We pray with a sense of God’s history with us. We all have an invitation to recall and then be called once more into the unknown future. Looking backward is important only when what-was is the beginning of the new what-will-be.
We pray for the grace to make a statement in our minds and hearts to stay with the life, the faith, the relationships which have brought each of us to the threshold of God’s care. We are for You, because we have seen You in our rear view mirrors. We pray for confidence to live God’s eternal love, one sacramental-moment at a time.
Joshua is one hundred and ten years old and his battles for the well being of Israel are done. He has been their historical defender and interpreter of God’s ways to them. What else can he do!
In our First Reading today we hear various verses from the last Chapter of the Book of Joshua. It is an historical moment in several ways. He gathers all the people together on an important mountain in the history of Israel. Joshua, who replaced Moses as God’s representative, calls the people together where Abraham had built an altar there and Jacob had purchased land there, both referred to in the Book of Genesis. Here Joshua, desiring to make sure of the unity of faith which will keep Israel safe under the One God, makes his last stand.
What we hear is the call of Joshua and the response of Israel. We do not hear the whole speech of Joshua which recounts the entire history of God’s taking care of Israel, beginning with the Exodus. So at this historical mountain, Joshua reminds the people that the One God had always been faithful to them. Confronted with the facts of their faith, standing firmly on the security of the land of abundance and life, they denounce any other gods and profess their faith in the God of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, and Joshua. In a sense they are saying we will serve the Lord in the future, because the Lord has served us in our pasts. What was good enough for Abraham, Moses, and Joshua will be good enough for us and our families.
The Gospel reading presents the culmination of the long chapter from which we have been reading these last few weeks. The discussions with Jesus’ fellow Jews about the necessity of their eating His flesh and drinking His blood have ended. What we hear is the rather intimate conversation Jesus has with His disciples about the same issue. Some of His closest friends have found these teachings just too much to take in.
Jesus reminds all His disciples (literally, those who were learning), that there is an other reality besides that of the “flesh”. The “flesh” operates according to factual data, sensed information, which is processed in the mind and decisions are made by the will. There is the “Spirit” which moves the human being beyond the limited sense-bound life. The “flesh” is of “no avail” while the “Spirit” gives life. So there are two ways, two roads diverged and each of His disciples and each of us is called to make a decision which way to go. There are those who fear being deceived and those who have believed. I really do not know why some find believing things of the Spirit, life giving and others who are of good will, who find these things “hard sayings”. The text here seems to indicate that the “Father” grants to some this faith and not to others. For me, that is harder to accept than my believing in this teaching of His Flesh and Blood. I do not like being deceived and so I stand in my flesh, knowing its frailty as well. I don’t understand, but for me now, I do not count that as disbelief. As for me, I will walk a little longer with Jesus and ponder and wonder. My mind is not my higher power.
In the sixteenth chapter of Matthew’s Gospel, Jesus asks His disciples about Who they think He is compared to how the other people around say He is. Peter gives the strong and faith-filled response. Here at the end of chapter six of John’s Gospel, Jesus turns to His disciples and asks if they all are going to take the road more traveled by of the “flesh”. Peter again is heading down the road less traveled of the “Spirit”.
Peter’s words are a strong statement which sum up the response for which Jesus came to call all of us. The woman at the well, the man born blind have made similar statements of belief. Jesus has made many statements of I am”. Peter here with the other persons of John’s Gospel says, “You are”! Jesus has the words leading to eternal life, but that is later. The “flesh” wants “right now”.” You are the holy one of God” is Peter’s declaration of faith and for John’s Gospel, that is everything. As for “now” we have the Word, the Spirit, and the Flesh all together to keep us “accompanying” Him.
This entire chapter from which we have been listening is much more than our believing in the Eucharistic presence. The challenge of this chapter and the entire Gospel is about believing in Jesus as the One who has been sent into the world to offer it and us, light and life through faith. By nature we are split. We doubt so easily and trust with such difficulty. Just think of how many words we use when somebody else tells us something. We say, “NO kidding”, “Incredible”, “Really!”, “come on”, “Are you pulling my leg?”, “Is that right?”, and so many others. There is so much to believe in when we believe in Jesus. We are oriented thereby to believe in the sanctity of our flesh, beyond what our flesh can understand. Believing in the Eucharist, believing in Jesus rearranges how we look at everything and everyone. Two ways, two roads, and we’d like to be believers who also understand everything.
“The true light that enlightens everyone was coming into the world; he was in the world and the world was made through him, yet the world knew him not; he came to his own home, and his own people received him not. But to all who received Him, who believe in His name, He gave the power to become children of God.” John 1:9-12
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