August 26, 2012 – Twenty-first Sunday in Ordinary Time
Life in Christ is not always easy. In fact, oftentimes it is incredibly difficult. As Christian disciples, we must make many choices that are contrary to what the world deems popular. We must choose Christ and His values and principals over and above all else. And sometimes, many times in this day and age, that means we encounter persecution. No, Christian discipleship is not the easy route to take in this world, but it is the most fruitful and the most fulfilling. As Peter reminds us in today’s gospel reading, Jesus Christ has “the words of eternal life.” He is all we need, and that is what gives us strength to choose Him above all else, and to stand up for our beliefs.
In today’s readings, we hear of two groups of men faced with the choice to follow the world or follow the Lord, and both groups offer us incredible examples to follow.
In the first reading, Joshua challenges the people to choose between the idols that so many were worshipping and the one true God, insisting they could not serve both. And the people wholeheartedly assured him, “we will serve the Lord, for He is our God.”
Likewise, Jesus presents a challenge to his disciples in today’s gospel reading. He has concluded His Bread of Life Discourse, announcing to the people that He is the Son of God, the Living Bread come down from Heaven, insisting that they must eat His flesh and drink His blood in order to have life in Him. And, understandably so, many found His claims hard to swallow. Many who listened walked away. How could this man be who He claimed to be — the Son of God — when clearly they could see He was human? How could He insist that they must eat His flesh and drink His blood? That would be cannibalism, as they understood it. Yet, Jesus insisted. He did not back down. Living the life of a Christian disciple required a leap of faith, it required living by faith, so He let those who chose to walk away walk away. And then He posed a question to the 12, “Do you also want to leave?” they had the choice. Jesus wanted them to choose Him, to live for Him, to bear witness to Him and the truth of the gospel, but it was their choice.
The same applies to us today. We are called to be Christian disciples, to live lives of love and service to the Lord, bearing witness to who He is and the truth He proclaims. Yet, This calling is a difficult one. Living it out requires great faith and commitment to put Christ before all else — even when it’s not the popular thing to do, even when others around us choose differently. We must make the choice, and we must make it every day.
Can we wholeheartedly exclaim as Joshua did, “As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord”? Do we recognize like Peter did that Christ is the one with the words of eternal life, that He promises so much more than the world does? If so, there is yet another challenge that the readings today present to us. Do we live out that choice — day in and day out — putting Christ before all else, even in the face of adversity and ridicule?
That is our challenge as Christian disciples living in the world. We are called to follow Christ all the time. He has given us so much; He has done so much for us. And so, we must give Him all the glory, all the time. We must give Him our lives, just as those first disciples did.