Readings at Mass
|Joshua 24:1-2,15-18 ©|
|Psalm 33:2-3,16-23 ©|
|Ephesians 5:21-32 ©|
|Alternative Second reading|
|Ephesians 5:2,25-32 ©|
|Gospel||John 6:60-69 ©|
TRANSCRIPT “Many Did Not Follow…” – 21st Sunday OT 2015
All right. Three readings this week have tough teachings, each one of them. The first reading from the book of Joshua, after the people of God have gone through the wilderness journey and everyone except for Joshua and one other young man survived that journey. Moses and the rest of the people died in the desert. And they come to the River Jordan. God asks them a question. He says, “Today you must choose,” He was speaking through Joshua, “Are you with me or you’re against me?” And the people respond, “We’re with you, Lord. We believe you.” And we have to choose between the one true God or all these other gods of our own making and other spirits and so forth, the things that created divided hearts. And the people follow and they cross through the River Jordan into the Promised Land. It’s a line that they must cross. And it is a tough teaching, it’s a tough test, but it’s very black and white. You’re either with me or you’re against me.
The second reading too is a tough teaching. And in modern times and sometimes liberal theologians, they want to edit away this reading because it’s hard for us to hear. But just because something is hard to hear and it’s challenging doesn’t mean we ignore it or whitewash it out of the word of God. And we have to reflect upon this. And we heard how this deep mystery, St. Paul is speaking, that is marriage. What is marriage? First of all what it’s not and unfortunately and this is why many have ignored this passage, and we don’t hear it too much at the weddings although we hear that some of the couples choose this. Sometimes people use this to show some sort of domination or abuse even of spouses, of husbands towards wives. That is inspired, not from the spirit of God, but from the devil. Okay? The abuse that husbands use towards their wives in the name of some sort of interpretation that husbands are heads of wives, therefore…is false.
In fact, what Christ teaches us is that He is the model. He is the icon of which a marriage is called to be. So husbands and wives are to be subject to one another, to be obedient, to be loving, to be self-sacrificial to one another as Christ is to His church and the church loves and follows Christ Jesus. This is the call. Okay? The point of marriage, you’re not…husbands and wives, the point of marriage from a sacramental perspective, it’s not just to help each other to pay taxes. Okay? And it’s not just puppy love and friendship, that is important. That is the human element of marriage. It is the love between two, a man and a woman. Yes, but that’s the natural side. The sacramental side, what it means to be married from a Christian perspective is to help each other to get to heaven. That’s the difference. The taxes, do your taxes fine. Pay the least amount of tax legally expected of you. But the point of Christian marriage is to help each other to be saints, to get to heaven.
And the third and the final tough teaching that we have. Another line in the sand that we must be faithful too otherwise we are out of the communion with God, is the teaching on the real flesh and blood that Jesus gives to us to bring us to eternal life. Now I’ve shared with you a little bit in last week’s on this sixth chapter of John. It’s called The Bread of Life Discourse. We had the climax and now the denouement, the reaction to what Jesus says. First he says, “Very truly, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you cannot have eternal life.” You can’t go to heaven, right? And first, they balk at this. They say, “This teaching is difficult, it’s tough.” First thing to know, the crowd, the people that are balking, the people that are challenging Jesus, they’re not His enemies, they’re not the Pharisees or those who are trying to attack Jesus. They’re His closest disciples. Those that have witnessed the miracle of the multiplication of the loaves and fishes. They’re the ones that love Him and follow Him. And now He teaches them this line in the sand sort of teaching. Okay?
I came across this story about this explorer conquistador named Francisco Pizarro. Regardless of what happened with the conquest and so forth, it’s an interesting story where the Spaniards are following in this army and they’ve conquered what’s now Panama, Central America and they want to go into South America. And Pizarro is pretty bold, he draws a line in the sand and says, “Okay, Castilians, Spaniards. You can either be cowards and go back to poverty in Panama or you can cross this line and follow me with courage to the wealth” of what, at the time, was the Incan empire in Peru. None of them really followed, but there was, they call the thirteen. Twelve men followed him, and he went to Gods knows where, look for the lost city of gold and silver. But the story is an interesting line in the sand moment where basically you’re either with me or you fall and we disperse.
And this happens with this teaching. Jesus, after he’s challenged by the disciples and they’re disturbed by this teaching because Jewish people under the law, the Israelites, were forbidden to eat flesh and blood. Okay? Why? Because the pagans used to kill their enemies and drink their blood and then there was various other proscriptions [SP], things that…pagan sacrifices. And the Israelite people when they hear flesh and blood, they immediately say, “This is wrong. It’s cannibalism or some other sort of evil that leads us away from God.”
So rightly they questioned. They said, “This can’t be true. How is it possible?” And what does Jesus do? He intensifies His language. At first He says in the Greek in the gospel, John is [inaudible 00:06:29], “Eat my flesh, drink my blood.” Sort of how human beings eat, we sit down and we eat. I go to your house and we [inaudible 00:06:36] some perogies and cabbage rolls, okay? Well, what happens is Jesus doesn’t back down. He actually says, “Amen [SP], amen” or “very truly I tell you, which means if this is true. And he says unless you…now he uses the word [inaudible 00:06:52] and this he says, “Unless you gnaw on my flesh and drink in my blood, you cannot have eternal life.” That word [inaudible 00:07:00] is way like animals, like the coyotes like I said a couple of weeks ago, the way the coyotes devour the flesh outside behind my rectory in St. Fran [SP].
So he intensifies his language and they go crazy. They disperse because this is offensive to them and they go away. We hear in John 6:66. Okay? 666, if you look at it up, this is what happens. And he said or rather “because of this, many of his disciples turned away, turned back and no longer went about with him.” This is a divisive teaching. It has been in the beginning and through Every generation till now. It’s challenging, it’s tough. It’s been the source of division even amongst Christians of how is this true? How can Jesus give His true flesh and blood to us?
Now throughout the history of the church, when there was strength in the faith of the faithful, many Catholics, many Christians, men and women, when there was attack, some tried to say, “It’s not the flesh and blood. It’s a symbol. It’s a spiritual presence. All this is…” They were glad…they would shed their own flesh and blood and they died for this true teaching. But with time, the devil comes about and in a different way. You see the dispersing over this teaching in the beginning, but with Catholics when they’re strong, it’s like the story of how to cook a frog, which I am not French. I don’t eat frogs and I’m not going to try this. But apparently if you have a boiling pot of water and you try to throw a frog in, it’s just going to jump out, right? But the devil is creative. So instead of a boiling heat to kill the frog or the frog and this is the analogy, this hard teaching. Rather you put the frog into some lukewarm water on the pot. Okay? Like a little bath, a little spa. And then you start to ratchet up the heat a little notch at a time and eventually it’ll boil, right? That’s now the devil’s approach on wheedling down this essential teaching of the catholic and Apostolic church.
Over the last decades, last years, we changed this and aren’t in and of themselves bad things. I’ll give you a few examples. We allow now people to receive communion in their hands or standing, even though the true preference of the church is to kneel and to receive on the tongue, even since Vatican II. The church says to help people maybe they prefer to make a throne of which where Jesus can sit and we can receive him. Even things, the visibility of the alter rails, Ukrainians, you remember the iconostasis, the icons. Well, [inaudible 00:09:37] were supposed to have alter rails, never were supposed to be removed. I don’t know where that came about, but still the optics of it. The idea that when I come and I kneel to receive the Eucharist, you have to question that as a kid when you’re teaching kids about this. Why is this so special that unlike other things I take and I eat or I stand and do, why do I kneel here? Why do I receive our Lord on the tongue?
And all those things, they’re in and of themselves not necessarily wrong, but all those different things kind of wither away like the ratcheting up of the heat. That now we have a case where North America less than one out of three Roman Catholics believe that Jesus is truly present in the Eucharist. One out of three. And coincidentally, I don’t think it’s a coincidence, less than one out of three Catholics come regularly to the mass. Those things are connected. When that teaching is under a threat, when that teaching is doubted and not doubted in the sense that I question how this is possible? But doubted through our practice that I say, “It’s not important to me anymore,” we see the church disintegrate, we see it divided like in John 6.
The question is not where do we doubt this aspect of our faith or we question how because it is a mystery. It is a great mystery just like we heard about marriage, a profound mystery. The question is what we do in that? Do we make it such a priority in our faith that I come here and I say, “Lord, I believe. Help my unbelief.” Or do we disperse because it’s tough. That’s the response. First of all, when Jesus sees these all happening, this is probably the most…I would say probably the most saddening time in His heart of His whole ministry on earth because all His loved ones, His disciples, have abandoned Him. And what does He do? He looks back perhaps with even tears in His eyes and He says to His apostles, the twelve that remain, “Are you going to abandon me too?” And it’s what it’s about. It’s not about who He is or about His miracles but it’s about this teaching.
“Are you going to leave me too?” And Peter with the voice…the first pope and the voice of the apostles then till now says this. “Lord,” he said, “I have no idea what you’re talking about.” But he says this, “Lord, where else can we go? Whom else shall we go? You and you alone have the words of eternal life.” Jesus when he says, “You don’t believe, you doubt. But what if you see the Son of Man ascend and return to His father in heaven.” What’s he saying? He’s saying, “This is impossible if I was but a man. But if I am the God man, if I am the word that was made flesh.” When God speaks His word, spirit and truth, when He speaks His word, it is. When God said, “Let there be light and there was light” when he created the world. When He says to Lazarus, “Come out.” And he was raised from the dead and he comes out. When he says to the little girl who has died [inaudible 00:12:40], “Get up.” She gets up. And when Jesus says, “This is my body, this is my blood.” It is. Our whole faith, our whole…that line in the sand that I share with you today and these last weeks is so essential for our faith. We come and we kneel before our Lord. We come and place ourselves here that we may be fed with His flesh and blood that we may receive the gift, the promise of eternal life that we long for. And we say, “Lord, I believe. Help thou my unbelief.”