21st Sunday in Ordinary Time, Cycle B

1st Reading:  Joshua 24:  1-2, 15-17, 18

From Birmingham’s Word and Worship, p. 617:  This small, ragtag military band of Israelites accomplished great victories only because they were sustained and empowered by the Holy One of Israel.  Israel laid claim to all of the land because God was the one who helped them secure it in the first place.  Salvation history exalts the God who strengthened Israel in all its endeavors – deliverance from slavery and conquest of the Canaanite land.  But the inhabitants of Shechem worshiped a god called El-berith.  The Israelites worshiped Yahweh.  The covenant agreement reached by both groups was to worship the one God, Yahweh.  The liturgy in this passage remembers and celebrates the agreement made by the two groups of people.

What is it to serve the Lord and claim God as your own?  This is deeper than simply professing a belief.  As we will see in the Gospel reading, it is a transformation that some simply cannot accept.  Not only do we have to choose but we must continue choosing…daily!

2nd Reading:  Ephesians 5:  21-32

The Greek root of the word subordinate can be ‘to obey’, or ‘to listen’.  Doesn’t that change how we look at Paul’s letter?  We must listen to one another, in our marriages and in our church.  Notice Paul speaks to the husbands about their responsibilities too, to love their wives.  And also note that church is not formally formed yet; he is talking to communities of people bonded in faith.

From Barclay’s Daily Study Bible Series, p. 168-174:  This reading must be put in context.  The Jews has a low view of women at the time.  In his morning prayer there was a sentence in which a Jewish man gave thanks that God had not made him “a Gentile, a slave or a woman.”  In Jewish law a woman was not a person, but a thing.  She had no legal rights whatsoever; she was absolutely her husband’s possession to do with as he willed.  And in Paul’s day, divorce was very easy.  All a man had to do was to hand a bill of divorcement, correctly written out by a Rabbi, to his wife in the presence of 2 witnesses and the divorce was complete.  The only other condition was that the woman’s dowry must be returned.  A woman really had no rights to divorce her husband at all.  So for Paul to talk about the relationship between husband and wife as being sacrificial, purifying, caring, unbreakable…this was a new idea.  And this is carried over into church life.

There is an ancient proverb, “It is in the shelter of each other that people live.”  How do we do that in our marriages?  In our parish?

John 6:  60-69

We come to the end of Jesus’ Bread of Life Discourse, but it is with unrest.  Murmuring, unacceptance, returning to former ways of life…the disciples are in a similar place as we are now in our Church!  With more sexual abuse allegations come to light, the priest shortage and dwindling congregations, we are also a murmuring people who needs consolation.  Thankfully Jesus tells us the words we need to hear, those of Spirit and life.  Peter affirms his belief in Jesus being the Holy One of God, and yet he denies him later.  We are hard to convince.  Roland Faley shares, “Faith is attained not by human effort, even though cooperation is essential, but by the action of God drawing the believer.”  We must be open to God drawing us in.  Perhaps we get in the way of God’s action when we try so hard?  Consider the murmurings you have with God in your own life.

From Barclay’s Daily Study Bible Series, p. 227:  The disciples were well aware that Jesus had claimed to be the very life and mind of God come down to earth; their difficulty was to accept that as true, with all its implications….If we eat simply for the sake of eating, we become gluttons, and it is likely to do us far more harm than good; if we eat to sustain life, to do our work better, to maintain the fitness of our body at its highest peak, food has a real significance…The things of the flesh all gain their value from the spirit in which they are done.

Applying this to Eucharist, it makes all the difference.  Are we willing to let Eucharist change us, to bring meaning to our life, and to allow Spirit to flow?  Can we live so we convince others we are of God too?


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