelve on. Their faith was rooted, not just on the miracles nor their human understanding but on the person of Jesus. Thus they accepted his teaching even when they could not understand it all.
2.0. The Gracious Choice
Our choice has a direction! There is always a propelling force or reason behind our every choice. Though the human heart tends to be in constant search, it faces the direction where it perceives its quest to be quenched. Every human choice is influenced by a reason. Thus, the freedom of our choice is directly related to the depth of the reason behind it.
Now the Israelites declared for God because of what they benefited. It was enough reason then for them worship Him. But with time their resolution collapsed. In the fullness of time, God's mighty works have been made manifest in Jesus Christ. He manifested this gracious power even in the multiplication of bread. Those asking for mere physical bread from Jesus missed the point, that in Christ Jesus we have been chosen for God's mighty works. From the foundation of the world, God chose us in Christ Jesus for every heavenly blessings, that we might be spotless before him (Eph 1:4-14). This is God's gracious choice, which in turn gives us the opportunity to choose God through Jesus Christ.
Thus, Joshua and his people were able to choose God because God chose them first as His people. Peter and Twelve chose to stay with Christ since He chose them first. God's gracious choice, which worked wonders for them, gave them reason and direction in declaring for God. Maybe that is why only a fool can reject God (Ps 14:1). At the end, God's gracious choice for us must be the underlying reason that propels our choice in Faith. Hence Jesus said, “no one can come to me unless it is granted him by my Father." It is by grace that we can recognise Jesus as Lord (1 Cor 12:3). It is by opening our hearts to this gracious choice that we can say with Peter, ‘Lord, to whom shall we go, you have the message of eternal life...’ At the end, this gracious choice for God in Jesus leads us into a relationship with Him, where reason and human benefit is sustained by grace. Grace as the last resort, however, does not deny nor downplay reason and human wellbeing, but itself suffices as that which gives direction to our free choice. This is the only way our choice for Christ Jesus can endure. It is the Father that draws us...!
3.0.To Whom Shall we Go!
Our society today is gradually losing direction. Identity crisis leaves its mark almost on every facet of our life. Even the Religious are not left out. Marriage and human relationship are on the fast track of redefinition. We question everything, and quickly jettison what does not guarantee immediate results. In our hearts are impressed the question: To whom shall we go?
We want to choose the direction of our lives, and choose it in freedom. Sometimes freedom is perceived as amorphous, open to anything. Such idea of freedom of choice will leave our hearts in endless search for identity and worship. Our choice in freedom is responsive. There is already a direction laid down, from which we freely respond to. Faith is defined; our choice to worship follows a directed path. The free choice between married couples for each other is a living example as given in the second reading.
One enters marriage freely. But one only marries in freedom if he/she chooses to marry the one who has chosen him/her. This freedom of choice, sealed in the Blood of the Lamb, is irrevocable. The mystery of marriage is that couples are free but bound together. Each couple plays out his/her role in freedom but modelled after Christ.
Therefore, Jesus Christ is the unifying centre that holds all things in being (Col 1:17). It is to Him we shall go! Those who walk away from Christ, depart from truth. And they will end up walking away from dignity of life and true freedom. Since we have been chosen in Christ for every heavenly blessings, our choice in faith must be centred on the person of Jesus Christ, the True Bread that Satisfies.
Fr Jude Chinwe Nwachukwu, C.Ss.R.ķ
St Louis Catholic Church,
Ekuku-Agbor, Delta State,
26th August, 2018