Homily Twenty-first SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME Year B:
Readings: Joshua 24: 1-2;15-17;18. Ephesians 5: 21-32. John 6: 60-69
In the synagogue of Capernaum, Jesus has now concluded his discourse on the bread of life. And there was that cancer of the friendship called suspicion! Immediately a voice arises that summarizes this common bewilderment: “This saying is hard, who can accept it?”, in other words, it is incomprehensible, and even offensive to the intelligence of the listeners. The whole passage is marked by this tension that was created after Jesus’ speech. Christ himself speaks explicitly of “scandal”, of the lack of faith and even of betrayal; many disciples “retreat”, separating their path from that of the strange rabbi of Nazareth; on the contrary, Jesus asks the Twelve themselves if they want to turn their backs on him in order “not to go with him anymore”, apostasy of faith and fracture of communion
At the center of today’s liturgy is in fact, a fundamental element in the history of the human person, a decision in the face of truth and love which for Christians is typified in the figure of Christ. It is an often-dramatic choice, normally abhorred because it entails entering the path of poverty and humility as against the “broad road” of wealth, pride, and power. It is a radical choice because it involves a decision for life, a decision to choose God against dead but comfortable idols. Emblematic in this sense is also our first reading from the Old Testament.
Israel, now in the heart of the promised land, in Shechem, seat of a national shrine linked to the memories of the patriarchs, is questioned by Joshua, the guide of the entry into the Holy Land: “Choose today who you want to serve”, idols or the liberating God, the Holy One who rescued you from the slavery of Egypt. “To serve” God means to follow his path, accepting His will, it means to fear him by recognizing his greatness and glory, it means to love him with all your heart, soul, and strength (Dt 6, 5), to have unwavering faith in him.
The great question of Jesus in our gospel reading today is: “Do you want to leave too?”, is an interrogative like a sword that divides history into two fields. On the one hand there are those who “pull back” frightened by a message that goes beyond the flesh, that is, human needs and cares, to introduce us into the infinite of God. In this field there are those who betray, those who are afraid, who are attached to their ideas and their narrow and immediate interest. But through the words of Peter the other camp also makes its way, that of those who profess their pure faith in Christ, the one who has “the words of eternal life, the Holy One of God”.
Already in the gospel of Matthew on another occasion Peter had offered a similar and clear adherence of faith to Christ who questioned his disciples saying: “Who do you say that I am?”. Peter’s answer – “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God” (Mt 16:16) – was the root of that extraordinary promise that had revolutionized the life of that modest fisherman from Bethsaida: “You are Peter, and on this rock, I will build my Church” (16:18).
Accepting Christ as a “multiplier” of loaves was easy then and today, following the religion of success was as spontaneous yesterday as it is today. In the territory of the Galilee of the soul there is not only the superficial crowd that had followed Jesus only for his prodigious signs, who had stopped to listen to him out of curiosity or because he had shown that he was able to offer them bread and fish. Our evangelist notes with insistence that it is “we” the “disciples” who do not understand, who murmur, who are scandalized. Our initial enthusiasm to following Christ is not enough: it is only like a seed fallen on a stone slab which, having sprouted, wither for lack of humidity because “the word is welcomed with joy but there is no root” (Lk 8, 6.13). The world presents us with life and death, good and evil, blessing and course, let us choose rightly, we must make that radical decision to follow Christ in order to enjoy the fullness of life through Him.
Fr. Jude Chijioke