Homily (2) 21st Sunday Year B: Fr. Michael U. UdoekpoReadings: Joshua 24:1-2a, 15-17,18b; Ps 34; 2-3, 16-21; Eph 5:2a, 25-32 and John 6:60-69
“Lord to whom shall we go? You have the words of Eternal Life’ (Jn 6:68):
These words of Peter in today’s Gospel, reminds us that life, is not a bed of Roses! There are moments in our studies, work, vocations, and occupations, civil, religious and Christian journeys that we encounter dryness, confusion, frustration, different voices, reasons and disbeliefs to give up. And there are moments we feel energized, challenged to believe, and to hold onto our true Christian faith. The entire Bible readings of today, from Joshua, Paul and to this last section of John 6, which captures these words of Peter “Lord to whom we shall go? You have the words of eternal life,” are addressed to these moments, from Joshua’s generations to our present time, in all towns and cultures!
Granted that the journey to the Promised Land has been long, in Moses’ and Joshua’s generations- some were thirsty, tired, hungry, and dusty on the road. Distractions, voices, supermarkets, from the worshippers of the gods of the Amorites arose. Without faith and concentration it would have been easier to slip away, break the covenant, or ignore all the goodness, and saving miracles wrought by the Lord. The first reading is a testimony of renewal. In a renewed spirit, Joshua and the house of Israel testified that they would continue to serve the Lord. By implication, they would dispose themselves, and allow the Lord to cultivate them in his loving mysterious divine relationship. Joshua’s generation would remain submissive and obedient to the Lord, his teachings and mysteries, in spite of the challenges of their time. Nothing would separate them from the love of God!
In the 2nd reading, St. Paul stresses this loving human divine relationship with a metaphor of husband-wife loving, faithful, and trusting relationship. Although we live in a time of high rate of divorce, husbands and wives must talk, love, respect each other as Christ would to the Church. This affirms the challenges of living the word of God. This is the challenging mystery of Christ’s loving relationship with, us, the Church, which is not unconnected to the Gospel stories!
In John 6, today’s Gospel, begun many Sundays ago, we have been consistently challenged to believe in the miracle of the multiplication of the 2 few fish and 5 loaves of bread; the feeding of the crowd with it, and the whole message that Christ is the Bread of life come down from heaven; the source of eternal life!
It was challenging to many who murmured. Today it is challenging to those who listened to Christ. Many, we are told in the gospel, walked away. But as for Peter and other disciples, they have no choice, but to stick with Christ, the source of the words of eternal life.
Interestingly, this is the same wobbling Peter: once very outspoken; once sunk in the sea faithlessly; once tempted to deny Christ three times. We can see ourselves in Peter, sometimes! Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York, in his work: To whom shall we Go? Lessons from the Apostle Peter, page 14,[read if for yourselves…] uniquely invites us to see ourselves in Peter, especially when our faith journey seems to be difficult. And when we think we have made a lot of mistakes on the way, or our faith is not sufficient, or our burdens are too heavy to carry.
Peter’s words becomes urgent in today’s church, world, time culture, faced with many challenges, [Yes, there are acts of pride, anger, frustration, sicknesses, family crises, high rate of divorces, selfishness, neglect of the poor, worship of money, abuse of drugs and sex, injustices, faith denials, betrayals, loss of jobs and loved ones, abuse of power and corruption in public offices etc] that makes following Christ somehow challenging, and walking away more easy.
In such moments we are invited to fall back to the words spoken by Joshua and Paul, particularly of Peter in today’s Gospel, “Master to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe and are convinced that you are the Holy One of God.”