TIME TO MAKE A CHOICE: HOMILY FOR THE 21ST SUNDAY OF THE YEAR (B)
BY REV. FR. BONIFACE NKEM ANUSIEM PhD
I love football (soccer) both as a spectator and as a player. As a child I did a lot of football playing and goal- keeping. In fact I got a name among my mates for my assiduity in kicking and goal- keeping the bag of air. One thing I constantly remember is that when we gathered to play two Captains would normally emerge and would choose sides and pick players from among those who were available for the game. The interaction went this way:
Captain A: (Looking at Captain B) “I challenge you take one post?”
Captain B: (Pointing to his preferred goal-post) “I take this!”
Captain A: “I take that” (pointing to the remaining goal-post).
What normally followed was the picking of players. Since Captain B had the privilege of making the first choice of goal post, it then became the turn of Captain A to pick a player. The best players were normally preferred before the better ones, the good ones, the average ones, the manageable ones and so on. The choices Captains made during the picking (which was normally alternated between the Captains) determined to a great extent the fate of the team. Often teams lost at the end because the players could not coordinate very well on account of some “bad players”. Success at the end of the game depended so much on the choices of players made before the commencement of the game.
In the first reading (Joshua 24:1-2; 15-18), Joshua assembled all the Israelites at Schechem and told them that God had asked him to tell them to freely make a choice of whom they wish to serve. By this convocation we understand that God did not withhold the gift of freewill from humanity (Gen. 2:16-17), even after the colossal fall (Gen.3:1-18 ). From the direction of Joshua’s speech he was like telling the people “I challenge you take one post?” Joshua’s declaration tells us about God’s patience with us even when we are offensive to Him by our ways of life. Joshua’s speech shows us that God cares about us and He wants us to be saved; He gives us an opportunity to make the right choice. It points to God’s loving invitation for a dialogue with us which we do not deserve (Isaiah1:18).
I love Joshua so much from the way he handled the declaration of God’s message. At that point in time the people deviated from God and looked upon worthless gods of other nations around them. From their deviation from God, they landed into confusion and forgot the things God had done for them from the time of their ancestors to the time they were delivered from the land of Egypt; the land of slavery. They needed a Joshua who will bring them to their senses; moreover they needed a Joshua who will guide them by his own personal and family choice. If you were attentive to the passage, Joshua made his own choice first before the people could respond. He was in essence leading the way of righteousness, he gave the people clue to which choice would be most rewarding, thus he declared: “As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord!” (Joshua 24:15). The effect of his choice could be seen in the people’s response: “We have no intention of deserting the Lord and serving other gods!…We too will serve the Lord, for He is our God” (Joshua 24:16,18).
In the gospel reading today (John 6:60-69) our Lord Jesus Christ wrapped up his teaching on the Eucharist by challenging his hearers to make a choice of either accepting his doctrine and gaining life or leaving it for a damnable fate. Like Joshua in the first reading he was like telling them: “I challenge you take one post?” We are told that some thought of the doctrine of Eucharist as intolerable language and consequently many of them stopped following him. The truth is actually bitter! We could also note here that these were the same people who at the beginning of this chapter in the gospel of John (6) were frantically searching for Jesus because they wanted to eat more bread. Jesus laid bare before them the bread that leads to eternal life and the bread that leads to eternal hunger. As we saw at the ending of the passage many of them preferred the bread that will lead them to eternal hunger. They left the eternal bread and wandered away to seek that which will lead them to eternal destruction. Many chose the wrong post and picked weak and unskilled players to play the football of their lives. The players here represent those things that drive and determine lives we live. However when Jesus asked the twelve if they would not join others in their choice , Peter spoke up like Joshua did in the first reading declaring their choice as a family for Jesus Christ as one who has the message of eternal life.
God has not stopped giving us the chance to make a choice. God has not withheld freewill from us. God is patiently waiting for you to take one post and choose the payers you need for the eternal game of life. You have a choice to accept and receive Jesus Christ in the Holy Eucharist or to refrain from doing so. You have the freedom to choose between serving and not serving, however any choice you make has its rewards. In making our choices we should also know that there are people watching us and are ready to do exactly what we do. We are expected to reflect Joshua and Peter who led the way to the right choices. As a father, mother, elder, or leader your individual decisions can make or mar the lives of those who look up to you. What is your current choice now? To accept and partake in the bread of life or to wander away looking for the bread that has no life giving power? “I challenge you take one post?”
Have a blissful Sunday and a wonderful week ahead.