Fr. John Kha Tran
Bill had a good friend who was a priest of a long years standing. They used to josh one another occasionally.
“You reverends think you’re so hot,” said Bill one day. “After all you’re only about 50 percent effective. About half the babies you baptize don’t stay Christians, about half the adults you convert don’t stay converted, and about half the people you marry don’t stay married.”
“We’re 100 percent on one point,” answered his priest friend. “If I were a betting man I’d give you 1000 to 1 odds that all the people we burry stay buried.”
It is sad to read some polls reporting that many of the U. S. Catholics are not practicing their Catholic faith. Some poll reports about 50 to 70 percent of Catholics are not regularly attending church; eighty percent of Catholic youths have stopped attending church when they start college. We have Catholics for pro-choice, Catholics for abortions, Catholics for same-sex marriage, Catholics for contraceptive coverage, Catholics for divorced and remarried, Catholics for women ordination, Catholics for married priests etc. Studies also show that Catholic women have abortions at the same rate as do other women: 28 percent of women who had an abortion self-identified as Catholic, while 27 percent of all women of reproductive age identified as such. Many Catholics believe that the Catholic Church’s teachings on sexuality are not relevant to them or their families. These are modern “shocking Catholics.” Some of them are struggling with the teachings of the Church. Some are dissenting with the Church’s teaching authority. Some cannot accept the teachings of the Catholic Church. They are leaving or falling away from the Church.
Jesus is looking at us today and would ask the same question that He asked his disciples, “Do you also want to leave?”
Our life is filled with choices. Most of our daily choices are not a matter of life and death, the choice of what to eat, of a television show to watch, of a movie or a pizza topping, of a cell phone provider to subscribe, or of a blogger to read etc. We have to make decisions about jobs, about relationships, about how to raise our children, decisions about caring for our aging parents, or institutional care for a child without the sense of abandoning the one who is dependent on us. Some of the decisions are important and others are not so important. When we make decisions, we need to take into consideration of the values and the consequences of our choice. Every one of us needs to make the choice what will happen after we die. When we die, will people be happy or sad to see us leaving them? Will heaven or hell will be happy to welcome us? The choices we make now are the prediction for where we will be in eternity. We pray with the Church today: "Lord teach us to seek the value that will bring us lasting joy in this changing world. Make us one in mind and heart."
The decisions called for in today’s readings are not the kind we face every day. They are not choices among several options. Rather, they are life decisions, the kind that determine the fundamental direction we will take and consequently influence every other decision we will make.
The people of Israel are gathered at Shechem under the leadership of Joshua. It is a religious assembly. They are standing before God. However, there are some in the community who have not yet definitively committed themselves to the Lord, and they must make a choice which god they would worship. Joshua speaks to them in the form of a prophetic declaration: Thus says the Lord. He places before the people a choice that will shape their own self-identity and will determine the path they and their descendants will travel for the rest of their lives. “If it does not please you to serve the Lord, decide today whom you will serve.” This decision would determine their identity. They would be known as the people of whichever god they choose, and they would be bound to the norms and practices set down by that god. There are three options for them to choose:
- They can serve the gods whom their fathers served beyond the River. Their ancestors were polytheists. They worship multiple gods.
- They can choose to serve the gods of the Amorites in whose land they are dwelling.
- Or they can worship the one true God.
Joshua’s statement of choice is decisive: “As for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.” The rest of the people make the same decision: We will serve the Lord.
In explaining the reasons for their choice, they rehearse the high points of the saving acts that God performed in their midst and for their sake. These include:
- The deliverance from bondage
- The wonders in the wilderness
- The entrance into the promised land
Through all of this, God was there, protecting them every step of the way. Their choice of a god was determined by the personal involvement of God in their lives.
The psalmist also experiences God’s goodness so he invites others: “Taste and see, taste and see the goodness of the Lord.” And he sings his decision: “I will bless the Lord at all times. His praise shall be ever in my mouth.”
St. John reports that many people left Jesus and returned to their former way of life because they could not take what He said. Jesus then said to his disciples, “do you also want to leave?”
Simon Peter answered, “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.” Peter understood Jesus ‘words, “It is the spirit that gives life, while the flesh is of no avail.”
The life of Jesus Christ is indelibly engraved upon history; neither the erosion of time nor the devastating and compounding effects of evil have been able to erase his influence. Some people thought he was crazy; others considered him a misfit, a troublemaker, a rebel. He was condemned as a criminal, yet his life and teachings reverberate throughout history. He saw things differently, and he had no respect for the status quo. You can praise him, disagree with him, quote him, disbelieve him, glorify him, or vilify him. About the only thing you cannot do is ignore him, and that is a lesson that every age learns in its own way. You can’t ignore Jesus, because he changed things. He is the single greatest agent of change in human history. He made the lame walk, taught the simple, set captives free, gave sight to the blind, fed the hungry, healed the sick, comforted the afflicted, afflicted the comfortable, and in all of these, captured the imagination of every generation (Jesus Shock by Peter Kreeft).
Who is Jesus to you? Are you following him?
He offers us his flesh and blood, but he also requires our complete commitment to him.
He dies for us on the cross, but he also expects us to carry our daily cross with him.
He promises us to rise with him, but he also expects us to die with him.
He promises us salvation, but he also looks for our conversion.
He loves us but he also demands us to love him and others as he has loved us.