Sunday, August 16, 2015

21st Sunday in Ordinary Time - August 23, 2015

First Reading Commentary
The beauty of this Reading is that it addresses both sides of the fence.  One side trusts in the Lord completely and serves Him devoutly.  The other side is not necessarily against the Lord, but it is the side in which individuals do not surrender their lives to Him and tend to trust more in their own abilities, completely ignoring the fact that their abilities are a gift from God; and for them God simply becomes a last resort when things turn bleak.  Perhaps some of us in the course of our life have been on both sides of the fence. 

Joshua tells the people, “Decide today whom you will serve.”  As we read through Sacred Scripture, we’ll see evidence of many false gods.  Today, there are many things and even people who can become gods to us.  Certainly money can be a god.  If we are wealthy, and becoming wealthier is an obsession, then money is a god because we are not in control of our wealth; our wealth is in control of us.  In just the opposite scenario, if we are struggling to make ends meet, and are willing to do something immoral to get money, then that becomes a god to us.  Any kind of an addiction can be considered a god.  People can also be gods to us.  Whenever we adhere to someone whose advice, suggestion or ultimatum is contrary to the teachings of our faith, then that person becomes a god to us.  We can even become our own god when we live our lives for our own benefit and ignore the needs of others.  On the flip side, whenever we follow the advice of someone whose ideas are in line with the teachings of our faith, then that person is not a god but a servant of Almighty God, who is doing his/her part to build up the Body of Christ. 

Choosing to serve other gods always ends in disappointment.  No matter how long we search for fulfillment, the search will never end until we find God.  Any pleasures we find outside of God are temporary.  Those of us who have been on that side of the fence could testify to this.  Surrendering to God and turning ourselves over to His care doesn’t guarantee a trouble-free life; but it gives us peace because we trust that no obstacle is stronger than His love for us. 

“Decide today whom you will serve.”  When reflecting on this statement, those of us who have been on both sides of the fence will easily answer in same manner as the people in this Reading:  “Far be it from us to forsake the Lord for the service of other gods.  Therefore we also will serve the Lord, for He is our God.”  

Second Reading Commentary
Although lectors may worry about being stoned to death while proclaiming this Reading, in reality this Reading is not as harsh as it seems; nor does it in any way suggest that women are inferior to men.  Biblical proof of gender equality can be found in the very first book when Adam speaks of Eve with the words, “This one, at last, is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh” (Genesis 2:23).  This verse signifies equality as well as oneness as we find in the Sacrament of Matrimony whereby the two become one. 

Part of this Reading is about mutual service to one another as the first verse suggests: “Be subordinate to one another.”  As we read on we see that “wives should be subordinate to their husbands as to the Lord.”  The key to this verse is the last four words, “as to the Lord.”  To comprehend this verse more clearly, we need to look at what kind of Divine Person our Lord Jesus Christ is as revealed by His human nature.  Certainly He is not an overbearing dictator; nor did He ever do or say anything that would lead anyone to believe that men and women are not equal.  On the contrary, Jesus is a humble, forgiving, loving, compassionate Servant.  If wives are to be faithful to their vocation as prescribed in this Reading, then their husbands should exhibit these same Christ-like qualities; and since a servant is one of those qualities, this would mean that service in a marriage is mutual. 

For husbands, this Reading prescribes that they “should love their wives as their own bodies.”  For certain, if husbands love Christ, then that love will overflow into their marriage.  Putting Christ first in our lives can only enhance all other relationships.  The relationship of a man and a woman in marriage, however, is only part of the story. 

On a larger scope this Reading is about Christ and the love He has for His Body, the Church.  Christ’s love for His Church is the model for love in marriage.  Jesus gave of Himself and sacrificed Himself because of His love for the members of His mystical Body.  The bond between a man and a woman in marriage also requires love, giving of oneself and sacrifice. 

Finally and equally as important, just as Christ is the Head of the Church, so should Christ be the Head in a marriage.  Since matrimony is a Sacrament, Christ is already present; but a husband and wife must put Jesus in charge of their marriage and follow His leadership by living out His example of love and sacrifice. 

Gospel Commentary
This Gospel begins right after Jesus proclaims that He is the living Bread and whoever eats this Bread will live forever; and as a result of this proclamation “many of His disciples returned to their former way of life and no longer accompanied Him.”  It’s seems appropriate to reiterate what was in last week’s commentary.  Jesus could have easily stopped all those who were leaving by explaining further that He didn’t mean it literally; but He didn’t stop them because He did mean it literally. 

“What if you were to see the Son of Man ascending to where He was before?”  This question would seem to imply that Jesus is of Divine origin; also He would seem to be hinting about His eventual Ascension into heaven.  

When we look for the similarities of this Gospel and the First Reading, “choice” is the predominant theme.  We can either choose our Lord or choose to live our lives according to our own design.  If we choose to live by our own design, for certain we will fail and ultimately that will leave us with the question, “To whom shall we go?”  Saint Peter knows the answer is Jesus as indicated by his proclamation, “You have the words of eternal life.”  Mary, the sister of Martha, was also aware that Jesus has the words of eternal life as she sat “at His Feet listening to Him speak” (Luke 10:39).  We too have the opportunity to sit at the Feet of Jesus and listen to Him speak.  Our Blessed Mother encourages us to do this when she exhorted us at the Wedding in Cana, “Do whatever He tells you” (John 2:5).  There are many ways for us to sit at the Feet of Jesus: First and foremost is at Mass, attentively listening to His words as the Gospel is being proclaimed.  We could also attend Eucharistic adoration and wait for Him to speak to us in the silence and stillness of our hearts; or if we carry a pocket-size New Testament, we could be virtually anywhere and prayerfully read the Gospels.  There are many ways for us to hear Jesus speak and it’s important that we do because in these troubled times we simply cannot afford to make the choice to be without Him.  Whatever ways we choose to sit at the Feet of Jesus, we can be sure that it is a necessary step for us to take if we are to grow in our relationship with Him.  It also properly prepares our hearts to receive Him in Holy Communion.