Homily: "God is active in our lives"
By Mons. Peter Jeffrey
We are all at different stages of life. As we journey on we can sometimes gain from looking back over the past and then we can see how we need to live in the present and move into the future. Our Sacred Scriptures often present in large print what we are writing in small print in our own lives. I want to illustrate that from today’s first reading and then from the Gospel.
In the passage from the Book of Joshua, the chosen people, freed from slavery in Egypt, are journeying on into the Promised Land. They are in a covenant or love relationship with God who has freed them from slavery. Now they find themselves living amongst people influenced by a range of false idols.
Joshua puts to them a huge challenge. “Choose today whom you wish to serve”. It was a call to acknowledge -“whether they were going to remain faithful to the God who chose them to be His own” or “whether they were to going to serve the gods of the people in whose lands they were travelling”. Challenged by Joshua, they replied - “We have no intention of deserting the Lord and serving other gods”.
They were able to say this so strongly because they recognised how God had been active in their lives. Our young parishioners, in fact all the children at our school, are discovering how God is active in their lives in many different ways. I had a powerful illustration of that on Friday. I spent the day with the staff on a Spirituality Development Day.
We were working through a recently published Prayer Guide for Catholic Educators Today. As you know when they experience love at home and school our children radiate JOY (at least that is generally so). Gradually they are learning at home and school that God is present in the world around them. He is the giver of all good gifts. So, they learn to praise and give thanks to God.
Gradually this leads to a growing ability to make good choices. But like the Israelites with Joshua, our children need good teachers and parents to help them appreciate that God is the giver of life.
It was easy for the Israelites and it is easy for us in Oz in the social atmosphere of the 21st century, to just, as it were drift along. As we know, living as disciples of Jesus is not always easy.
It can be lonely following Jesus and trying to follow His example in every part of life. It may mean saying ‘no’ to a lot of things that many people see no problem doing – eg abusing alcohol or drugs, just gossiping, being dishonest. Then it may mean saying ‘yes’ to some things that a lot of people want to have no part of – helping poor people, those on the margins or standing against domestic violence. Then this is something that can crop up in family networks ‘choosing forgiveness over vengeance. Sometimes we may feel that we are like the “lone wolf” when you are among some who do not believe as strongly as you do that our discipleship of Jesus flows into the way we live from day to day.
However, we are never alone – and that is what we are about when we come as a community of faith to our Mass to receive nourishment and strength from the Eucharist. Today’s Gospel is a great example of this. Let me put the passage in context.
The last 4 Sundays we have been proclaiming sections from the 6th chapter of John’s Gospel. It is the second longest chapter in the New Testament (Luke 1 is the longest). It began with the multiplication of the loaves and leads into the promise of the Eucharist. When many started to walk away, Jesus didn’t change His promise but asked the apostles whether they were also going to walk away. Peter answers with a question of his own “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of everlasting life.”
Peter’s response can be our own.
We can be thankful for the gift of faith that leads to life – the fullness of life (both here and hereafter). Since it is a GIFT we need to be humble with respect to this mystery of faith which we proclaim in the Mass. It is good to be patient with those who do not share our faith.
May the Eucharistic presence of Christ in us enable us in the words of the Responsorial Psalm “Taste and see the goodness of the Lord”
*This is a copy of Mons' homily on the 21st Sunday in ordinary time, 2018