Homilies - August 2009

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Twenty First Sunday of the Year: August 23, 2009 by Fr. Hilary

Twenty First Sunday of the Year

  • August 23, 2009
  • by Fr. Hilary
  • Joshua 2:1-2, 15-18
  • Ephesians 5:21-21
  • John 6:60-69

Wings of Faith

When I first reflected on today’s readings, the thought came, “These are wings that can carry to the heart of God;” the heart of God who is the wind beneath our wings. Further reflection: this flight will have some difficulties but they can be overcome. Let’s consider the first reading and the gospel. In each a most serious question is asked. Together they wing us toward the Eucharistic prayer.

The scene: Shechem, near the northern border of the new nation. There are gathered representatives of the 12 tribes of Israel. They have come from those parts of Canaan which they have conquered. A kind of formal conclusion of the EXODUS, that 40 years of wandering, backsliding and pain after the escape from Egypt and the great Covenant of Sinai.

In a long address of which we have heard fragments, Joshua, who succeeded Moses as leader, details the entire history of Israel, starting with the pagan ancestors of Abraham, “across the river.” This is a sacred history, for it is God, the LORD revealed to Moses, who has led them to this point. In this new, more settled situation, a decision must be made, for other gods are worshiped where they are. Whom will they choose? Whom will they serve?

Joshua puts the question very personally, “As for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.” A voice is given to the people, who recall the saving actions of God, and conclude, “Therefore we also will serve the LORD, for he is our God.”

On this flight let us put on Augustinian allegorical hats, and reflect: Are we not now that people? an assembly, called to renew our memory of God’s saving action in our lives, called to renew our choice, our commitment to serve the Lord; to seal that commitment by sharing the very self- offering of the Lord Jesus? We are coming nearer to the heart of God.

Think of today’s abbreviated Gospel story: hearing it is like coming into the last ten minutes of a great and moving movie. Well, But you may remember the Gospels of the four previous Sundays, all from chapter 6 of the gospel of John, that great narrative, reeking with anticipations of the Sacrament of the Eucharist? After Jesus’ presentation of himself as the bread of life, “many of the disciples of Jesus remarked, “ “This sort of talk is hard to endure! How can anyone take it seriously?” Jesus’ reply is profound and mysterious. Anticipating his final revelation as risen Son of the Father, Jesus states, “No one can come to me unless it is granted to him by the Father.” Faith is a gift to minds and hearts open to receive it.

Many of Jesus’ disciples broke away, shunned his company. Jesus then said to the Twelve, “Do you want to leave me too? In imagination we join Peter in his response: “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.”

Jesus is “the bread of life” in many senses. We are nourished by finding him in the Scriptures. Above all is that union we are offered in the Eucharist. A self-giving that gives us strength; not only individually, but as members of the Body of Christ, the Church, the Christian community acting as Christ in the world today. The full celebration of the Eucharist, Liturgy of the Word, Liturgy of the Eucharist, leads us there.

Fr. Hilary Hayden
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