Friday, 24 August 2012

21st Sunday in Ordinary Time - Year B

Joshua 24:1-2.15-18; Ephesians 5:21-32; Gospel 6:60-69

If you were at Mass last Thursday you would have heard read Matthew’s gospel  – chapter 22, verses 1-14. A king prepares a banquet of fine foods and sends his servants to call those who had been invited; but they are not interested. Some just walk away (one to his farm, another to his business), while others seize his servants and maltreat them and even kill them.

Today’s gospel concludes the teaching which Jesus has been giving over the last few weeks. He, too, has been offering a banquet to his listeners; a banquet of food and drink so rich it offers eternal life – his own flesh and blood. Now he awaits the response of his listeners.

Joshua (1st Reading) also waits for a decision. He has gathered all the tribes of Israel together at Shechem and called them to choose, to make a decision: If you will not serve the Lord, choose today whom you wish to serve, whether the gods that your ancestors served beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you are now living.

Only human freedom can truly decide. Yes or no? This God or that god? Are you coming to the banquet or not? Do you accept my teaching or not? Do you believe or not?

Before Joshua the People make their choice: We...will serve the Lord, for he is our God.

The guests who walk away from the king’s banquet make their decision. No, I’m going to the farm; I have some work to do there. No, I’m off to attend to my business; I need to make money.

And the disciples who decide to leave Jesus and stop being his disciples are also making a choice. We might judge that they are making the wrong choice, a decision which will have consequences, but we cannot deny that there is something true, something honest, something healthy, something real about their walking away from what they cannot accept. It is the logical thing to do.

And notice that neither the king nor Jesus has anything to say about those who make a decision to walk away. Jesus simply says: …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.

…and who it was that would betray him – this is the first reference to Judas.

Notice Jesus makes a clear distinction between not believing and betraying.

Judas would have done better to simply walk away with the others. He would have been in good company: the rich young man who ‘went away sad’; the apostles who ran away from him in the garden; the disciples of Emmaus who left Jerusalem. To leave would have been the understandable and proper thing for Judas to do – but he didn’t. For whatever reason, most probably the ease with which he could help himself to the contents of the money meant for the poor, he stayed – and became a traitor.

Judas was like the man who entered the wedding celebration without a wedding garment? He wanted to be a part of the feast but on his own terms. Poor Judas!

About the man without the wedding garment the king said: Bind him hand and foot and throw him out into the dark, where there will be weeping and grinding of teeth. About Judas Jesus said: …Alas for that man by whom the Son of Man is betrayed! Better for that man if he had never been born! (Mtt 26:24)

Fortunately, like Israel who committed themselves to serve the Lord, the Twelve commit themselves to Jesus. On their behalf Simon Peter declared: 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.

The Twelve, gathered around their Master, form the pillars of his Church. It was most unlikely that they had understood the teaching Jesus had just given; it was the person of the Christ, the man Jesus, to whom they declared their loyalty and love; their communion was with him.

Though this small band of Apostles has now grown in our own day to a College of Bishops over five thousand strong they are still ‘the Twelve’. They are still the teachers and guardians of the truth Jesus has left with his body, the Church. They are as much the living voice of Christ as the Twelve were after the Lord’s resurrection.

They teach with the authority of Christ and we stand before them as we stand obediently before Christ. Many have walked away from the Church’s teaching – I will not condemn them; they may return one day. Many are not yet ready to accept the teaching of the Church – it would be foolish to condemn them – only Christ can see into their hearts.

But, and finally, what are we to make of those among us who do not believe; those who pretend to a communion they do not possess? What are we to make of those who criticise and condemn the Church, publicly and privately denying and rejecting her teachings, casting doubts among the faithful and sowing confusion and division, and yet, all the while claiming to be Catholic?

Our communion cannot be with Christ if it is not also with his body, the Church. A man is not pleased when you despise or ignore his wife because they are one body and: a man never hates his own body.

My friends, the Church submits to Christ... . In other words, she has nothing that is not his. We cannot claim to love Christ without loving the Church - and we cannot walk away from the Church without walking away from Christ.

Had he not told them (Lk 10:16): Anyone who listens to you listens to me; anyone who rejects you rejects me, and those who reject me reject the one who sent me?

No comments: