Sunday, August 26, 2012

21st Sunday in Ordinary Time

Today's readings at Mass were chock full of meaning. The First Reading from Joshua chapter 24 was when he told the leaders of all the tribes of Israel to choose whom they would serve. Here is a section:
2 And Joshua said to all the people, "Thus says the LORD, the God of Israel, `Your fathers lived of old beyond the Euphra'tes, Terah, the father of Abraham and of Nahor; and they served other gods.
15 And if you be unwilling to serve the LORD, choose this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your fathers served in the region beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you dwell; but as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD."
Then the second reading was from  Ephesians:
21 Be subject to one another out of reverence for Christ.
22 Wives, be subject to your husbands, as to the Lord.
23 For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior.
24 As the church is subject to Christ, so let wives also be subject in everything to their husbands.
25 Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her,
26 that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word,
27 that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish.
28 Even so husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself.
29 For no man ever hates his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, as Christ does the church,
30 because we are members of his body.
31 "For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh."
32 This mystery is a profound one, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church;

We actually had this reading at our wedding. I completely trust my husband not to abuse the deference and respect that I give him. Some people were confused when they heard it at the wedding, but I was determined to let everyone know how much I love and trust him because of our faith in God.

The Gospel today was the final in the Bread of Life discourse that we have been reading the last several Sundays. It is from John 6:

60 Many of his disciples, when they heard it, said, "This is a hard saying; who can listen to it?"
61 But Jesus, knowing in himself that his disciples murmured at it, said to them, "Do you take offense at this?
62 Then what if you were to see the Son of man ascending where he was before?
63 It is the spirit that gives life, the flesh is of no avail; the words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life.
64 But there are some of you that do not believe." For Jesus knew from the first who those were that did not believe, and who it was that would betray him.
65 And he said, "This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted him by the Father."
66 After this many of his disciples drew back and no longer went about with him.
67 Jesus said to the twelve, "Do you also wish to go away?"
68 Simon Peter answered him, "Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life;
69 and we have believed, and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God."

The First Reading and the Gospel are similar in their messages. The followers of Joshua and Jesus are being asked if they still want to follow the Lord. The respective messages they were hearing were difficult, and many had chosen to leave rather than follow the path to holiness. The priest at Mass this morning masterfully likened this to our day and age, and he pointed out that the Second Reading, which is sandwiched in between the First Reading and the Gospel, presents just such a dilemma for many Catholics today. They have to choose and ask themselves -- Do I trust God and believe the Good News about marriage and the relationship between husband and wife? Or do I give in to the demands of secular society and endorse other versions of marriage?

We are bombarded these days with the message that same sexes should be allowed to marry. Notorious Catholic politicians and leaders are endorsing the notion. Does that make it right? Is this a teaching of the Gospel that should "evolve" with what society wants to see happen? No. Marriage is a sacrament, an outward sign instituted by Christ to give grace. So any Catholic who publicly endorses gay marriage is defying the teaching of the Church. It is as simple as that. Christ gave us the sacrament of marriage. The belief in the Sacraments is fundamental. It is up to us to safeguard what He gave us.

Those who find this message too difficult will have to make a choice. If they cannot live by the teachings of Christ, then it may be best that they go.

The same is true of the Eucharist, as the Gospel today tells us. It is the command of Jesus that we must eat His flesh and drink His blood that many could not accept in His day. If we cannot accept the Real Presence of Christ as a matter of faith, then we cannot be His followers.

It is ironic that this was the Gospel today because when it came time for Communion, an old lady who had been sitting in the second row was one of the first to go up to receive the Eucharist. (This parish we started going to is much more conservative than the one of which we are currently members.) When the priest put the Host into her hand, the woman started to walk away without consuming it. The priest stepped down from the step, put his hand on her shoulder and stopped her. I could not hear what he whispered to her, but it was clear she was planning to take the Host with her and not consume it. He shook his head no, took it back from her, and then she made like she was going to argue with him. In fact, she raised her hand, and for a brief second I thought she was going to hit him. Then she turned to the young altar boy and pleaded her case. He looked confused and at a loss. The priest then told her gently but firmly to sit down. I saw the words form on his lips. It all took about 20 seconds, but it was noticeable to the people closest to that Communion station in our section. The lady turned, walked rather slowly up the aisle and left the body of the church.

After Mass we saw the lady standing outside church, around to the side, as if she was waiting for a ride. She looked Vietnamese or Chinese, so I do not know if she spoke English. Hopefully someone explained to her that there is a way to take the Eucharist to someone who cannot attend Mass in person -- if that was what she was doing.

I was very glad to see the priest step down to protect the integrity of the physical form of the Eucharist. At our old church the priests would not have done that, for fear of making the woman feel bad. That's one reason we have found a new parish to attend. So far I like what I have seen.