“As for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.” Mary Jane and I would often see these famous words from Joshua at the doors of many homes as we went door to door throughout our parish boundaries over twenty years ago. I think Joshua would once again like to rally the people of this generation and ask us who we will decide to serve. However, today the gods are not “beyond the river;” they are in our midst. They are within our own ideas that are no longer faithful to the Word of God. We have seen the consequences of unfaithfulness to the Word of God in the Old Testament and we can see the consequences in our own time.
Who Is Our God?
We know of the powerful work of God in the Old Testament, but we also know of the powerful work of Jesus Christ. We know that he spoke with great authority and worked many miracles to show that he was the Messiah, the Son of God. We also know that he died on the cross for our sins so that we might have eternal life—and he made it possible for us to experience his love and mercy right now and have a personal relationship with him. At the same time, he says, “You are my friends if you do what I command you” (John 15:14).
In Saint Paul’s writings, we get a glimpse of what the love of God looks like.
Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ loved the Church and handed himself over for her to sanctify her, cleansing her by the bath of water with the word, that he might present himself to the Church in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy without blemish.
This is a supernatural, sacrificial love that is only possible if we love “the Lord Our God with all our mind, heart, soul and strength.” If we make God a priority in our lives, we will experience an abundance of His love and mercy and then share His love and mercy with others that we also might be “holy without blemish.” God can do this in us if it is the desire of our hearts.
In the Gospel, we see that many of Jesus’ disciples found his teaching on the Eucharist to difficult to accept and would no longer follow him. When he said to the twelve; “Do you also want to leave?” Simon Peter answered him, “Master, to whom shall we go? You have the words to eternal life. We have come to believe and are convinced that you are the Holy One of God.” They did not understand the teaching of the Eucharist any more than those who left, but they remained because their faith in Jesus was stronger than their need to understand the mystery he had just taught them. We also are called to believe things we do not understand.
Do We Believe These Mysteries?
In Baptism we received the gifts that make it possible to believe the things we do not understand; the theological gifts of Faith, Hope and Charity. However, no matter how precious these gifts are, they only benefit us according to our use of them. What we believe right now about anything, especially the mysteries of our faith, is a consequence of the choices we have made throughout our life. Have we chosen to be formed in our faith; to become mature Christians? Less than 10 percent of Catholics read Catholic books or periodicals. Our Catholic faith is a “Pearl of Great Price,” but we must be invested in it if it is to produce good fruit in our lives.
Our Lord has given is everything we need to remain close to Him and to experience an abundance of his love and mercy. The Sacrament of Confession is a personal encounter with Jesus Christ through his minister the priest. We not only have our sins forgiven, we receive the grace necessary to make progress in overcoming sin so that we can love God, our neighbor and ourselves with supernatural, sacrificial love. During each Mass, we hear the Word of God which is the seed of life that wants to take root in our hearts and souls so that it will bear fruit. However, we must listen with a desire to believe.
After we profess our creed together, we begin the second part of the Mass, the Liturgy of the Eucharist. The Word of God and the Holy Eucharist connect us to Calvary where Jesus shed his blood for us. By the power of God, the passion, death and resurrection of Christ are made present to us as we worship him along with the angels and saints. If we could truly comprehend the magnitude of this worship, we would have goose bumps right now. Through the prayers of the priest, Jesus Christ will change bread and wine into his own body and blood so that we may receive him in Holy Communion. We, for our part, must prepare ourselves for this holy encounter by being properly disposed and by going to confession if we have committed any serious sin.
Are We Willing?
Serving God is not a matter of convenience. It is a matter of being faithful to what God has revealed to us through the Church and the Scriptures. It is the same journey that saints have taken through the ages; there is no easier path. There is also no other path that brings so much peace, joy and happiness. Jesus not only wants to transform our hearts and souls when we receive him during Mass; in his humility he waits for us to visit him in the Blessed Sacrament Chapel where we can rest in his presence.
We know what Jesus has done for us. What are we willing to do for him? The reality is: we cannot do something for him without him doing more for us. Try spending one hour a week in the chapel for a month and learn for yourself the value of spending time with Jesus. This is one of the best ways to develop a personal relationship with Jesus. After a while, like St. Peter we will say, “Master to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.”
This blog was originally preached by Deacon Tom Fox as his homily for 21st Sunday of Ordinary Time (B) at St. Matthew Catholic Church in San Antonio, Texas.