21st Sunday in Ordinary Time
12th Sunday After Pentecost
August 27, 2006
Reflections on the Readings by Dennis Hankins
Readings: Joshua 24:1-2a & 15-17, 18b; Ephesians 5:21-32
Theme: You Have the Words of Eternal Life
In John chapter 6 Jesus speaks of His origin, His mission, His giving of Himself. He also identifies our need of the Spirit to help us grasp His words.
Simon Peter declares Jesus’ words to be the words of eternal life. Some of those who followed Jesus as His disciples did not come to the same conclusion. In fact they found Jesus’ sacrificial language disturbing, alarming and difficult to grasp. “As a result of this, many of his disciples returned to their former way of life and no longer accompanied him.”
Today’s readings challenge us. Some may find the words of today’s lessons hard and difficult to accept. But it is ‘for our good and the good of all His church’ for us to receive the teachings of the church into our hearts. True union with Christ requires us to participate in His sacrifice. Rightly understood, this means living our lives for the betterment of others. The gods of a secular society offer avenues to self-promotion. But the God of Israel in the person of Jesus Christ calls us to love one another the way Christ loved us and gave himself for us. This sacrificial lifestyle is a call for each of us to imitate Jesus who came not to be served but to serve.
Before we denounce St. Paul lets hear him first. It is not true that if St. Paul were alive today he would be writing from a more enlightened understanding. In this passage Christ is shown to be the head of the church and the savior of the body. He also says that wives should be subordinated to their husbands as to the Lord. In fact the wife’s cue is the church, which is subordinated to Christ. So Christ loves the church and gives himself for her because of His great love for her and in response the church subordinates herself to Him who is its savior. Indeed Paul does not depict a true husband as a tyrant King who has subjugated his wife and children. Paul challenges the husbands in the ancient world to love their wife, to love their wife as their own bodies, and to leave their father and mother and be joined in love to their wife and be one flesh. And then St. Paul describes this mutual affection as a great mystery that mirrors the relationship of Christ with his church.
There is no an ancient woman or woman of modern times who would not like to have and hold and submit to a husband St. Paul describes. The husband Paul describes is the priest of his home who is unselfish in giving himself for his bride. The husband’s cue is Christ’s unselfish love for the Church. The wife in this relationship will see herself as the Church sees herself. Namely, she will see herself as holy and undefiled, without spot or wrinkle, being escorted through life in splendor by her priestly husband. If you need a paradigm of the domestic church, St. Paul gives it here. As in the words of Joshua, “As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.
In the priestly ministry of Jesus to and for His church we have a paradigm of true relationships that can endure the testing of time. It is this high calling in Christ Jesus the Holy Spirit wants to reveal to us. Neither Jesus’ words nor St. Paul’s can be understood apart from the revelation of the Spirit. They cannot be understood apart from a ‘renewing of the mind.’ (Romans 12)
Jesus calls us to an intimacy with him. Our approach to the sacrifice of the mass should be out of love for our Lord. And our response should be a mutual affection for him who loved us and gave himself for us. As his disciples we take his body and blood into ourselves that we may bring Jesus into our homes, our jobs, our towns---for the life of all those our lives will touch.
Let us pray:
Jesus, by your blood you saved us. Jesus, by your power you raised us. Jesus with your body and blood you feed us and in this your love you send us. Amen.