“As for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.” That was a pretty bold statement for Joshua to make, but one that needed to be made. It has never been easy to be a follower of God. Obviously, it must not have been easy for the tribes of Israel, or Joshua would not have had to say what he did. He had to say it because the people were surrounded by all sorts of distractions, all manner of things designed to pull them away from God, all manner of things that sought to replace God. Joshua had to take a stand, to challenge the people, to bring them back to the service of God. It has never been easy to be a follower of God.
It did not get any easier for people to follow God. For the past three Sundays the Gospel has described Jesus speaking hard things to the people following him. Eat my flesh, drink my blood, if you would have life within you. This wasn’t just hard for the people to hear, it was absolutely scandalous. How was he going to give them his flesh to eat and his blood to drink? How was such a thing possible? Many of those who heard it could not accept it. Many walked away. They simply could not see what Jesus was telling them, they were scandalized, and walked away from him. Jesus even turns to his core followers, those closest to him and asks if they will leave as well. Perhaps some thought about it, but one stood up, refusing to be driven away and prophetically calling the others to stay. It has never been easy to be a follower of God.
Today, it still is not easy for us to be followers of God. The Israelites had their distractions, and we certainly have ours. It seems at times as if the entire culture is geared toward pulling you away from God, challenging your faith, calling on you to replace God with some worldly item. Money, power, comforts, all try to drag us away, to replace God. It has never been easy to be a follower of God. As for scandal, well the last few years haven’t been easy. Being Catholic meant facing questions, questions about the scandals occurring in the Church, questions about how you could stay there. If we are honest, we have to at times questioned what was going on. I know I have. I questioned whether or not I could remain in the face of what was happening. Some did not. It has never been easy to be a follower of Jesus. When I felt overwhelmed, and wondered about my faith, I came back to what Jesus was telling his followers in these Gospel readings. I returned to the sacrament, to The Sacrament, the thing that binds us together. I realize that I cannot have an effect on what happens in the Church if I am not in the Church, I can not be a positive force if I leave. I can stay because of The Sacrament. We gather today to celebrate that Sacrament, the Sacrament that makes us one with Christ and one with each other. We are drawn together, deriving strength from this sacrament of unity, a sacrament that allows us to draw strength from each other. Through this sacrament we can together echo the words of Peter, “Master, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.”
Deacon John Simmons
At St. Meinrad Archabbey
Twenty-first Sunday in Ordinary Time