Blog & Pastor Letters

Free to Choose Christ

08-22-2021Weekly ReflectionRev. Wilfred Yinah

The first reading informs us about the choice made by the people of Israel at the great assembly of Shechem: they decided to choose Yahweh and to reject all idols. At Shechem Joshua exposes his proposal: choose your God. Do you want to go back and serve the gods worshiped by your ancestors? This request for verification is really amazing! It seems impossible that a people who has witnessed many miracles, can abandon the God who has fostered and protected them, indeed, who made them arise out of nowhere. Yet in all this there is nothing strange, it is our history.

Called into existence by God’s love, introduced in a world in which we are destined to live as pilgrims, filled with gifts to share with others, we can be seduced by the creatures we meet and begin to serve the gods worshiped on this earth—money, power, pleasure—forgetting the one who created us, and through Christ, the new Moses, delivered us from slavery and death. The choice of God to worship—and a God we all still need—is not professed once and for all. It must be renewed at any time, because, consistently, other gods present themselves. They ask to be served, idols that seduce, deceive, but they ruin those who believe in them. Only the Lord God of Israel, deserves full faith and he does not betray.

In the Second Reading we can see that adhesion to Christ also involves a radical change of relationships within the family. The last part of the letter to the Ephesians devotes ample space to this subject (Eph 5:21–6:9). The family conflicts, disagreements, misunderstandings always come from the fact that someone dishonestly tries to dominate, claim to be served by others: the husband by his wife and vice versa, children by their parents, the owners by the slaves. Today’s passage introduces an innovative principle in which one must always refer to and from which they must be regulated: Be subject to one another. No rule of the strong over the weak, the rich over the poor, those at the top over those at the bottom; but only submission, willingness to serve, in obedience to Christ (v. 21). Biblical fear does not indicate the fear of punishment, but the loving adherence to a person one blindly trusts. “The God-fearing” are those who make choices in accordance with the word of the Lord, and never act in contravention of its directions.

In the gospel we can see that a life of love is neither easy nor comfortable. It demands self-denial, self-giving and control of our passions. So many prefer the other way. This is the central idea of today’s gospel. When Christ says that we must identify ourselves with him, be with him, walk with him along the way of self-sacrifice many leave him and accompany him no more but there are some who remain firm. God grant that we are among those. To trust or not to trust him, this is the alternative. The proposal can be accepted or rejected, but not negotiated, modified, made more acceptable by the cancellation of some of its demands. The choice is not just with the mind and the heart, but also through the act of approaching to receive the bread of the Eucharist in which Christ is really present, is offered to the disciple. At this point, a disturbing question arises. If worthily receiving the Eucharist call for being so determined and so radical in giving one’s life together with Christ, who can ever dare to take communion?

To the Master’s question, “Will you also go away?” Peter, speaking in the plural, expresses the faith of all and says, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.” It is the profession of faith that Christ expects of us today. The question remains hanging: “Who can ever feel worthy to approach the Eucharistic banquet? Who can be so rash as to compromise with Christ, in such solemn manner, to give one’s life with him?”

If the Eucharist were a reward for the righteous, certainly no one would dare receive it. But it is not the bread of angels; it is the food offered to the pilgrim people—sinners, weak, tired, in need of help on earth. It is not to celebrate our own purity and holiness that we approach the Eucharistic banquet, but to obtain from God the forgiveness of sins. To one who receives communion moral perfection is not required, but the disposition of the poor who recognizes his unworthiness and his own misery and approaches him who can heal. For whoever receive it with this disposition of humble and sincere faith, the bread of the Eucharist becomes a medicine, it treats moral diseases, heals any wound, overcomes all sin.