Joshua 24:1-2a, 15-17, 18b
Joshua gathered together all the tribes of Israel at Shechem, summoning their elders, their leaders, their judges, and their officers. When they stood in ranks before God, Joshua addressed all the people: “If it does not please you to serve the Lord, decide today whom you will serve, the gods your fathers served beyond the River or the gods of the Amorites in whose country you are now dwelling. As for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.” But the people answered, “Far be it from us to forsake the Lord for the service of other gods. For it was the Lord, our God, who brought us and our fathers up out of the land of Egypt, out of a state of slavery. He performed those great miracles before our very eyes and protected us along our entire journey and among the peoples through whom we passed. Therefore we also will serve the Lord, for he is our God.”
Brothers and sisters: Be subordinate to one another out of reverence for Christ. Wives should be subordinate to their husbands as to the Lord. For the husband is head of his wife just as Christ is head of the church, he himself the savior of the body. As the church is subordinate to Christ, so wives should be subordinate to their husbands in everything. Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ loved the church and handed himself over for her to sanctify her, cleansing her by the bath of water with the word, that he might present to himself the church in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. So also husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. For no one hates his own flesh but rather nourishes and cherishes it, even as Christ does the church, because we are members of his body. For this reason a man shall leave his father and his mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh. This is a great mystery, but I speak in reference to Christ and the church.
Gospel Cycle Cycle B
Many of Jesus’ disciples who were listening said, “This saying is hard; who can accept it?” Since Jesus knew that his disciples were murmuring about this, he said to them, “Does this shock you? What if you were to see the Son of Man ascending to where he was before? It is the spirit that gives life, while the flesh is of no avail. The words I have spoken to you are Spirit and life. But there are some of you who do not believe.” Jesus knew from the beginning the ones who would not believe and the one who would betray him. And he said, “For this reason I have told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted him by my Father.” As a result of this, many of his disciples returned to their former way of life and no longer accompanied him. Jesus then said to the Twelve, “Do you also want to leave?” Simon Peter answered him, “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.”
Both the first reading today and the Gospel speak about the difficulties of accepting the teachings of God. The Book of Joshua is speaking about a rededication of the people to the Lord. Joshua is very clear to the people: the choice is yours. If you want to serve the Lord, then come with me. If you don’t want to serve the Lord our God, then go your own way. This choice is ours today as well. There are teachings of the Church which we need to accept in order to remain with the Church. If we don’t accept them, then we should go our own way and not continue to call ourselves Catholic. This is such a difficult decision today when lots of us will say: I am a Catholic but I don’t agree with all the teachings of the Church.
Lots of Catholics don’t understand the difference between something which is taught by the Church and must be believed and something which is only a discipline of the Church and is not taught at the level of belief. For instance, whether priests are married or unmarried is a discipline of the Church and is changeable. That does not mean that it is going to change, but only that it could be changed if the proper authorities in the Church decided that it was the right thing to do. We individual Catholic don’t change the rules for ourselves. Instead, if we are faithful to the Church, we might suggest changes but also accept the decisions of those who have the authority to make the changes. Thus the decision to ordain only unmarried men to the priesthood in the Catholic Church is a discipline. Occasionally, when a convert clergyman is ordained and he is married, we see that this regulation is only discipline.
There are other aspects of our faith that are taught as unchangeable. For instance, in 1854, Pope Pius IX proclaimed the dogma of the Immaculate Conception, and in 1950 Pope Pius XII proclaimed the dogma of the Assumption of Mary. These are teachings given to us which are unchangeable.
In the Gospel today we see Jesus speaking to his followers and asking them if they can really accept what He has been saying. This is still Chapter 6 of the Gospel of John. What Jesus has been saying is about the Holy Eucharist, about His presence in the bread, about His relationship to the Father—and basically about how God loves us. The teaching of Jesus was too difficult for many of his disciples and they left Him at this point. The teachings of our Catholic Church are also difficult for many.
The second reading today, from the Letter to the Ephesians, reflects some of the difficult teachings of the New Testament. The way in which Saint Paul explains the relationship between woman and man in marriage today offends some people. Instead of seeking how to understand this teaching, many people simply reject it.
You and I are all challenged to keep struggling with the Scriptures so that we can encounter the living God present there. We must also struggle with our Catholic Church because it is the living presence of Christ present in our world today. In order to struggle, we must be humble and accept that I personally do not have all the answers and that even my way of thinking may need conversion.
May the Lord help us today so that we may walk with Him and not just by our own light.