21st Sunday in Ordinary Time
There is always the temptation to just “Go with the flow,” as they say. There are many people who live from one day to the next and somehow never make any really fundamental choices. They resist having to make hard decisions. They let choices be made for them by events, by others or by the world around them. People who “go with the flow” think what others think; they say what others say; they do what others do.
“Going with the flow” is becoming more and more the style nowadays. And this is especially evident in the spiritual and moral order. Those who “go with the flow” let the spiritual and moral choices that shape people’s life and soul be made for them by external forces – by popular culture and social influences.
Something like that seems to be happening in the account of the renewal of the Covenant in today’s first reading. Joseph Krempa has this commentary and reflection: “It seems to Joshua that the generations of Israelites who were born after the great events at Mount Sinai are sort of drifting along, just going with the flow, without making any fundamental decision or any commitment that is truly their own.” In other words, Joshua is seeing how the Israelites, who are now in the Promised Land, are picking up bits and pieces of the surrounding culture, which is clearly contrary to the Covenant. They are allowing themselves to be influenced and conditioned by a pagan culture.
Joshua tells the Israelites to choose their God: to whom they will give their allegiance and obedience. They have to choose: the God of the Exodus or the gods of their surrounding culture. They choose the God of their forefathers and foremothers – the God who liberated them from slavery. We can call this “the Joshua moment.”
This response of the People of God, according to Joseph Krempa, is held up both as a model and as a warning for us. It is a model of our own response to God’s Covenant. And it is also a warning for us to be prepared. Because sooner or later we all come to a point where we have to make our personal decision about whom we will worship and serve. It is our “Joshua moment.”
This “Joshua moment” comes to us in many ways. At any given situation we need to make a fundamental decision: who will be our God. We have to choose to whom we will put our faith and trust, to whom we will give our allegiance and obedience, whom we will worship and serve with all our might. Our Joshua moment may require us to make our personal commitment to obey God’s commandments even if it means “going against the flow.” It may require us to follow God’s will when it is much easier to follow our own wants. It may require us to stand by the Kingdom values when we are faced with financial loss. It may require us to uphold our Christian principles when it is not the popular and safe thing to do because it antagonizes the powers-that-be. It may require us to be faithful to our baptismal vow to be a prophetic voice in a culture or society which trivializes morality, dignity and decency.
Today’s gospel passage presents a “Joshua moment” for us as it challenges us to remain in Jesus when others are leaving or abandoning him. Jesus has just claimed to be the Bread of Life, that his flesh is real food and his blood is real drink. Many of Jesus’ disciples remark that his saying is hard and unacceptable – and the gospel says, “As a result of this, many of his disciples returned to their former way of life and no longer accompanied him.”
May this Mass be a “Joshua moment” for us as we make this fundamental decision: to follow the Lord Jesus, to keep believing and trusting in him, no matter what. This implies letting the Bread of Life, the Eucharist, be the source and summit of our life as Christ’s disciples. This means making the commitment to live by the Eucharist… to let the Eucharist transform the way we live our lives… the way we relate to others – loving one another… the way we share ourselves – time, talents and resources… the way we participate in Christ’s life and mission.
Let us renew in this Mass our decision to worship and serve the Lord God, and not the false gods of our popular culture and materialistic society. And may this decision be fortified by our sharing in the Eucharist. May we echo and live the words of Simon Peter in today’s gospel: “Lord Jesus, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.”