INTRODUCTION: The first reading and Gospel today are about choice, decisions. The second reading comes from a time when women were not valued. In this sense Paul’s words are an advance. But some of his words are a reflection of his time rather than revelation: “Wives be submissive to your husbands in everything.”
To choose is something that we do every day. But there are many different levels of choice.
1) We live in a country with a great variety of choices. I remember returning from South America , almost 40 years ago. I was away from the United States for about four weeks. On arriving at the Miami airport I experienced culture shock. There were so many things. We take the choices we have for granted. One has only to visit WalMart, K-Mart, Target, Dillards, etc.
We have an ever increasing availability of programs on TV. Who has not heard of Dish TV or Direct TV? We make a choice about television watching, but just notice how many Satellite dishes there are. We have to decide what we will pay for.
Our decisions fall into different categories.
2) People make the choice to attend every Friday night football game. People make the decision how often they will attend Mass. Some attend every Sunday, some once a month, some only for Ash Wednesday, Easter and/or Christmas.
3) In our family we had to make the decision that my Mom could no longer live by herself in Harlingen . This was a difficult decision. My sister and brother-in-law made the decision to take her into their home.
4) But we also have choices or decisions like the ones we heard in today’s readings.
We heard in today’s first reading “decide today whom you will serve.” Jesus questioned his disciples and us: “Do you also want to leave?” Sometimes it is easier to make a choice not for God but for some alternative: pleasure, riches, status, triumph, status quo, etc. We also heard Joshua’s answer: “As for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.” And to Jesus’ question to Peter, we heard: “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.”
The beginning of John’s Gospel alerts us to the newness that came with Jesus. “In the beginning was the Word…” The book of Genesis began “In the beginning…” John’s hymn is announcing a new beginning. “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us.” Flesh, the whole person, and we are told that the literal meaning of the second part of the phrase is “pitched his tent” among us. Exodus 25 tells us that the tent of meeting was the presence of God among his people. The incarnate Word is the new mode of God’s presence among his people. The Passion narratives in all four Gospels are extensive. Perhaps for this reason the suffering and death of Jesus have dominated much of our catechesis, preaching and prayer life. But if we look at the composition of the four Gospels, after Mark’s Gospel, the teaching of Jesus (his words) become a greater part of each Gospel. The Words and Actions of the Word made flesh (the whole person) increase.
Often times the story of Lazarus and his two sisters is read at funerals. It has often struck me that Martha says “I have come to believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, the one who is coming into the world.” In today’s Gospel, Peter uses some of the exact same words: “You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe and are convinced that you are the Holy One of God.” John’s Gospel is the last written. I think he is instructing that “to believe” in Jesus is a process.
One commentator remarks: “Perhaps the greatest service we can do to the church is to put the person and message of Jesus within reach of men and women of our time; to put them in touch with his person. People do not need to listen to us but to him. Only his words are spirit and life.”
We believe that our religious tradition has the power to help us in different situations we will encounter. Our religious tradition in imitation of Jesus challenges us to values different from many that are promulgated.
If we are holding onto some practices which are not giving us life, we need to be ready to leave them behind.
We can receive discernment from teachers, preachers, meditation on nature, on the Word and actions of Jesus, from life itself.
We have the famous scripture quote: “I place before you life and death. Choose life.” We also have the choice between light and darkness, between love and being self centered.
The people of Joshua’s time reflected on their life and recalled: “Far be it from us to forsake the Lord for the service of other gods. For it was the Lord, our God, who brought us and our fathers up out of the land of Egypt , out of a state of slavery. He performed those great miracles before our very eyes and protected us along our entire journey and among the peoples through whom we passed. Therefore we also will serve the Lord, for he is our God.”
This Mass is a time to reflect on our past and what God has worked in our lives. We can each ask ourselves: “Where am I in my process of believing in Jesus?” What am I doing to advance in being able to say “I have come to believe…”? We are present to give support to one another that we might make the right choices and decisions in our lives. Jesus is saying to us today: CHOOSE LIFE, LIGHT, and LOVE. He is not only sharing words with us but wishes to share himself with us in the Eucharistic food. He wishes to accompany us and help us make good and right choices and decisions. He wishes to guide our actions in imitation of the Word made flesh and dwelling among us.
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