Saturday, September 1, 2012

"Life is here, Love is here, Challenge is here. ... The choice is ours"

Readings for August 26, 2012, 21st Sunday in Ordinary time 2012:

21st Sunday in Ordinary time 2012

By Deacon Lawrence N. Kaas
August 26, 2012

"Have the people recline." Then Jesus took the loaves, gave thanks, and distributed them to those who were reclining, and also as much of the fish as they wanted when they had had their fill, he said to his disciples, "gather the fragments left over so that nothing will be wasted." From the 17th Sunday.

"I Am the bread of life; whoever comes to me will never hunger, and whoever believes in me will never thirst." From the 18 Sunday.

"I Am the living bread that came down from heaven; whoever eats this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give is my flesh for the life of the world." From the 19th Sunday.

"This is the bread that came down from heaven. Unlike your ancestors who ate and still died, whoever eats this bread will live forever." From the 20th Sunday.

"Do you also want to leave?" Simon Peter answered him, "Master, to whom shall we go? You have the words of everlasting life. We have come to believe and are convinced that you are the Holy One of God." From the last words of the Holy Gospel for today.

How often have you come across someone who comes up to you and says, have you been saved? I've told you of this happening before but it needs a little more explanation, I think.

A young man comes into my shop one day and across to counter asked me, have you been saved? and almost without thinking I said, oh yes many times. We completed our work and before he left he had asked me now how could I say that I was saved many times because he believed once saved always saved. My response to him was simply, well, every time I go to Confession I am saved. And I suppose if you think about it, that was really not a bad answer.

But in light of the last five weeks of the bread of life discourses maybe I should have added, every time I receive the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Christ in Holy Communion. Then, we recall what father has been talking about the last four weeks, that having received the body and blood of Christ, and I would add worthily, one cannot remain in the grave.

Everything Jesus says or does is intended to lead us to the moment of decision: will we throw in our lot with him; or refuse him.

Surely we have choices to make every step along the discipleship road. Come follow me or stay behind. Seek peace or take up the sword. Serve God or money. Build on rock that lasts or on sand that slips away. Tend to the dead or choose the way of life. Open your eyes or remain blind. Get up and walk or stay where you are. Go up to Jerusalem or return to Galilee. Seek the kingdom or settle for the world.

Either we are for Christ or against him. Jesus doesn't allow a shift into neutral or a response of no comment. Let's be clear, any decision we make has consequences.

Joshua, from our first reading, offers the people a similar clarifying decision at the start of their new life in the land of promise. Their last choice was 40 years ago and it wasn't much of a decision: slavery or freedom. On the other side of the desert experience however, they are now a liberated people, which means they're free to choose who they want and intend to be: the people of God? If not, they can go another way, right now, the only acceptable answer is to say yes!

This hypocrisy, of course, is what the tribes wind up attempting, and that explains the rest of the Hebrew story: War, destruction, exile, and national ruin. After Babylon comes the moment of decision once more. You want to join the faithful remnant and return to the land as God's people, or stay away? The cycle begins again.

The decisive question continues to be posed, because each new generation has to address it. We can be baptized and still say no. We can receive our first Communion and have our faith ratified at Confirmation and still retreat. We can journey with Jesus as members of His Church and determine one day that we will go no further. We can be faithful churchgoers all our lives yet at the critical hour where testimony is called upon, we may waffle and stammer and look away. Making a lie of it all.

Are you with me or do you want to leave? Jesus asks. St. Peter's answer remains the best, but we can only repeat it if we mean it. Life is here, Love is here, Challenge is here. The cross is here. Forgiveness is here. The choice is ours. Amen.

'Thank you' to Deacon Kaas, for letting me post his reflection here.

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