Homily - 21st Sunday in Ordinary Time-2018

Today's Homily, by Fr. Thomas Leitner. 

Focus:  All that God has done for us in our lives can fill us with gratitude.  We are called upon to make good choices an, “to prefer nothing to Christ” in our lives.

Dear sisters and brothers in the Lord, 0. a. The canonization of the late Archbishop of San Salvador, Oscar Romero, is scheduled for Oct. 14 this year.  At his beatification in 2015, Pope Francis stated, “His ministry was distinguished by a particular attention to the most poor and marginalized.”

Blessed Oscar Romero was truly a bishop of the people. Frequently he visited his parishes, even the remotest ones, which often involved hours of walking.  After celebrating the various sacraments with the people, he stood in line, plate in hand to receive his food, just like everyone else.  And he sat among the children, the young people, women, and the old folks; he also visited the people’s homes. 

Romero became archbishop in 1977, during the turbulent times leading up to El Salvador’s civil war.  Only at that he time he took full notice of the social injustices toward the poor, the assassinations and tortures that went on in his country.  And he began to speak out against them.  In his weekly sermons and radio talks, he listed disappearances, tortures, murders and much more, committed with the support of the government.  Death threats against him mounted; but Monseñor remained firm and faithful; he found his confidence, even his joy in Jesus Christ.

On March 24, 1980, Romero suffered his martyrdom.  He celebrated Mass in a hospital chapel, one day after a sermon in which he had called on Salvadoran soldiers, as Christians, to obey God’s higher order and to stop carrying out the government’s repression and violations of basic human rights.  As soon as he finished his sermon, Romero proceeded to the middle of the altar and at that moment he was fatally shot.

In today’s gospel, we find Jesus’ contemporary disciples involved in decision-making at a moment of crisis.  Some leave him, others remain with him.  The words that Jesus had spoken about himself were scandalizing to them.  Can this very human person from Nazareth in Galilee, be, at the same time, the One who came from God and who knows the Father as nobody else does?

As the Bread of Life discourse, whose conclusion we heard today, progresses, Jesus words became even more scandalous.  “Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood have eternal life.”  What does this mean?  Many probably simply didn’t understand at this point.  Jesus, according to the account of John’s gospel, anticipated on that day after the multiplication of the loaves the institution of the Eucharist.  For Jews, blood was a symbol of life.  With his whole person, Jesus would become food for others.  He would give his life for them.

A Messiah who dies by shedding his blood?  This didn’t seem to make sense.  And being friends with one who will die a violent death might also be dangerous, to say the least.  Is the cost of being a disciple of Jesus too high?

Today’s first reading is taken from the concluding chapter of the OT book of Joshua.  Joshua, the successor of Moses, reminds the people of how God has gathered, liberated and guided them on all their ways, throughout their long journey.  And he gives them a choice: to serve the LORD or to venerate other gods.  He ends with the confession, “As for me and my household, we will serve the LORD.”  The people also pledge their allegiance to God.

The equivalent of this commitment in the gospel is the response of Peter, who replies, in the name of the Twelve, in spite of all that is difficult and challenging,  to the question of Jesus, “Do you also want to leave?” with “Master, to whom shall we go?  You are the Holy One of God.”

For us Christians, there is a difference, however, between these two passages from the Old Testament and the New Testament.  The people of the Old Covenant experienced the persistent and insistent love and care of God for them in events.  Time and again they realized: God’s providence and God’s power was at work on their behalf. Jesus, over and above that, the Holy One of God, personifies God’s love.  In him it has become palpable and tangible.       

Dear sisters and brothers in the Lord, today’s Scripture texts can serve as a reminder for us of all that God has done for us in our lives.  This can fill us with gratitude.  And they call upon us, to make good choices, and as St. Benedict would put it, “to prefer nothing to Christ” in our lives.

It is in Holy Scripture, that we find nourishment and guidance.

The Eucharist invites us each time we attend it, to bring our lives to God, just the way they are.  Whatever we hold out to him is being transformed and deepens our oneness with him.

Sometimes it is right and necessary for us to speak out when around us and in our society injustice is committed, human life is destroyed or human dignity disregarded.

Blessed Oscar Romero ,who will soon be Saint Oscar Romero, prayed even in moments of darkness and fear and so was able to make good choices even in the most difficult circumstances. So he became the people’s great example of faithfulness.  Looking to him can inspire us, too, to make the right decisions, even when it’s not easy to do so and to say to Jesus as did Peter in the gospel, “Master, to whom shall we go?  You have the words of eternal life.”