(See the readings for the 21st Sunday in Ordinary Time, Aug. 23)
Did you ever notice how many decisions you make in a day? There are a lot. For some people it starts when the alarm clock goes off: “Do I get out of bed or do I hit the snooze button?” For most the morning shower and shave are ritual but then comes another question, “What am I going to wear?”
The day continues with more decisions: What am I going to do today? What am I going to eat? How am I going to get to work or school? What am I going to do after work? Who am I going to call? The day is full of decisions.
The daily decisions we make may be small decisions. But we all know and have experienced some bigger decisions of life. A young person finishing school might have to decide on a career to pursue. A couple falling in love might be considering marriage. A sick person might have to choose a course of treatment. These types of decisions are more complex and demand some serious thought and reflection.
Today we are reminded that one of the greatest decisions in life is the response we give to God’s invitation to life. During the past three Sundays at Mass we have been hearing the proclamation of the Gospel from John, chapter six. The passages are collectively known as the “Bread of Life discourse” of Jesus.
Jesus calls himself the “Bread of Life.” He is the bread that came down from heaven. He is the one sent from the Father. In his mission he reveals the love between himself and the Father and invites us to share in that love; that love which brings life. The witness to this love and life is Jesus’ laying down his life.
He invites us to share in his life, and the divine love between Father and Son, through communion. The communion takes place through sharing in his body and blood for he says: “Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me and I in him. Just as the living Father sent me and I have life because of the Father, so also the one who feeds on me will have life because of me.”
Jesus’ teaching is an offer of life and love. The offer demands a decision. This decision is not a small decision (like hitting the snooze button). This decision is not even a large one (like deciding a career). This decision is huge. This is one of those decisions in life that is fundamental. It gives direction to life and has an impact on all other decisions.
The first disciples, those hearing Jesus speak these words, recognized the magnitude of what Jesus spoke. Many of them said: “This saying is hard; who can accept it?” Jesus responded by saying: “Does this shock you? What if you were to see the Son of Man ascending to where he was before?” (referring to his eventual passion, death and resurrection).
Jesus then speaks of the power to make the decision as not coming from themselves but from the Spirit. The disciples have to make the decision, the commitment to follow, but the power behind this is not theirs, it comes from God. Jesus says: “It is the spirit that gives life, while the flesh is of no avail. The words I have spoken to you are Spirit and life…. For this reason I have told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted him by my Father.”
Jesus invites us today to make a decision to renew our commitment to him. The decision is to follow Jesus and to share in his love. The decision is to believe in him as being sent from the Father. The decision is to have faith in his death and resurrection. The decision is to share in the communion of love through receiving his body and blood.
May our response be like Peter’s who, speaking on behalf of the Twelve, says: “Master, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe and are convinced that you are the Holy One of God.”
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