Twenty-First Sunday in Ordinary Time – B

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Jesus then said to the Twelve, “Do you also want to leave?”  Simon Peter answered him, “Master, 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.”

PRAYER FOR THE WEEK

Prayer for Peace of Mind and Heart

Eternal, Holy God, I come to You burdened

with worries, fears, doubts, and troubles.

Calm and quiet me with peace of mind.

Empty me of the anxiety that disturbs me,

of the concerns that weary my spirit,

and weigh heavy on my heart.

Loosen my grip on the disappointments

and grievances I hold on to so tightly.

Release me from the pain of past hurts,

of present anger and tension, of future fears.

Sometimes it’s too much for me Lord –

too many demands and problems –

too much sadness, suffering, and stress.

Renew me spiritually and emotionally.

Give me new strength, hope, and confidence.

Prepare me to meet the constant struggles of

daily life with a deeper faith and trust in You.

Let Your love set me free . . . . for peace,

for joy, for grace, for life, for others . . . .

forever.

Amen.

COLLECT

O God, who cause the minds of the faithful

to unite in a single purpose,

grant your people to love what you command

and to desire what you promise,

that, amid the uncertainties of this world,

our hearts may be fixed on that place

where true gladness is found.

Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,

who lives and reigns with you in the unity

of the Holy Spirit,

one God, for ever and ever.

READING I

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Jos 24:1-2a, 15-17, 18b

Joshua gathered together all the tribes of Israel at Shechem,

summoning their elders, their leaders,

their judges, and their officers.

When they stood in ranks before God,

Joshua addressed all the people:

“If it does not please you to serve the LORD,

decide today whom you will serve,

the gods your fathers served beyond the River

or the gods of the Amorites in whose country you are now dwelling.

As for me and my household, we will serve the LORD.”

But the people answered,

“Far be it from us to forsake the LORD

for the service of other gods.

For it was the LORD, our God,

who brought us and our fathers up out of the land of Egypt,

out of a state of slavery.

He performed those great miracles before our very eyes

and protected us along our entire journey

and among the peoples through whom we passed.

Therefore we also will serve the LORD, for he is our God.”

APPLICATION

It is possible and even probable that some of the twelve tribes had never been in Egypt and therefore had not taken part in the covenant of Sinai. This would explain Joshua’s reason for re-affirming the Sinaitic covenant at Shechem, so that these tribes could take on themselves the covenant obligations and become fully integrated into the Chosen People. Even without this reason the re-enactment or re-acceptance of the covenant at this point in their history was of the greatest importance for the Chosen People. They had had the land of Canaan divided among them and were about to settle down as citizens with rights and duties in their own country.  Hitherto, they had been slaves and nomads. Although their individual territories had been mapped out for them, most of the tribes had but a precarious foothold as yet on the land allotted to them. They had still many battles to fight before they could say that they owned their land

Furthermore, they needed to renew their resolution to remain loyal to Yahweh for as yet their faith in the formative stage would often be threatened by the pagan idolatrous practices they would see on all sides of them. The pagan fertility gods of Canaan had attractions for agricultural people–they were supposed to make the harvests plentiful and produce rain when needed; these pagan idols were there among them. Yahweh was far away in heaven, above the skies. The idols seemed to answer the pagan people’s prayers–Yahweh did not always do so. Therefore, the renewal of the covenant of Sinai at this moment in their history was of the greatest importance; to begin their lives as citizens of Canaan with a solemn dedication of themselves as a united people to the true God was setting up for themselves a standard, a banner, to which they could turn for strength in later life–if tempted to abandon their faith in the one and only God.

There is a lesson here for all Christians: at baptism we were made members of God’s new Chosen People. A solemn covenant or pact was then entered into between us and the Blessed Trinity.  God, through the Church, promised us the eternal possession of the true promised land–heaven, provided we kept our part of the covenant, that is, if we remained faithful to his laws during our days on earth. At our confirmation we renewed this covenant and promised to be loyal to Christ–even if that loyalty brought sufferings and death on us. We gladly became soldiers of Christ.

However, soldiers, tired of discipline and fearful of further battles, have been known to desert their colors and country. Many Israelites, in spite of all their solemn declarations of loyalty to God, turned away from him and put their trust in idols of wood and stone. Worse still, Christians who had a better and a fuller revelation of God in the person of Christ, have deserted God and Christ and their own eternal interests. Like the Israelites of old, they chose the earthly deities of pleasure and plenty; like the timid soldier they have resented discipline and hated the personal restrictions that the Christian code imposes on us all.

While we leave these to the infinite mercy of God, their desertion should make us examine our way of living the Christian life lest we, too, should fall away. We live today in a world which is, alas, ungodly and unchristian. This makes it all the harder for God’s loyal people to live their religious life to the full, but at the same time, it demands of all of God’s loyal subjects to let their light shine before men. Our world needs light and divine illumination. The faith of Christ, the belief in God and in a future life, is not only being attacked by enemies of Christ’s Church, it is being hidden under a bushel, if not completely extinguished, by some who would still claim to be within the fold.

Let us ask God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit to strengthen our faith and baptismal covenant. We want to take up our permanent residence in the eternal promised land of heaven. Only the grace of God can keep us from being lost on the way.

RESPONSORIAL PSALM

Ps 34:2-3, 16-17, 18-19, 20-21

Taste and see the goodness of the Lord.

I will bless the LORD at all times;

his praise shall be ever in my mouth.

Let my soul glory in the LORD;

the lowly will hear me and be glad.

Taste and see the goodness of the Lord.

The LORD has eyes for the just,

and ears for their cry.

The LORD confronts the evildoers,

to destroy remembrance of them from the earth.

Taste and see the goodness of the Lord.

When the just cry out, the LORD hears them,

and from all their distress he rescues them.

The LORD is close to the brokenhearted;

and those who are crushed in spirit he saves.

Taste and see the goodness of the Lord.

Many are the troubles of the just one,

but out of them all the LORD delivers him;

he watches over all his bones;

not one of them shall be broken.

Taste and see the goodness of the Lord.

READING II

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Eph 5:21-32

Brothers and sisters:

Be subordinate to one another out of reverence for Christ.

Wives should be subordinate to their husbands as to the Lord.

For the husband is head of his wife

just as Christ is head of the church,

he himself the savior of the body.

As the church is subordinate to Christ,

so wives should be subordinate to their husbands in everything.

Husbands, love your wives,

even as Christ loved the church

and handed himself over for her to sanctify her,

cleansing her by the bath of water with the word,

that he might present to himself the church in splendor,

without spot or wrinkle or any such thing,

that she might be holy and without blemish.

So also husbands should love their wives as their own bodies.

He who loves his wife loves himself.

For no one hates his own flesh

but rather nourishes and cherishes it,

even as Christ does the church,

because we are members of his body.

For this reason a man shall leave his father and his mother

and be joined to his wife,

and the two shall become one flesh.

This is a great mystery,

but I speak in reference to Christ and the church.

APPLICATION

While giving his Ephesian converts some very practical advice to govern the relationships between husbands and wives, St. Paul reveals to us that Christ has made all his faithful followers his bride. He, Christ, is the divine groom; we the Christian Church, are his bride. In the Old Testament, the Chosen People are frequently described as the spouse, the bride of Yahweh. The Song of Songs or Song of Solomon, is generally interpreted as a poem describing this marriage bond between God and Israel. Now in the New Testament, Christ the Son of God has made his new Chosen People his bride. By becoming man he has become one of us, but under this symbol of marriage which is the closest union there can be between two individuals, he is represented as uniting us to himself by a bond greater than brotherhood. Could Christ have done more for us? What return do we make for such overwhelming love? Even the best of us must admit that we have indeed done very little.

Today, the spotlight is on husbands and wives. St. Paul calls on them to live in love and harmony. He tells the wife to be subject to her husband, not as a slave to one’s master but as if subject “to the Lord.” Her subjection is based on love and respect. Marriage has made them one with a unity that has no equal on earth. The husband is to love his wife as Christ loved the Church, and as Christ’s love for the Church went so far as to sacrifice his life to save the Church, so must a true Christian husband be ready to sacrifice himself for love of his wife. St. Paul explains that the husband who truly loves his wife is loving himself, for by marriage husband and wife have become “one flesh.” No man ever hates his own flesh and now that his wife is “one flesh” with him, he is loving himself when he loves her. The same holds for the wife.

This ideal state of perfect harmony in married life between husband and wife is not always easily attained but it must be the aim of all married couples. The example St. Paul sets before them is the mutual love of Christ and his Church. While Christ’s love for his Church remains ever constant and unchanging, the same cannot be said for the individuals who form the Church; and no one knew this better than St. Paul. Christ himself foresaw that the many he had made his “bride” would fail sometimes in their obedience and reverence to him; but occasional lapses would not break the “matrimonial bond” between him and them. Therefore, he left the sacrament of penance, the means of erasing such defects, to his Church. Having purified themselves of their sins, these brides of his would return to him, renewed in love and loyalty.

Married couples, therefore, must not be surprised, much less despondent, if that perfect harmony and the idyllic love of their first years in marriage begins to show signs of tension and strain as the days go on. There will be lapses and disappointments on both sides, but this only proves that both are human: they are not yet saints but only learners of the art of sanctity. Here is where Christian charity and Christian forgiveness, obligatory on all Christians, are especially needed between husbands and wives. They must be ever ready to forgive and forget, and to do so quickly. Christ forgives us our sins the moment we sincerely ask for pardon, he does not make us wait for weeks while he sulks and refuses to deal with us.

Husbands and wives must imitate him in this readiness to forgive. When your partner seems to have insulted, neglected or offended you, think of your wedding day and honeymoon. Are you not to blame as much as your partner for this apparent lapse? With the passing of time you have taken your spouse too much for granted; perhaps, you are becoming selfish. Get back to your original loving enthusiasm, renew your wedding-day fervor, forget self for the moment and you’ll find by your side the spouse with whom you walked arm-in-arm down the aisle that great day–one of the greatest days in your life.

GOSPEL

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Jn 6:60-69

Many of Jesus’ disciples who were listening said,

“This saying is hard; who can accept it?”

Since Jesus knew that his disciples were murmuring about this,

he said to them, “Does this shock you?

What if you were to see the Son of Man ascending

to where he was before?

It is the spirit that gives life,

while the flesh is of no avail.

The words I have spoken to you are Spirit and life.

But there are some of you who do not believe.”

Jesus knew from the beginning the ones who would not believe

and the one who would betray him.

And he said,

“For this reason I have told you that no one can come to me

unless it is granted him by my Father.”

As a result of this,

many of his disciples returned to their former way of life

and no longer accompanied him.

Jesus then said to the Twelve, “Do you also want to leave?”

Simon Peter answered him, “Master, 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.”

http://usccb.org/bible/readings/082618.cfm

APPLICATION

As we heard last Sunday, St. John was writing about the promise of the Blessed Eucharist at a time when Christians accepted the Mass and Holy Communion as the essential act of Christian worship. Very probably he omitted many details when describing this promise. The “disciples” who murmured evidently saw nothing but a man in Christ. It was very natural, therefore, that they could not accept his saying that they should eat his body and drink his blood. Thus it seems most probable that when Christ says they lacked “faith,” he had given them sufficient proofs that he was more than a man. These individuals among the disciples, however, refused to open their minds to these proofs, therein was their guilt. Their minds were earth-bound and were determined to remain earth-bound. Faith is a gift of the Father, as Christ says to those disciples: “no one can come to me unless it is granted him by the Father,” but the Father has offered them this gift and they have refused to accept it; otherwise they would not be guilty.

No one who accepts Christ for what he is, the Son of God in human form, has any difficulty in believing that he left us himself in the Eucharist as a sacrifice and a sacrament. This does not mean that we understand this gift of Christ in all its details–it was an act of divine power and as such beyond full human comprehension. However, we can understand enough about the actuality of the Eucharist because we accept the words of Christ, who “has the words of eternal life,” even though its innermost nature escapes us. We are doing no violence to our intelligence when we accept as fact from a trustworthy witness what we cannot prove or confirm for ourselves. No more trustworthy witness than Christ ever existed. In Galilee he promised to give his body and blood–in the Eucharist–to be our spiritual nourishment–communion–and our means of offering an absolutely pleasing sacrifice to God every time his body and blood are made present by the words of his ordained minister. He fulfilled that promise at the Last Supper. He gave to his Apostles and their successors the power to repeat this act of divine love when he said: “Do this in memory of me.”

When Simon Peter answered Christ’s challenge—“will you too go away?”–he spoke not only for his fellow-Apostles that day with: “Lord to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life,” but for all Christians who really believe that Christ was the incarnate Son of God. Peter, be it noted, made his act of faith before he was fully convinced of the divinity of Christ, but he was already convinced that Christ was close to God and spoke nothing but the truth.

We have the proofs of Christ’s divinity which Peter and the Apostles later got. We have also the faith of two thousand years of the Christians whose belief in the Blessed Eucharist as a sacrifice and sacrament was at the very center of their Christian lives. We have also the noble example of many martyrs who gladly gave their lives in defense of this truth. Our faith may never be put to such an extreme test, but should it be, God grant that we will not be found wanting.

Many of us may need to examine ourselves as regards the full and effective use we make of that gift. Every time we attend at Mass do we realize that Christ is offering himself to his Father for our sanctification and the sanctification of the world? Do we realize that we, through his minister at the altar, are offering infinite thanksgiving, infinite atonement, infinite adoration, infinitely effective petition, to our Father in heaven through the sacrifice of his divine Son in the Mass? Are we always worthy to act this part, are our consciences fit to allow us to partake of this sacrifice in Holy Communion? A true Christian who realizes and appreciates what the Son of God has done and is still doing for him will try always to make himself less unworthy, for not even the greatest saint was worthy to partake of this act of divine love.

Applications written by Fr. Kevin O’Sullivan O.F.M. and used with permission of Ignatius Press

CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH (CCC)

CCC 438 Jesus’ messianic consecration reveals his divine mission, “for the name ‘Christ’ implies ‘he who anointed’, ‘he who was anointed’ and ‘the very anointing with which he was anointed’. The one who anointed is the Father, the one who was anointed is the Son, and he was anointed with the Spirit who is the anointing.’”1 His eternal messianic consecration was revealed during the time of his earthly life at the moment of his baptism by John, when “God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power”, “that he might be revealed to Israel”2 as its Messiah. His works and words will manifest him as “the Holy One of God”.3

CCC 440 Jesus accepted Peter’s profession of faith, which acknowledged him to be the Messiah, by announcing the imminent Passion of the Son of Man.4 He unveiled the authentic content of his messianic kingship both in the transcendent identity of the Son of Man “who came down from heaven”, and in his redemptive mission as the suffering Servant: “The Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”5 Hence the true meaning of his kingship is revealed only when he is raised high on the cross.6 Only after his Resurrection will Peter be able to proclaim Jesus’ messianic kingship to the People of God: “Let all the house of Israel therefore know assuredly that God has made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified.”7

CCC 473 But at the same time, this truly human knowledge of God’s Son expressed the divine life of his person.8 “The human nature of God’s Son, not by itself but by its union with the Word, knew and showed forth in itself everything that pertains to God.”9 Such is first of all the case with the intimate and immediate knowledge that the Son of God made man has of his Father.10 The Son in his human knowledge also showed the divine penetration he had into the secret thoughts of human hearts.11

CCC 728 Jesus does not reveal the Holy Spirit fully, until he himself has been glorified through his Death and Resurrection. Nevertheless, little by little he alludes to him even in his teaching of the multitudes, as when he reveals that his own flesh will be food for the life of the world.12 He also alludes to the Spirit in speaking to Nicodemus,13 to the Samaritan woman,14 and to those who take part in the feast of Tabernacles.15 To his disciples he speaks openly of the Spirit in connection with prayer16 and with the witness they will have to bear.17

CCC 1336 The first announcement of the Eucharist divided the disciples, just as the announcement of the Passion scandalized them: “This is a hard saying; who can listen to it?”18 The Eucharist and the Cross are stumbling blocks. It is the same mystery and it never ceases to be an occasion of division. “Will you also go away?”:19 the Lord’s question echoes through the ages, as a loving invitation to discover that only he has “the words of eternal life”20 and that to receive in faith the gift of his Eucharist is to receive the Lord himself.

CCC 2766 But Jesus does not give us a formula to repeat mechanically.21 As in every vocal prayer, it is through the Word of God that the Holy Spirit teaches the children of God to pray to their Father. Jesus not only gives us the words of our filial prayer; at the same time he gives us the Spirit by whom these words become in us “spirit and life.”22 Even more, the proof and possibility of our filial prayer is that the Father “sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, ‘Abba! Father!’”23 Since our prayer sets forth our desires before God, it is again the Father, “he who searches the hearts of men,” who “knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.”24 The prayer to Our Father is inserted into the mysterious mission of the Son and of the Spirit.

1 St. Irenaeus, Adv. haeres. 3,18,3: PG 7/1, 934.

2 Acts 10:38; Jn 1:31.

3 Mk 1:24; Jn 6:69; Acts 3:14.

4 Cf. Mt 16:16-23.

5 Jn 3:13; Mt 20:28; cf. Jn 6:62; Dan 7:13; Is 53:10-12.

6 Cf. Jn 19:19-22; Lk 23:39-43.

7 Acts 2:36.

8 Cf. St. Gregory the Great, “Sicut aqua” ad Eulogium, Epist. Lib. 10, 39 PL 77, 1097 Aff.; DS 475.

9 St. Maximus the Confessor, Qu. et dub. 66 PG 90, 840A.

10 Cf. Mk 14:36; Mt 11:27; Jn 1:18; 8:55; etc.

11 Cf. Mk 2:8; Jn 2 25; 6:61; etc.

12 Cf. Jn 6:27, 51, 62-63.

13 Cf. Jn 3:5-8.

14 Cf. Jn 4:10, 14, 23-24.

15 Cf. Jn 7:37-39.

16 Cf. Lk 11:13.

17 Cf. Mt 10:19-20.

18 Jn 6:60.

19 Jn 6:67.

20 In 6:68.

21 Cf. Mt 6:7; 1 Kings 18:26-29.

22 Jn 6:63.

23 Gal 4:6., 24 Rom 8:27.

BENEDICTUS

The Father – Son Relationship

It seems important to me to highlight the unique nature of the quite special Father-Son relationship.  There is first of all a quite universal rule of knowledge expressed in this sentence about “no one knows the Father except the Son; no one knows the Son but the Father.”  It signifies that like can only be recognized by like.  Where there is no inner correspondence to God, there is no possibility of knowing God.  God can be known, in a strict sense, only by himself.  Consequently, knowledge of God is bestowed on man, then that assumes that God draws man into a relationship of kinship and that there is then so much alive in man that resembles God that cognition and knowledge become possible.  And then Jesus continues:  “No one can know this; except those to whom you choose to reveal it.”  In other words:  Recognition and knowledge can only dawn within a community of will… The pattern of relationships between father and son could not serve as an analogy, to pass on to us even a distant glimpse of the inner mystery of God, were there not a trace of God himself to be found in it.  This specific relationship of father to son – which is a relationship of giving, of receiving, and of giving in return – is basic to human life.  If one continues to philosophize on this basis, then one must of course pose the whole question of the human family, and then one also inevitably runs into limitations.  It is in any case right that this particular type of relationship is of such great extent that it can reach right up above, like an outstretched index finger.

Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI

CLOSING PRAYER

Prayer for Spouses

Lord Jesus,

Grant that my spouse and I may have a true and understanding love for each other.

Grant that we may both be filled with faith and trust.

Give us the grace to live with each other in peace and harmony.

May we always bear with one another’s weaknesses

and grow from each other’s strengths.

Help us to forgive one another’s failings

and grant us patience, kindness, cheerfulness,

and the spirit of placing the well being of one another ahead of one’s self.

May the love that brought us together grow and mature with each passing year.

Bring us both ever closer to You through our love for each other.

Let our love grow to perfection.

We ask this and all things through Christ our Lord.  Amen.

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About Benedicamus Domino

Let Us Bless The Lord - A Benedictine oblate's weekly study of the Catholic Church's Sunday Sacred Liturgy. I hope that families and friends will benefit from this as a prayerful way to prepare and actively participate in the holy sacrifice of the Mass.
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