Who Will You Serve

Who Will You Serve 21st Sunday in Ordinary Time Yr. B

“Choose this day who you will serve!”  This is the challenge that Joshua puts before the Israelites in Joshua, Chapter 24.  Joshua is very explicit in his challenge.  In our present culture the challenge could be: ‘Here are all the gods you have before you – political power, personal and world renown, military might, material and financial abundance, sexual pleasure and moral license to behave in whatever way you please, alcohol, drugs, worship at the altar of entertainment, intellectual prowess, science.’  Do you choose these or will you recognize how God has cherished you all your life – how he has provided for all your needs – how he has been with you every step of your life journey, in the midst of all your struggles and adversities? Do you see how he has been with you, even if, at the time of trials you did not recognize him? Do you understand that you are the person that you are because he is loving you and looking after you?  Can you say, can we say, “He is our God”?  When the people say that they will follow the Lord, Joshua challenges them again saying to them that it will not be easy to serve the lord.  It is a hard road filled with challenges and the Lord does not water down his teachings.  The people reaffirm that they will follow the Lord.  Joshua sets up a stone under the Oak tree at Shechem, in the Lord’s sanctuary. This stone has heard their vows to the Lord.

This is the same challenge that Jesus puts before his disciple in his teaching on the Eucharist. These people have followed him for nearly 3 years.  They recognize that he and his teachings have brought new meaning into their lives.   They are not the same as they were before he walked among them.  Now they must take a radical step.  This step points to the very essence of the Catholic faith. The teaching that Jesus puts before the people is the stone that is the stumbling block for many.  But for those whom the Father has called, and who have chosen to accept him and his teaching, the stone is the altar of eternal life.  The oak tree could be said to be the cross above the altar.  We like the disciples that Jesus was speaking to in the synagogue at Capernaum, are asked a very radical question.  The question asks us to look into ourselves and decide if we are of the flesh or of the spirit. If we are of the flesh then we will never get our intellects around his teaching that says “unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you.”  To eat his flesh and drink his blood is to have eternal life within us now.  The flesh is taken up with all that is passing, all that is of the world, all that we can scientifically prove.  It is the Holy Spirit sent by the Father, who brings us to all truth, who points us in the way of eternal life.  Eternal life is to be totally one with the Father and the Son through the Holy Spirit.  This oneness of Jesus living in me and I living in him is experienced here and now as we eat his body and blood! It is in being of the Spirit that one can come to know the truth of what Jesus is teaching. It is the ultimate leap of faith.

Many of his disciples were of ‘the flesh’, finding what Jesus was asking them to believe was ‘intolerable’, and they walked away.  They were dependent on human understanding.  The apostles are directly asked by Jesus if they were going away too. “Lord, to whom shall we go?  You have the message of eternal life, and we believe; we have come to know that you are the Holy One of God!”(Jn. 6:68-69)

When we walk up to the altar, the stone of sacrifice, do we process to “taste and see that the lord is good”? (Ps 34)  Do we believe that we are eating and drinking the “Holy One of God!”? This is no symbolic act of drinking some wine and eating a piece of bread in unity with others. Do I believe as I eat the bread and drink the wine I am eating and drinking the body and blood of the Lord, and that he is living in me and that I am living in him?   The Israelites professed their allegiance before the stone at Shechem.   We have said in front of the stone, the altar, as the Body and Blood are raised, “Lord, I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof, only say the word and my spirit shall be healed!”  This is radical!  This is saying with Peter “Lord, you have the message of eternal life, and we believe!” This acclamation calls for a radical life style that is nourished by the Eucharist!

So, as we are nourished by this meal, will you, will I, will we “Serve the Lord”, “the Holy one of God”, all the days of our life? The reception of the Eucharist proclaims our choice. We do not want to align ourselves with the gods of this world.  We do not want to be ruled by the flesh. We want to live in the Spirit, in total oneness with Father and the Son forever.