ST. MARY THE MOTHER OF GOD CATHOLIC CHURCH

370 East Main Street
PO Box 7
Wytheville, VA 24382
Phone: (276) 228-3104
Fax: (276) 228-3322
officemanager@stmaryswytheville.com

Welcome to the Pastor's Desk

Sunday Homily

A climber fell off a cliff. As he tumbled down into a deep ravine he grabbed hold of a branch of a small tree. “Help” he shouted. “Is there anyone up there?” A deep majestic voice from the sky echoed through the ravine. “I will help you, my son. But first you must have faith in me.” “All right, all right. I trust you.” answered the man. The voice replied, “Let go of the branch.” There was a long pause and the man shouted again, “Is there anyone else up there?” The main theme of today’s readings is that Christian life is a series of daily choices for God or against God. They remind us that the fundamental choice we make determines how we live our lives. Joshua in our first reading and Paul in the second reading make similar challenges to the people to make their choice. Today we, too, are challenged to decide whom we will serve.

In the first reading Joshua challenges the Israelites to decide whom they will serve, the gods of the Amorites or the God of Israelites who has done so much for them. The renewal of covenant ceremony in Joshua reminds us that the Eucharist is a covenant meal that calls for a decision of faith.

The second reading emphasizes the unity that must exist in the body of Christ and the intimate relationship between Jesus and His followers. It also challenges the Ephesian Christians to build Christian marriages on mutual respect and love. He says that the Christian husband and wife should stand together in love before God respecting each other’s rights and dignity. He also uses the husband-wife relationship as an analogy to explain the close relationship between Christ and the Church. That is why he urges his faithful community in Ephesus “Live in love, as Christ loved us.” He wants them to make the right choice in life. Paul reminds us that Jesus nourishes us, the members of his Church, through the Eucharist, making us his own flesh and blood, as husband and wife become one flesh.

Concluding his long Eucharistic discourse, which has been 4 weeks already in our sunday gospel, Jesus in today’s gospel challenges his Jewish audience to make their choice of accepting the new covenant he offers in his body and blood or to join those who had lost their faith in him and left him, expressing their confusion and doubts about his claims.

God's ways are not our ways. The Gospel here is offensive and scandalous. It is offensive because it is costly. When Christ calls us to eat his flesh and to drink his blood, he is inviting us to participate in his death. The first Christians experienced persecution. They knew martyred Christians, and they knew Christians who had avoided martyrdom by compromising their faith. Christ truly revealed and his cross will always be an offense, except to the redeemed. We, as church of Christ, must always be ready to speak out for Christ and against the destructive beliefs and behaviors that the world finds so attractive.

Today’s gospel describes the various reactions of the people to Jesus’ claims. As Joshua had spoken to his followers Jesus speaks to the twelve apostles and gives them the option of leaving him or staying with him. But Jesus did not give any further explanation. He simply challenged them to open themselves to the gift of faith that was God’s gift to them: “No one can come to me unless it is granted by the Father” (v. 65). Jesus tries to help his remaining followers to make a leap of faith, because it is only with faith that they will be able to see and grasp the triple mystery which has been revealed to them, namely,

(1) the incarnation which correspond to his words(I am the bread that came down from heaven, 6:41);

(2) the redemption (the bread that I give is my flesh for the life of the world, 6:51);

(3) the ascension and glorification (the Son of Man will ascend to where he was before, 6:62).

Peter’s response, "Master, to whom we shall go? You have the words of eternal life” reflects the faith-filled, free and whole-hearted decision to follow Jesus and his teaching. Peter (their spokesman) asks Jesus how they can turn to anyone else – he is the only one who has the message of eternal life. The apostles exercise their freedom of choice by choosing to stay with Jesus. In the Eucharistic celebration we, like Peter, are called to make a decision, profess our faith in God’s Son and renew the covenant ratified in his life, death and resurrection.

As we continue to reflect on the message of Jesus, we are confronted with the challenge to make our choice for Christ and live it: We Christians have accepted the call of following the way of Christ and making choices for Christ, strengthened by the Bread he gives and relying on the power of his Holy Spirit. The heavenly Bread and the Holy Spirit will give us the courage of our Christian convictions to accept the Church’s teachings and to face humiliations, criticisms and even social isolation for our obedience to Christian principles in our lives. The option of choosing for or against Jesus is repeated over and over again in the present situations. Nowadays, we are challenged by this issue of divorce, abortion, sexual scandals of our leaders and many more which affect our moral and faith life. These may weaken us in our striving to faithfully follow Christ. We should resolve to take a stand for Jesus and accept the consequences.

As we go to communion, we recognize and accept that challenge to be totally one with Jesus. When the priest gives us Holy Communion saying, "The Body of Christ", we have to respond with a total "Amen." That ‘amen’ is Yes' ; not just an act of faith in the Real Presence but a total commitment of ourselves to Jesus. We must accept him totally, without any conditions or reservation. Christ’s thoughts and attitudes, his values, his life-view must become totally ours. Above all we are to identify with him in the offering of his flesh and the pouring out of his blood on the cross, the symbol of God's love for us.

Again, as we receive communion today, let us be conscious that we are receiving Jesus Christ himself and let us open our hearts to receive the new life that he brings to us.

Let me end with a prayer: “Lord, help me to live the rest of my life following you, the best of my life, being with you.” Amen.