Date: Sunday, August 22, 2021
I enjoy reading “For Better or Worse” in the Comics. In Saturday’s AM BN we see Michael alone in his room. His mom peaks in and asks: “What’s wrong Mike? You’re awfully quiet.” Michael says: “I saw Martha tonight.” He goes on: “It was weird, Mom. It was like I’d never gone out with her. She says she still likes me… but I feel nothing.” He asks his mom: “Does that mean it’s all an illusion? That it’s all in your head? What keeps people together if love is so easily lost?” Mom replies: “… Finding it again and again and again!”
“Finding it again and again and again” aptly describes our Sunday Scriptures. In our first reading, Joshua gathers all the tribes of Israel together at Shechem. He calls upon them “to decide today whom you will serve…” -- the gods of your neighbors or your ancestors beyond the River or the Lord who brought us up from slavery and the land of Egypt? Joshua publicly professes: “As for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.” We have here in this ancient text, a renewal of their Covenant with God.” Not said once and forgotten but voiced repeatedly together in assembly as an enduring commitment of faith.
In the second reading, the Letter to the Ephesians, St. Paul is adapting a “household” code of behavior from the Greek and Roman world that defines responsibilities of husbands and wives. While both spouses are expected to “be subordinate to one another out of reverence for Christ”, wives are singled out to be subordinate to their husbands. Paul goes on to stress that husbands must love their wives “as Christ loves the church.” We know what can happen when we take verses uncritically from a sacred text without acknowledging that the culture, a patriarchal society, accepted slavery and often denied the dignity and equality of women. I say this considering what is taking place in Afghanistan with the take over by the Taliban and the real fear of what will happen to women and girls. We must remind ourselves that Jesus had exceptionally great respect for women and St. Paul included women in leadership roles within church communities he founded. The essential point St. Paul is making to wives and to husbands and to children is “Live in love, as Christ loved us.” Human structures, customs and conventions are transformed in Christ.
In the Gospel according to St. John, there is apparent resistance to the teaching of Jesus that he is God’s “heavenly bread” and that his disciples must eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood to have life within them. They are shocked to hear Jesus say: “What if you were to see the Son of Man ascending to where he was before?” Many walk away and return to their former way of life. Jesus asks the Twelve: “Do you also want to leave?” Simon Peter answers: “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.”
Mike’s Mom’s words of wisdom ring true: “Finding it again and again and again.” We renew our faith like Joshua and the Israelites when we stand and recite/profess the Creed at Mass. Husbands and wives renew their love daily when they say “I love you” with gestures of kindness, gentleness, and respect. With Simon Peter, we renew our commitment to stay close to Jesus when we break open the Word of God and say “Amen” when we receive the Sacrament of Christ’s Body and Blood in Holy Communion.