A guest post from my friend Deacon Rob Kinghorn who always finds a way to add a new perspective to the gospel story.
Homily for 21st Sunday in Ordinary Time Deacon Robert Kinghorn
I went to an all-boys high school. And I remember the teacher walking in one day with two packages of washing powder in his hand. He said, “Boys, I am alone for a few weeks and I have to wash my own clothes. So I need some advice. Which do you think I should use, Tide or Cheer.”
“No” others shouted out, “Use Cheer it is gentler on your colours and gets things dazzling white.”
Eventually he said, “OK so I will take a vote. Which should I use?” So we all voted and at the end he said, “Thanks that helps a lot. Oh by the way, how many of you boys have actually washed clothes?” Sheepishly only about 3 boys put up their hands.
“So let me get this straight” he said, “Most of you do not actually have experience of this in your life. You are just telling me what you have heard on TV, read in the newspapers, or been told by your parents and friends.”
We go through life making choices, but we have the media trying to change us; we have our friends influencing us and often we are not even aware of all these things that affect our decisions. God has given us total freedom and yet all these things pull us one way or the other and are fighting for our attention.
Today we hear of two events when the people are confronted and are asked to choose. When they had to clear their heads of all the distractions in life and make a decision.
In the first reading, Joshua called the tribes of Israel together. They had been captives for years in Egypt but now they had their freedom, and yet sometimes that freedom is too much to handle. He called them to Shechem to a ceremony where they could renew their covenant with God. And he gave them the choice, “Which God do you want to serve?”
He names other Gods of the time who were worshipped in the cities all around. Today if he was here, he could say, “Which God do you want to serve? The God of today’s culture, of fashion, of Dr. Phil, of Oprah? The people shouted back, “We will follow the God of our ancestors.” But the reason they give is interesting. They will follow that God because they think back on their life and this is the God that led them to freedom. The God that led them to life. They have met God in their life and so they believe.
When I was preparing this homily I received a call from Nova Scotia. It was from a lady I had met on the street about six years ago. I remember over the weeks that I got to know her that she told me she was a Catholic, but could not believe in God any more. “Besides,” she said, “God would not want someone like me.”
She has been clean now for over 2 years and she returned to Nova Scotia for a month to visit her family. She called me to tell me how well she was doing and she said, “I have been up here thinking about the miracles that have happened in my life over the past few years. It’s amazing. And you know, Deacon Robert, I have started praying to God again. I have seen what God has done in my life and we are talking again.”
Just like the people of Israel at Shechem, when she really looks back on her life she sees God at work.
This is a reminder to us all. We know that God is always at work in our lives, but often there are moments when we doubt, life becomes weary and we almost feel like we are losing our very soul. These are the times we have to hang tough. Remember the moments when we know God was faithful. Remember our story.
In the gospel Jesus says to his disciples, “Do you find this too hard?” He had been talking about people eating his body and drinking his blood and having life through him. He did not mean, “Do you find this too hard to understand intellectually?” No he meant, “Do you find this too hard to live.” Because you see ultimately following Jesus is not a belief system which has to be debated and discussed. No, it’s about following a person.
And yet so many who have left Jesus and even many within the church get caught in the trap. They argue about incidentals rather than getting to know the one who has eternal life. We are asked to surrender our hearts to Christ and then live the consequences. But we all know that this is hard to live.
We all know we have to forgive. Not just in general but to forgive this person in front of me at this moment. And we feel like walking away.
We all know we have to love our enemies. Not just our enemies in general but this enemy standing in front of me at this moment. And we feel like walking away.
But with sober second thoughts we say like Peter today, “Where else will I go?” Because Christ has promised that through this we will find the kingdom. We will find life.
We are asked today to chose. But we know that this choice happens again and again in our life. This is a decision we are constantly renewing. In fact every time we pray the Apostle’s Creed, as we will be doing in a few minutes, we are renewing it. And yet we feel our weakness. We know we fail. But don’t forget, the same Peter that spoke up in the gospel today is the same Peter who denied Jesus. Sometimes we go back on our commitment. Don’t get down on yourself. Start over each time and recommit yourself to the person of Jesus who calls us. Ultimately there are no assurances because we walk in faith and we take that leap of faith each time we say, “I believe in God, the Father almighty, creator of heaven and earth, and in Jesus Christ his only son our Lord.”