21st Sunday in Ordinary Time, Cycle B
22nd August, 2021
Sunday Church at Home
during the Coronavirus Pandemic
Free To Choose Christ.
The leader makes the sign of the cross, saying:
Leader: In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.
All reply: Amen
Leader: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
All reply: Blessed be God for ever
Leader: We gather as people who have chosen to serve the Lord, chosen to walk the Christian way. We worship God who leads us on — and ask for strength to continue as we have begun.
LITURGY OF THE WORD
First Reading: Joshua 24:1-2a.15-17.18b
Introduction to the reading: After Moses died, God selected Joshua to lead the Israelites across the Jordan River into the Promised Land. Years later, as his own death approached, Joshua wished to ensure that the people would not forget all that God had done for their ancestors. In today’s reading, we will hear Joshua, then the people, renew the covenant made at Mount Sinai.
A reading from the Book of Joshua
In those days:
Joshua gathered all the tribes of Israel to Shechem,
and summoned the elders, the heads, the judges,
and the officers of Israel;
and they presented themselves before God.
And Joshua said to all the people,
“If you be unwilling to serve the Lord,
choose this day whom you will serve,
whether the gods your fathers served
in the region beyond the River
or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you dwell;
but as for me and my house,
we will serve the Lord.”
Then the people answered,
“Far be it from us that we should forsake the Lord,
to serve other gods;
for it is the Lord our God who brought us and our fathers
up from the land of Egypt,
out of the house of bondage,
and who did those great signs in our sight,
and preserved us in all the way that we went,
and among all the peoples through whom we passed;
therefore we also will serve the Lord,
for he is our God.”
The word of the Lord.
Responsorial Psalm: Psalm 34:1-2.15-22 (R. 8a)
Let us now pray the Responsorial Psalm:
R/. Taste and see that the Lord is good!
I will bless the Lord at all times;
praise of him is always in my mouth.
In the Lord my soul shall make its boast;
the humble shall hear and be glad.
The Lord turns his eyes to the just,
and his ears are open to their cry.
The Lord turns his face against the wicked
to destroy their remembrance from the earth.
When the just cry out, the Lord hears,
and rescues them in all their distress.
The Lord is close to the broken hearted;
those whose spirit is crushed he will save.
Many are the trials of the just man,
but from them all the Lord will rescue him.
He will keep guard over all his bones;
not one of his bones shall be broken.
Evil brings death to the wicked;
those who hate the just man are doomed.
The Lord ransoms the souls of his servants.
All who trust in him shall not be condemned.
R/. Taste and see that the Lord is good!
Second Reading: Ephesians 5:21-32
Introduction to the reading: In the letter to the Ephesians, the last part deals with family relationships, and is conditioned by the household structure of the time – wives, children, slaves – with the husband as patriarch” over all. Today’s excerpt talks about husbands and wives. Later, this letter will talk about relationship between children and parents, and between slaves and masters. What we learn is not that we re-create ancient social structures. Rather, we learn the timeless truth that Christ’s love for us should affect the way we love one another.
A reading from the Letter of Saint Paul to the Ephesians.
Brothers and sisters:
Be subject to one another out of reverence for Christ.
Wives, be subject to your husbands, as to the Lord.
For the husband is the head of the wife
as Christ is the head of the church, his body,
and is himself its Savior.
As the church is subject to Christ,
so let wives also be subject in everything to their husbands.
Husbands, love your wives,
as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her,
that he might sanctify her,
having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word,
that he might present the church to himself in splendour,
without spot or wrinkle or any such thing,
that she might be holy and without blemish.
Even so, husbands should love their wives as their own bodies.
He who loves his wife loves himself.
For no man ever hates his own flesh,
but nourishes and cherishes it,
as Christ does the church
because we are members of his body.
“For this reason, a man shall leave his father and mother
and be joined to his wife,
and the two shall become one flesh.”
This is a great mystery,
and I mean in reference to Christ and the Church.
The word of the Lord.
Your words, Lord, are Spirit and life; you have the words of eternal life.
Gospel: John 6:60-69
A reading from the Holy Gospel according to John
At that time:
Many of the disciples of Jesus said,
“This is a hard saying; who can listen to it?”
But Jesus, knowing in himself that his disciples murmured at it,
said to them,
“Do you take offence at this?
Then what if you were to see the Son of man
ascending where he was before?
It is the spirit that gives life,
the flesh is of no avail;
the words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life.
But there are some of you that do not believe.”
For Jesus knew from the first
who those were that did not believe,
and who it was that would betray him.
And he said,
“This is why I told you that no one can come to me
unless it is granted him by the Father.”
After this many of his disciples drew back
and no longer walked with him.
Jesus said to the twelve,
“Will you also go away?”
Simon Peter answered him,
“Lord, to whom shall we go?
You have the words of eternal life;
and we have believed, and have come to know,
that you are the Holy One of God.”
The Gospel of the Lord
Reflection on the Readings
The leader reads the text prepared by the priest and leads the sharing.
A Churchgoer wrote a letter to the editor of a newspaper and complained that it made no sense to go to church every Sunday. “I’ve gone for 30 years now,” he wrote, “and in that time I have heard something like 1 500 sermons. But for the life of me, I can’t remember a single one of them. So, I think I’m wasting my time and the priests are wasting theirs by giving sermons at all.” This started a real controversy in the “Letters to the Editor” column, much to the delight of the editor. It went on for weeks until someone wrote this clincher: “I’ve been married for 30 years now. In that time my wife has cooked some 32,000 meals. But, for the life of me, I cannot recall the entire menu for a single one of those meals. But I do know this. They all nourished me and gave me the strength I needed to do my work. If my wife had not given me these meals, I would be physically dead today. Likewise, if I had not gone to Church for nourishment, I would be spiritually dead today!”
“It is the Lord our God who brought us and our ancestors up from the land of Egypt.”
Joshua is reminding the tribes of Israel that God is a Promise Keeper. Joshua had gathered the people at Shechem for a crucial meeting and when the tribes came together he formed them into the nation of Israel. Joshua had led them into battle against the Canaanites. The people were motivated in their struggle by their belief that God had promised them a land. With their success Joshua called the Israelites to renew the covenant and recommit themselves to God.
There were other religions and cults to draw the people away from God. Joshua makes it very clear: the people must commit to their God who led them out of slavery, across the desert to the Promise Land. Joshua sets the example by professing his own faith, “As for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.”
This is what we want to imitate.
First for ourselves – to express and live by a clear statement of faith. “As for me… I will serve the Lord.” But not just for ourselves. If we have family, especially younger members, we want to set an example and have them join us in our commitment to God. Joshua’s statement is also a prayer we would make: “As for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.”
We know that’s what our younger generation needs from us; not just lectures and rules, but an example, a role model, who shows by words and actions, “As for me… I will serve the Lord.”
If we can set the example for our children, then we can say, “As for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.”
The commitment Joshua calls for is not just for individual faithfulness to God. It is for the whole people and nation to renew the covenant and commit themselves to their faithful God. And that what we wish for South Africa: that we be a people faithful to God and God’s ways.
The memory and consequences of the politically motivated violence and looting in July is fresh in our minds. We have the immense challenge of striving to imitate God’s love for each member of our community, and to respect the unique gifts of each member.
People are different, yet Joshua calls each and all to pledge allegiance to God. He stirs up the community’s memory of God’s saving actions for them to spur their enthusiastic response and commitment. As we look back on our lives we try to be conscious of how God has stayed with us, especially through difficult times.
“Wives, be subject to your husbands, as to the Lord.”
To our modern ears this is just so wrong. The second reading from Ephesians borders on the offensive – maybe it even crosses over the line – at least in our initial hearing.
The letter was probably written by an unknown author in the Pauline tradition and is an example of how the early Christians adapted the “household codes” of their day, which came from the surrounding Greek world. These were codes based on subjection, setting forth the duties of members of the household – husbands as the heads and then, wives, children, and slaves. In the New Testament these codes were “Christianized,” usually by adding terms like, “in the Lord” or, as in Ephesians today, “out of reverence for Christ.”
Ephesians presents marriage as a parable for the relations between Christ and his Church. This section begins with the usual household code’s teaching, “Wives, be subject to your husbands….”
Then, elaborating in a more Christian sense, the writer calls for the husband to love his wife without reservation. Now the emphasis shifts to the responsibility of the husband to his wife.
Ephesians does not want to change the marriage code in the Greco-Roman world of the time. Instead the author asks Christians to live in a fundamentally different way. It’s there in the opening statement, “Be subject to one another out of reverence for Christ.”
In other words, live in a different way than those in the world around you. The husband, the master of the household, who owns all the property and has all the power, is to subordinate himself to the one who is regarded as powerless. Indeed, he is to see his wife as higher than himself!
How can Ephesians ask for such a world-shattering way of behaving? Because Jesus is the model of such behavior.
Though Jesus was Lord, he freely humbled himself and submitted himself out of love for us. Some Christian traditions, based on the one verse “Wives be subject to your husbands,” take this verse out of context in order to oppress women. It is painful to realize how much Scripture can be misinterpreted and abused. In its context, we can see that the complete text requires mutual self-sacrificing love, service and sharing.
In the gospel the disciples have to make a choice when Jesus asks them, “Do you want to leave me, to?” This is a turning point for the disciples: do they want to continue with Jesus and believe in him, despite the hard teaching he has placed before them?
If they do they must eat his body and drink his blood, i.e. be a full part of the Eucharistic Memorial which recalls his death and resurrection. We face the same challenge today. During Alert Level 3, only 50 people are allowed to come to be part of the Eucharistic Memorial in the celebration of Mass. The temptation is to stay at home and forget about my commitment. Sharing Jesus, the bread of life, binds us in a religious community, a community of faith living by the example Jesus set in his sacrifice for us.
All the disciples have witnessed Jesus’ works and heard his teachings. But, just as coming to church, it is more than a matter of showing up. Like the disciples, we too are asked for a full commitment to Christ.
Joshua and his household gave themselves totally to God. Jesus makes it clear to his disciples that God has given them the gift to believe in him, a gift we have also received. It is not only this faith that brings us here to worship and give thanks. We are asked to respond to the One we receive: to follow him, share his life with one another and be the witnesses of his life to the world.
From the Book of Joshua:
Joshua addressed all the people…
“As for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.”
Isn’t Joshua’s testimony what parents at today’s Eucharist are trying to make and set as an example for their children? They hope, when their children become adults they, like their parents before them, will say, “As for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.”
So, we ask ourselves:
- How did my own parents encourage or hinder my life of faith?
- What kind of example of faith am I in my family?
Prayer of the Faithful
Leader: Jesus has the message of eternal life. Let us come through him to the Father and pray for all our needs
We pray for the Church: (pause) that we will find nourishment and sustenance in Christ, the Bread of Life, for our daily journey and the fulfillment for all the hungers and yearnings of our hearts
LORD HEAR US
We pray for married couples and for their children: (pause) that they may be happy and rejoice in their love for one another. We pray especially for those whose marriages and family life are beset with problems and sorrow: may they know the love of Christ for them.
LORD HEAR US
We pray for all who are suffering in South Africa: (pause) that better ways may be found of resolving conflicts, growing in understanding and helping those who are in the greatest need.
LORD HEAR US
We pray for a transformation of our minds and hearts: (pause) that the Holy Spirit will free us from all bitterness and anger and guide us in living as children of God each day.
LORD HEAR US
We pray for relief from the Covid pandemic: (pause) that God will renew the strength of all healthcare workers, keep them safe from the virus, and that the rollout of vaccines may swiftly reach all our people.
LORD HEAR US
We pray for deceased members of our families and friends whose anniversaries occur about this time.
LORD HEAR US
We pray for Peggy La Trobe, Sally-Ann Gorton and Natalie Jackson who died during the week. Eternal rest grant unto them, O Lord.
And let perpetual light shine upon them.
May they rest in peace. Amen.
Leader: Let us pray for peace in Southern Africa
O God of justice and love,
bless us the people of Southern Africa
and help us to live in your peace.
Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.
Where there is hatred let me sow love;
where there is injury let me sow pardon;
where there is discord let me sow harmony.
grant that I may not so much seek to be understood,
as to understand,
to be loved as to love,
to receive sympathy as to give it.
For it is in giving that we shall receive,
in pardoning that we shall be pardoned,
in forgetting ourselves
that we shall find unending peace with others.
We ask this through Christ our Lord.
We can unite ourselves to the Eucharist through making a spiritual Communion.
By making an Act of Spiritual Communion, we express our faith in Christ’s Real Presence in the Eucharist and ask him to unite himself with us.
My Jesus, I believe you are really here in the Blessed Sacrament.
I love you more than anything in the world, and I hunger to receive you.
But since I cannot receive Communion at this moment, feed my soul spiritually. I unite myself to you now as I do when I receive you. Amen.
Leader: Let us pray to the Father in the words Jesus our Saviour gave us:
All say: Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name; thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us; and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. Amen.
In every age, O God,
you give your people freedom
to walk in faith
or to turn away.
Grant us grace
to remain faithful to your Holy One,
whose words are spirit and life,
Jesus Christ, our Lord,
who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God for ever and ever.
Leader: May the Lord bless us, protect us from all evil and bring us to everlasting life.