Deacon Michael's Homily for the 21st Sunday of Ordinary Time August 22, 2021

Here's my homily for the 21st Sunday of Ordinary Time reflecting on tough questions from Jesus and and our response.

You can find the readings on which this homily is based linked HERE

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 It has been observed that the questions posed by Jesus in the Gospels

...to his disciples and others

...are keys that can unlock for us a much deeper personal connection with Christ and his Gospel.

Probably the greatest of these questions is found in the 16th Chapter of Matthew’s Gospel when Jesus

...after hearing about what others have said about him asks his disciples

...“But, who do YOU say that I am?” 

For us, the foundation for answering that question as Catholic Christians is of course stated in the Nicene Creed

...which we will all say together in a few minutes

...words most of us can say without looking once we get started. 

Seventy percent of the words of this Creed are a direct response to that fundamental question. 

Our answer to that question is directly relevant to a very pointed and personal question Jesus poses to us in today’s reading from John’s Gospel.

Let’s remind ourselves of this scene.

It started in the Gospel of two weeks ago which offers the core teaching of what is called the “Bread of Life Discourse”

...where Jesus refers to himself as the “Bread of Life” come down from heaven

...“his flesh” offered “for the life of the world”

...with those who eat of it living “forever”

...to be raised by Him on the “last day”.

Two weeks ago we were just left hanging to contemplate that proposition. 

We don’t get the crowd’s direct reaction

Today we do.

The murmuring continues and some seem to throw in the towel

... “This saying is hard. Who can accept it?”  

And after some further expansion on the point by Jesus

...some of his own disciples left him, no longer accompanied him and “returned to their former way of life”.

A kind of decisive moment, or turning point, had arrived. 

He turned to the twelve, those closest to him and asked…you too?

“Do you also want to leave?”

This must have been pretty painful. 

Try to imagine how Jesus must have asked that question. 

How did he look at them, and they at him? 

Could they?

They were his handpicked closest friends and followers. 

He was the embodiment of their hopes and aspirations. 

He had offered them so much. 

They had given up so much to be there.

The twelve were at a fork in the road, a moment of decision

..and as that great wisdom teacher Yogi Berra once offered

...“in life when you come to a fork in the road...take it.”

So they do.  

But Peter, responding for the group, doesn't say, “No worries boss, loud and crystal clear, we get it!”

Rather he offers a kind of prophetic paradox. 

“Lord, to whom shall we go?”

...your words are life for us whether we completely get it or not

...so...we're sticking” 

It’s a response of the faith that who and what was being offered to them was the truth

...though they couldn’t get their heads completely around it. 

Maybe for us it is Peter’s answer, as much as Jesus’ question, that is a key for us, especially these days.

Peter is wrestling with realities deeper than he can completely process, that his senses can’t quite grasp

...that he knows are calling him to something great and beautiful.

It’s no different for us. 

There is a whole raft of “difficult words” and “challenging teachings” that the disciples then, and we now, wrestle with.

Loving our enemies and praying for our persecutors.

Turning the other cheek and not living by the sword.

Telling the truth and living by it when so many insist that there is no such thing.

Not building bigger barns for stuff we don’t need, can’t save us and can make us preoccupied with the fear of losing it.

Trusting in God like the birds of the air and the flowers of the field.

Living a life where our desires and appetites are under some discipline for the love of others and respect for the Creator. 

Being faithful to our promises even when it’s costly.

Placing the welfare of others before our own.

Showing mercy and forgiveness to those who hurt us.

Going down the same path of humility and risk and self-offering as the Lord did when he called us to follow him.

Lots of challenges, a lot of occasions to say

…”This saying is hard, who can accept it?’

But for us….”What’s the choice?”  

Just have a look around at what passes for worldly wisdom these days, and the fruit that it is bearing. 

So we are left, imperfect as we and our grasp of it all may be

...trying to go where the Lord calls us and doing what he bids us

...because we know that it is rooted in love, and ends in joy. 

Like Peter, where else could we go?