Which Team Do You Choose? ~ The Very Rev. Lady Sherwood, OPI

The 21st Sunday of Ordinary Time.

Liturgical Colour: Green.

Reading 1: JOS 24:1-2A, 15-17, 18B

Responsorial Psalm: PS 34:2-3, 16-17, 18-19, 20-21

Reading 2: EPH 5:21-32 OR 5:2A, 25-32

Gospel: JN 6:60-69

As a child in the care system, I loved to release pent up energy by playing the sport of Rounders.  One thing I remember about playing that game,is that when we gathered to play, we would  choose two Captains, one for each side (one team for batting and the other for fielding, until all the batters were out and the teams would change team positions). Each of the captains would choose their team players from among those who were available for the game. It like in many sports and games, involved the picking of sides. To win at the end of the game depended so much on the choices of players made by the team captains before the commencement of the game.

I am reminded of this scenario In the first reading today (Joshua 24:1-2; 15-18), where Joshua assembled all the Israelites at Schechem and told them that God had asked him to tell them to freely make a choice of whom they wish to serve. By this convocation we understand that God did not withhold the gift of freewill from humanity (Gen. 2:16-17), even after the colossal fall (Gen.3:1-18 ). From the direction of Joshua’s speech he was like telling the people to pick what team they would be on. Joshua’s declaration tells us about God’s patience with us even when we are offensive to Him by the way in which we live our lives. Joshua’s speech shows us that God cares about us and He wants us to be saved; He gives us that opportunity to make the right decision. It points to God’s loving invitation for a dialogue with us which we do not deserve (Isaiah1:18).

At that point in time the people deviated from God and looked upon worthless gods and idols of other nations around them. From their deviation from God, they were landed into confusion and completely forgot and disregarded the things God had done for them from the time of their ancestors to the time they were delivered from the land of Egypt; the land of slavery. They needed a Joshua who would bring them to their senses; moreover they needed a Joshua who was willing to guide them by his own personal free choice. If you were attentive to the passage, Joshua was in essence leading the way of righteousness like a good team captain, he gave the people his knowledge as to which choice would be the most rewarding and fruitful, thus he declared: “As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord!” (Joshua 24:15). The effect of his decision of choice could be seen in the people’s response: “We have no intention of deserting the Lord and serving other gods!…We too will serve the Lord, for He is our God” (Joshua 24:16,18).

In our gospel reading today (John 6:60-69), our Lord Jesus Christ ended his teaching on the Eucharist by challenging his hearers to make their choice of either accepting his doctrine and gaining life and salvation or to leave it for a damnable fate. Like Joshua in the first reading he was like telling them: to choose their team. We are told that some thought that the doctrine of the Eucharist was intolerable language and consequently many of them stopped following him.  We could also note here that these were the same people who at the beginning of this chapter in the gospel of John (6) were frantically searching for Jesus because they wanted to eat more bread. Jesus laid bare before them the bread that leads to eternal life and the bread that leads to eternal hunger. As we saw at the ending of the passage many of them preferred the bread that will lead them to eternal hunger. They left the eternal bread and wandered away to seek that which will lead them to eternal destruction. Many chose the wrong team side and picked weak and unskilled players to play their team sides in their lives. The players here represent those things that drive and determine the lives which we live. However when Jesus asked the twelve if they would not join others in their choice , Peter spoke up like Joshua did in the first reading declaring their choice as a family for Jesus Christ as one who has the message of eternal life.

God has never ever stopped giving us the chance to make our own choice. God has never withheld freewill from us. God is patiently waiting for us all to  choose the team which we need for eternal life. We all have a choice of either to accept and receive Jesus Christ in the Holy Eucharist or to refrain from doing so. We each have the freedom to choose between serving and not serving, however any choice which we make has its rewards or conquences. In making our choices we should also know that there are people watching us and who are ready to follow our example. We are expected to reflect Christ like Joshua and Peter did when they led the way by making the correct life choices. As a father, mother, elder, or leader, our individual decisions can and do either make or mar the lives of those who look up to us. What is our choice to be? To accept and partake in the bread of life or to wander away looking for the bread that has no life giving power? Have we picked the correct team for our eternal salvation, or have we turned away and chosen the losing side?

As for me and my house, we shall serve the Lord, how about you and yours?

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