August 22, 2021 – 21st Sunday in Ordinary Time
Click here for the readings (https://bible.usccb.org/bible/readings/082221.cfm)
During the revolution in Nicaragua, it is said that a group of Catholics seeks refuge inside a big cathedral. While praying inside the cathedral as the war between rebels and army progressed, a gun-toting rebel came inside and barked at them, “Those who believed in Jesus Christ, stay and stand up for your faith. Those who don’t believe in Jesus Christ, you may now go free.” Hearing this, more than two-third of the refugees immediate went out and left the church, while the rest stayed behind trembling. The rebel then, closed the cathedral’s door and said, “Brothers and sisters, please continue to pray. We all need your prayers. But I rather pray with true believers than with hypocrites.”
In his book Conversations with God, Neale Donald Walsch said: “Your decision today is a statement of who you are & a testament of who you choose to be.” True indeed, whatever decisions we make in life reflect our very own identity as well as life-choices. Whatever circumstances we are in – whether free or limited, we do have a choice in life. What makes it difficult for us nowadays is not the lack, but rather because of the many choices & options we have. And even not to choose may also been a good choice. However, not making a choice in life now & in our life-hereafter makes our life miserable & meaningless. Thus, whatever your choice & what you decide mirrors your own identity & attitude towards life.
In today’s reading, we hear Joshua, the successor of Moses challenging the Israelites once and for all, to make a choice. Although the Israelites were the chosen people and had experienced the mighty works of Yahweh, still some of them had worshipped idols and other gods. They were very influenced by the religious practices of their ancestors and of the natives who worshipped idols. Before the people, Joshua proclaimed his faith in Yahweh that he and his house decide that they would serve only the Lord. Seeing this, the people also accepted Yahweh as their Lord and God.
In the gospel, we also hear Jesus challenging his disciples to make a choice. Many followed Jesus, some out of curiosity, some for healing and for other favors, and some out of conviction that he was the Messiah. But when Jesus began to teach them about participating in his very life and mission, by accepting his word and partaking in his body and blood as food and drink, many could not accept it. Many disciples withdrew and no longer followed him. They deserted him and stopped following him. That is the time Jesus asked his twelve apostles, “Will you also go away?” He asked them whether they too would leave him. He did not want to force anyone to accept him.
He has shown the way. Now they had to make a decision, a choice. And Peter proclaimed his and their choice: “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the message of eternal life. We now believe and know that you are the Holy One of God.”
Joshua, Peter & the apostles made their choice. Dear friends in Christ: “what about us?” “How about you?”
In today’s readings, we are also challenged to make a decision. We are asked to make a choice, whether do you believe in Jesus, as the words of eternal life or not. “Are you for Jesus or against Jesus?” We know that although most of Filipinos are Catholics, some have left the Church. Some become cold or lukewarm with their faith in God and His Church. We know some of our relatives or friends have stopped going to mass, leave the church and/or joined this group or that sect.
During Eucharist, as we recite the Apostle’s creed, we say: “I believe. I believe in God the Father Almighty. I believe in Jesus Christ, the only son of our Lord.” But do we really believe in God? Especially during these trying pandemic times, do we really believe and accept Jesus Christ as our Savior? Or in other words, do we say what we mean & mean what we say?
Our faith then is not a matter of saying words or formula out of convention, convenience, or obligation, but a matter of professing, proclaiming our own free and voluntary decision or choice to follow Christ.
Remember: Your decision today is a statement of who you are and a testament of who you choose to be.
Like the Apostle, Lord, we do say: “Asa pa man diay: 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.” May we never be separated from you. Amen.
Please stand, let us now proclaim our choice, our decision…