Joshua 24:1-2,15-18, Ephesians 5:21-32, John 6:60-69
On February 18, 1981, the then Pope John Paul 11 visited the city of Manila in the Philippines. Among the reasons for his visit is the beatification of Magdalene of Nagasaki, a popular saint from Japan. Pope John 11 beatified her on February 18, 1981, and was later canonized on October 18, 1987, by the same pope at Vatican city.
One special quality about this saint is her ability not to give up on her faith despite the torture, death and maltreatment she received. I picked her up today because today’s reading is in connection with what happened at the end of her life.
She was raised in a Christian home and her parents were martyred when Magdalene was young. Yet she kept the Christian faith. Also, when the Augustinian order arrived in 1623, she served as an interpreter to them, helping them to preach the gospel to the ends of the country.
In the year 1632, these Augustinian friars who had been her spiritual director were burned alive and some killed. Still, she did not lose faith in God, she kept her faith, having lost almost everything to death and persecution.
She later fled to the hills of Nagasaki with other Christians where they sought refuge and ministered to the people there, baptizing them and praying for the sick among them.
She later declared publicly to be a follower of Jesus Christ against the directive of the time. Then, She was caught and tortured for thirteen days and forced to renounce her faith. But she kept saying, “I choose to remain with Jesus Christ”.
Because of this, they now suffocated her to death and suspended her upside down in a pit of offal on a gibbet. In the end, the pit was filled with water and she drowned.
The journey of Christianity is not only the journey of breakthroughs, miracles, testimonies, open doors, shouting of amen, etc. The journey of Christianity is also filled with many things that could challenge our faith.
Many things may force you to desert and abandon your faith just like some followers deserted Jesus today. Many situations may force you to abandon God’s word to live the way you want etc. When these come, choose to remain with Jesus Christ just like Magdalene of Nagasaki, Only Jesus has the secret of eternal life. No one else does.
The Choice of Whom to Serve.
1.Towards the end of his life, Joshua gathered all the tribes of Israel, their elders, leaders, judges and scribes of Israel together at Shechem to present them before God. He asks them to choose who they want to serve if they will not serve the Lord. Joshua gave them options to choose between the gods of their ancestors that they served beyond the river or the gods of the Amorites. Then but as for him and His household, they have chosen to serve the Lord.
Then the people answered in affirmation that they have no intention of deserting The Lord or serving other gods. They confirm in affirmation after recounting what the Lord has done for them.
2.The Hebrew word used in this chapter for serve is לַעֲבֹ֣ד (laavod) meaning to work for somebody or to serve someone. Therefore, Joshua is asking them to choose either to work for the Lord, to be a servant to Him and obey Him all the days of their lives or to choose to work for the smaller gods.
The same question can be put to us today to make our choice on whom we decide to serve. Who do we choose to serve? Which gods do we choose to work for? The gods are not only deities but whatever that controls us.
The god is that thing that takes the place of God in our lives. It is that thing that makes us choose not to pray than to pray. The gods are those things that occupy our minds and senses so much that we are so much interested in them. They could be your fellow human beings, it happens when the love you have for them and what you do for them takes the place of God. It is when you decide to obey them to do evil rather than obeying God to do good. Who do we choose to serve?
The small gods can also be a deity. It is that thing that you think you worship behind the scenes and you feel is more powerful to you than the supreme God. It could also be a tradition or custom we feel is more powerful than our faith.
The small gods can also be our financial resources. This is when we love money more than we love the salvation of our souls. This is when we can lose our relationship with God because of the love of money. It can also be something that you cherish most.
Hence, we are ready to keep it and protect it rather than protect our souls from going astray. That thing we can spend our lives and time to work for is whom we serve. From this, we can then ask ourselves “who do we choose to serve?
3. When Joshua asks this question, the Israelites begin to recount all that the Lord has done for them. And hence asked how the lord can do all these things for them and they desert Him. It is somehow.
In the same way, we have to make our choice to remain with God and not to lose our faith. Let us choose to remain with Jesus.
When we take time and count our blessings and what the Lord has done for us, we shall come to understand that neglecting God is a sign of ingratitude to the one who even sacrificed His life for our sake.
We are alive today, there are many today, who pray to be alive as you but they couldn’t. There are many today who pray to have what you have but couldn’t.
If we cannot be grateful to God for what He does for us, be grateful for the things He did in the past and be grateful that we are alive. Let us always choose to remain in Jesus despite the temptations that come our way. Choose to remain with Jesus, no matter the challenges.
If We choose to remain With Jesus.
If we choose to remain with Jesus, we shall live in love and respect for one another. We will not lose faith in Him. Peter’s statement in the gospel shows a deep level of faith and trust. He says “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the message of eternal life, and we believe; we know that you are the Holy One of God.”
Therefore, Peter and the other apostles did not desert Jesus when others did. They did this not necessarily because they understand the discussion but because they trust Jesus as the One God sends. Therefore whatever He says Must be true.
One of the commandments that Jesus gives to His disciples is to love one another and by this, people will know that they are His disciples (John 13:35).
Therefore if we choose to remain with Jesus we have to live in love and obedience to His word
2. Therefore, in the second reading, Paul advises women to regard their husbands as they regard the Lord. Just as Christ is the head of the church and saves the whole body so also the husbands.
Paul advocates that husbands should love their wives just as Christ loved the church and sacrificed Himself for the church. He advises husbands to love their wives as they love their bodies; for a man to love his wife is also to love himself.
Paul uses the relationship that exists between the church and Jesus Christ to identify with the love that must exist between husband and wife.
Therefore, if we choose to remain with Jesus and obey His words, then living in love should not be an option. But today we choose to live the way we want more than the way God wants and this is the reason there are many divorces cases.
In essence, instead of seeking peace, we seek divorce and division. To choose to serve and work for God, to choose to remain with Jesus is to choose the path of peace and love.
We can then ask “Whose ways do we choose in our families today?
Many homes are in crisis. Many people now treat marriage the way they like. We choose to live the way we want and not the way God wants.
This is why we have problems in our different families and homes. If we choose to serve God as the Israelites promised, if we choose to remain in Jesus, peace should be our watchword.
In the Spirit There Is Life.
The gospel of today is a continuation of the bread of life discussion which we started last three Sundays with the feeding of the five thousand.
We need to refer to some points in these readings which today led to the jews blunt refusal to accept what Jesus was teaching them.
The journey started with the feeding of the five thousand from John 6:1-15. Remember that after the feeding of the five thousand, the people began to say, “Surely this is the Prophet who is to come into the world.” They intend to come and make Jesus king by force but Jesus withdraws from them.
From verses 22 to 34 they began to look for Jesus and when they found Him, they asked him, Rabbi, when did you get here?
Jesus replies that they are seeking for him not because they saw the signs he performed but because they want to have their fill.
Jesus now warns them to seek the food that endures eternal life. Yet they ask Jesus in verse 30. “What sign then will you give that we may see it and believe you? What will you do?
They told Jesus how their ancestors ate Manna from heaven and Jesus tells them that it is the father that gives them the bread and not Moses. They now asked Jesus to always give them that bread.
From there Jesus begins His bread of life discourse by telling them that He is the bread of life, the bread that comes down from heaven and whoever comes to Him will never go hungry, and whoever believes in him will never be thirsty.
The jews then began to grumble among themselves. In verses 53 to 56, Jesus says,
“Very truly I tell you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise them at the last day. For my flesh is real food and my blood is real drink. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me, and I in them”
After hearing his doctrine many of the followers of Jesus said, ‘This is intolerable language. How could anyone accept it?’
They thought that Jesus what was saying is telling them to feed on His flesh. They could not understand this. Jesus was indeed talking about His body that He is going to give up as a sacrifice for the sins of the world.
This is the body we break every day at the altar; the Eucharistic sacrifice. But the jews failed to understand what Jesus was saying.
This means that it is not everything that we try to rationalise. God is a mystery and what He does can only be understood in the spiritual aspect of it.
In essence, we have to go beyond what we see to what the thing represents. For example; when you look at the Eucharist, one questions how can this be the body of Christ or the body of Jesus Christ? To understand the Eucharist, we have to go beyond what we see to understand what it means.
This is why Jesus says “‘It is the spirit that gives life, the flesh has nothing to offer. The words I have spoken to you are spirit and they are life”. Therefore, It is only in the spirit that one can understand the mystery that is going on. The flesh has nothing to offer.
2.Also when we hear the word of God, we do not treat them as the word of men, there is something that goes beyond that. If God says we should serve him, we have to obey Him.
This obedience to God should not only be viewed by what we see or understand, it goes beyond that. When God says husbands and wives should remain in love, we do not only see it with the human mind, we have to go beyond that.
To conclude everything with a fleshy understanding sometimes leads to confusion and misunderstanding just as we see in the gospel today.
Sometimes people abandon their faith because they do not understand what we do. It is not only that they fail to understand but because they see and conclude everything with the human mind.
So, Jesus is telling us that to fully grab the spiritual, we have to go beyond logic. To truly remain close to God and serve Him with our whole hearts, we need to live by the word. The word gives life.
3. If you follow gradually from the bread of life discussion, you can see that the jews want another thing from Jesus but Jesus is leading them deeper into the understanding of what He did for them. The listeners were confused because they are understanding everything literally with the eyes of the flesh.
They refuse to go deeper into what those things mean. This is the reason many of them even deserted Jesus. His teachings for them are hard to take.
So, Jesus is trying to tell them that they need to seek everything with the eyes of the spirit to be able to grab the deeper meaning of what he is saying. Therefore, in the Spirit there is life.
What Can Separate Us From Jesus Christ?
During the discussion, Jesus was aware that his followers were complaining about it and said, ‘Does this upset you? What if you should see the Son of Man ascend to where he was before? ‘But there are some of you who do not believe.’ For Jesus knew from the outset those who did not believe, and who it was that would betray him. He went on, ‘This is why I told you that no one could come to me unless the Father allows him.’
After this, many of his disciples left him and stopped going with him. Many of His disciples deserted Jesus.
Remember how we started this journey, remember that these were the same people that wanted to make Jesus king. They want to eat more bread. They wanted more food but when they couldn’t understand what Jesus was saying, they deserted him. The points here are:
1.When we come to God only for the sake of what to get from Him is an easy way to allow our faith to crash. God wants us to have a deeper knowledge about Him and then relate with Him cordially. Miracle spirituality is always dangerous. When one develops a miracle spirituality, he easily loses hope in God when he does not get what he wants.
2. We lose our faith in God easily when we refuse to live by the word of God or accept the teachings of the church. We feel that what we know is the true way. Or when we go to church only to select what to believe and not to believe.
3. We make mistakes when we think that worshipping God is all about miracles, signs and wonders. Our worship of God goes beyond this to include deep knowledge and intimate union with God.
4. We cannot be true disciples of Jesus when we cannot follow God at all costs. In essence, we are not true disciples when we lose faith in times of difficulties. We have to choose to remain with Jesus in good times and in bad times.
5. Our faith is in danger when we go to the church only to listen to what we want to hear. You can see that in the gospel, despite that the people were upset with what Jesus was saying. It did not stop Him from saying the truth.
Most times when we do not hear what we want to hear, we feel the word of that day isn’t for us and many times we sleep. We want to go to the places we want to hear about breakthroughs, miracles, etc. but these are only the parts.
6. We lose faith easily when we do not understand what we do or what we worship and when we see everything only within the fleshy mind.
There are things beyond what the human eye can comprehend. This is why many today do not believe that the Eucharist is the body and blood of Jesus Christ. This is because they conclude everything they see with only the eye of the physical. The things of God go beyond the physical.
To Whom shall We Go.
When some of the disciples deserted Jesus, Jesus looks at the twelve and said to them ‘What about you, do you want to go away too?’ Simon Peter answered, ‘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.’
Peter’s response was another revelation. Here Peter is saying that whether good or bad we choose to remain with Jesus. He is telling us that even if we do not get what we want in prayers, we still choose to remain with Jesus.
In essence, when we feel that we do not understand what is happening in our lives, instead of deserting Jesus, we choose to remain with Jesus. Jesus has the message of eternal life, Therefore to desert Him is to lose eternal life.
Therefore, Peter is telling us that Jesus is the Lord. He recognizes Jesus as Messiah (the Christ) and God (Son of the living God). He is the one to serve and follow.
Through that statement also, Peter recognises the value of spiritual things (words of eternal life), more than the material and earthly desires of those who walked away.
He is telling us that we should not walk away from the Lord even though we do not understand Him. Therefore we have to trust God even when we do not understand Him.
1. Some situations may force you not to accept the gospel. Some situations may make us relegate the word of God to live the way we want. In times of suffering, we relegate God to go into scamming, corruption, cheating etc to make ends meet.
In many marriages, many couples to satisfy their inordinate desires forget the many places God asks His children to live in love and peace. They turn their homes into a warzone.
Today, many disciples abandoned and left Jesus. What could make you abandon your faith? What could make us neglect God’s word to do what we want? In what ways do we take the word of God as something that is archaic and hence do not apply to the new and modern changes in the world today? Just like the disciples today left Jesus, we have neglected and abandoned the word of God.
2. In the first reading, Joshua promises that he is going to serve God with His household. We see in this man, someone who is very interested to keep His family to the way of the Lord.
He does not want any of them to derail. He wants all His household to be dedicated to God. Do you know that if every family today should commit to dedicating themselves to God, things will change?
Many homes today are scattered. Many of them are totally in shambles. In Our homes, the times we have to dedicate to God have been dedicated to watching movies and home matches.
Instead of parents coming together once in a while to talk about morals and spirituality in the family, their discussions are about how this person and this person are fighting them. Prayer gathering has gone into extinction. We need to come close to God again.
3. In the second reading today, Paul advises the need for husbands and wives to live in love and submission to each other.
Sincerely, if we can keep half of the admonitions in today’s readings, there will be peace in our homes. But when you go to some family homes today, the husband and wife are like cats and dogs.
Home violence and the rate of divorce are increasing daily because people are losing the sacred character of marriage. Marriage is not a field where we do what we like. We have to respect our marriages.
4. In the first reading, the Israelites promise that they will serve the Lord but after the death of Joshua, they go back to their old way of life.
Also in the gospel, some of the disciples stopped following Jesus because of what He said. The Israelites forgot the past promises while the disciples forgot how they were fed.
This is exactly how life is. When things seem to go well, we rejoice that God is with us, we go to thanksgiving and praise God but when things don’t go the way we want, we lose hope in God and even lose our faith. We have to choose to remain with Jesus both in good times and in bad times.
4b. Also when things go well in your life, friends will begin to know you but when things do not go well with you is when you will know your friends. Also, people come to you when they feel there is something they can gain from you but when the thing stops coming, they lose hope entirely and even forsake you. Such is life.
5. Therefore, Like Peter and the twelve, we have to remain faithful to Jesus. Our worship of God is not only for miracles, signs and wonders. We have to love God with all our hearts and worship Him in spirit and truth.
We have to believe in His word even when we do not understand it. Like the disciples deserted Jesus today, many of us have deserted Him.
We seem to have other gods that we give our time more than we give to God. We reject His words to live the way we want, while many do not believe in the sacramental presence of the Holy Eucharist because they put everything within the eyes of reason alone.
Therefore, We need to remove this type of attitude and look beyond what we see. Let us then choose to remain with Jesus because only Him has the word of life. Jesus is the secret of our salvation, he is the secret of eternal life. It means without Jesus, there is no eternal life.
6. Also, these readings today teach us that the most fundamental choices we have to make are the ones that concern our relationship with Jesus.
Therefore, we need to make strong choices that can solidify these relationships more than choices that would take us away from God. Therefore, the question today is “can the choices we make in life bring us closer to God or take us away from God?
Who do we put first in our lives? Whoever and whatever takes the place of God in our lives is the god that we worship. If we truly choose to remain with Jesus, if we love Him with our hearts, His words would be our guide and nothing can take His place.
7. Finally, in the same way, that Jesus did not change the topic of what He was saying when the people got upset, we have to learn how to tell people the truth when they go wrong.
Many of us today manipulate the truth because we fear that other persons may react and maybe be angry with us.
Let us always speak the truth. Even when every person deserts you because you stand on the truth, do not lose your ground.
Like the twelve remained with Jesus, keep up with the few who can still be with you. Even if they are not with you, God is with You. Choose to remain with Jesus. Choose to remain on the path of truth, peace, love. And total trust in God. There is always light at the end of the tunnel.
May God bless and keep you. Happy Sunday.