August 26, 2018 —Twenty-first Sunday in Ordinary Time
There are so many stewardship themes in our readings today, but they boil down to this: they challenge us to choose whom we will serve. Will we choose God and others, or ourselves? In the first reading, Joshua poses the challenge this way, “If it does not please you to serve the Lord, decide today whom you will serve.” As a leader he sets an example declaring, “As for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.” And the people, recalling God’s many blessings to them and his great faithfulness time and time again, join Joshua in his choice, pledging “We also will serve the Lord, for he is our God.”
St. Paul issues a similar challenge in the second reading saying, “Brothers and sisters: Be subordinate to one another out of reverence for Christ.” He places this challenge in the context of married life. Husbands and wives are asked to decide whether they will choose to serve themselves or their spouse, and by extension, their families. But the challenge extends to all relationships — friendships, employers and employees, fellow parishioners, even the people hurrying to the checkout line at the store. In choosing to serve others before self, we are ultimately choosing to put God first in our lives. That is stewardship.
In today’s Gospel reading, Jesus continues His instruction on the Eucharist. Many of his own disciples cannot accept His teachings and instead return to their former way of life, abandoning Christ altogether. Jesus turns to the Apostles and asks them to choose with the question, “Do you also want to leave?” Peter speaks up for the Twelve responding, “Master, to Whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.”
The demands of a stewardship way of life can be difficult. And the teachings of Christ can be hard to accept. How can we keep going when it gets tough? The people’s response to Joshua’s challenge in the first reading, and Peter’s response to our Lord in the Gospel show us two ways.
When Joshua asks the people to decide whom they will serve they pause and call to mind all the blessings the Lord has given them and His unfailing faithfulness. Filled with gratitude to God, they choose Him. When the going gets tough for us, we too, can pause and remember the many blessings God has given and the many times He has shown His care for us. In gratitude, we are inspired to put Him and others first even when it is difficult.
Peter’s honest response to the choice Jesus poses shows us a second way to stay true to a stewardship way of life. Looking at himself and the world around him, Peter comes to a realization. To paraphrase, he says, “I don’t really see any better options, Lord. I’ve tried life with you and it’s hard. But I’ve tried life without You and it’s harder — it doesn’t satisfy. Where else am I going to go? I choose You, Lord.” Peter knows he doesn’t have all the answers. And so, he humbly chooses to rely on God. When the going gets tough, we can keep going by relying on God and trusting more deeply in Him.
Remembering blessings and relying on Him — two keys to help us choose whom we will serve. Two keys to a beautiful way of life.