Daily Reflection
August 27th, 2000
Larry Gillick, S.J.
Deglman Center for Ignatian Spirituality
Click here for a photo of and information on this writer.

The Twenty-first Sunday in Ordinary Time 
Joshua 24:1-2, 15-18
Psalms 34:2-3, 16-23
Ephesians 5:21-32
John 6:60-69

It is “Put Up Or Shove Off Sunday” today.  Joshua assembles all the people of Israel and their elders and judges as well.  He asks them if it pleased them or not to continue serving their God.  He gives them a choice to serve others whom their fathers served elsewhere.  He declares boldly that he and his family are staying faithful to the “One God.”  

All the people proclaim that they will stay with the Lord Who had stayed with them in their journey out of exile.

In today’s Gospel, Jesus has finished His saying many difficult things for even His disciples to hear.  They have been listening to His telling them about eating His flesh and being the “Bread of Life” and some have decided to “shove off.”  

We see him turn to His closest friends and ask whether they will leave as well.  Peter, speaking for them all, and for us, replies, “Master, to whom shall we go?  You have the words of eternal life.”  As we know, eventually they will also “shove off” and find safer places to go.

The Second Reading, if not understood well, might be a cause for wives and husbands to “shove off” from Christ or even each other.  There are hard and disorienting words, such as “subordinate” and “the husband is head of his wife….”  When taken out of context and unprayerfully reacted to, shoving off seems the proper human response.    

There are four steps in using our mental faculties to our arriving at an experiencing either loving or “shoving.”  We first become aware, then we think it over.  After that we make a decision and then stand with that decision responsibly, which is love.  The people of Israel to whom Joshua was speaking were quite aware of God’s fidelity in their history.  They heard the options and made a decision to “re-up” with their faithful God.  How they lived that decision is how they were loving God.  Making a response based on God’s actions in our lives, is how each of us chooses again and again, to live faithfully.

The disciples have worked through the same four-step process and some arrive at a decision to go other ways than following Jesus.  As with those disciples who choose to stay, they have seen the miracles of the bread and fish.  They have heard the great teachings and experience His faithfulness.  Those who turn away, turn to some other manner of finding life.  For those who stay with Jesus, stay because they have found a way of life to which they can respond.

Most of us know the “hard sayings” of Jesus and struggle with many of them.  We follow the four steps of being attentive, thinking, decisive and faithful to decisions.  We can assume that those who do not find life in Jesus are faithful to their decisions after being aware and pondering.  Why did some walk no longer with Jesus?  Why do members of the same family arrive at different ways of responding to the existence of God and or the person of Jesus?  Will you be surprised if I tell you that I don’t know?

What I have decided, after reviewing the evidence, is that Jesus continues to embrace us all, both those who walk His way and those who walk another way.  Jesus never re-upped because He remained always faithful.  With Him it was never yes or no, but always “yes.”  With us, well, we become aware of new things and have to think them over and see if new decisions are called for.  Our faith response is not cast in stone, but in our “hearts of flesh and so we so often are asked the “Joshua-question.”  

To follow Jesus is not to be afraid of asking or being asked the tough questions.  There are more than two roads which diverge in the murky woods and His question to us and His disciples is an opportunity to re-up and live more faithfully our baptismal “yes.”   

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