SFX Bulletin, 25 August 2012: Over the past four Sundays, the gospel passages from John 6 unfolded to us Jesus’ plan to continue the offering of himself as the way to God the Father through the Eucharist – “the living bread which has come down from heaven” (v.51).
Today, some of Jesus own disciples respond to his Eucharistic plan as “intolerable language…How could anyone accept it?” (v.60) and they leave him.
Jesus, then seeks confirmation from “the Twelve” he had chosen about their response to his message and gives them the choice, “What about you, do you want to go away too?” To which Simon Peter, as spokesman of “the Twelve” replied, “Lord, who shall we go to? You have the message of eternal life, and we believe; we know that you are the Holy One of God.” (v.68-69)
The choice that Jesus gave the Twelve to remain with him or to depart is also presented to us today. Although we have all been chosen to enjoy union and intimacy with Jesus through Baptism and the Eucharist, we are prompted by Jesus once again today to be sure within ourselves of where we stand in terms of our relationship with him.
The great gift of life in Christ through the Sacraments of Baptism and Eucharist administered by the Church are described by St. Paul through “nuptial” imagery and language, “Christ loved the Church and sacrificed himself for her to make her holy. He made her clean by washing her in water with a form of words [baptism], so that when he took her to himself, she would be glorious, with no speck or wrinkle or anything like that, but holy and faultless”. Jesus also “feeds” [eucharist] and “looks after” the church as a man looks after his own body.(Eph.5:25-27.29).
Marriage is sacred and Jesus raised it to a Sacrament. It is not purely a human institution. The sacredness of marriage permeates the whole of scripture with the creation of man and woman in the image and likeness of God and concludes with a vision of “the wedding feast of the Lamb” (Rev.22:17). The call to marriage is written in the very nature of man and woman as God’s created. As such, some sense of the greatness of matrimonial union exists in all cultures. The well-being of the individual person and of society in general, is also closely bound up with the healthy state of conjugal and family life. (cf. CCC1603). So important is family life to a person’s well-being that the Church regards someone who has to remain single because of poverty or other circumstances, as deserving of “special affection and active solicitude of the Church” so that the church becomes his “great family” (CCC 1658).
As in a marriage, the consent of each of the contracting parties must be given free of coercion or fear – without this freedom of consent, the marriage is invalid. Today’s gospel in which Jesus gives his followers the choice to accept him parallels the consent asked of a bride-to-be by the groom. The Church, often described as the “bride” of Christ, must also be consenting partners in this journey of holiness towards God the Father. In giving our consent, we are affirming our commitment to remain in God’s family. Through raising believing families, we live out our promise to be islands of Christian life in an unbelieving world and be centres of living, radiant faith. (cf. CCC1655-56). Choice is also the central issue in today’s first reading. Joshua asks the Israelites to choose the God they want to serve. As for Joshua, he was absolutely clear about his choice, “As for me and my House, we will serve the Lord” (v.16).
An absolute answer is required of us today. Having better understood how Jesus has promised to nourish and unite us to himself through the Eucharist over the past four Sundays, are we committed to doing our part to grow in holiness and raise our families strong in the faith. Our Holy Father encourages us to welcome Jesus in the Eucharist to take us to “God’s horizon”, “…on days that are busy and full of problems, but also on days of rest and relaxation, the Lord asks us not to forget that if it is necessary to be concerned about material bread and to replenish our strength, it is even more fundamental to develop our relationship with him, to reinforce our faith in the One who is the “bread of life’ which satisfies our desire for truth and love.” (Angelus, 5 August 2012). Let us ask the Holy Spirit for the grace to aver firmly with a “Yes”, we, too, will “serve the Lord”.