August 23, 2015

August 23, 2015

We live in a world of ever-increasing choices: TV channels, food & beverage options, mobile apps, extracurricular activities, vehicles to drive, music to listen to, etc.  Sometimes I appreciate having these choices or being able to customize things.  Other times having too many choices can actually lead to a hasty decision you later regret (like ordering a Baconator).  Many times, I’m really just tired of all the choices.

 

We live in a world of ever-increasing choices.  Some choices are rather insignificant: what brand of clothes to buy, what kind of salad dressing to get.  Others, of course, are very significant: discerning a vocation, looking to move to a new location or change jobs, being open to the gift of children.

 

Our Scriptures today deal with making a clear choice.  We hear Joshua say to all the tribes of Israel, “decide today whom you will serve.”  In the Gospel, after many who had followed Jesus scattered in shock at His “Bread of Life Discourse,” He simply asks the Twelve, “Do you also want to leave?”  The Israelites had had many significant experiences of God being involved in their lives as they made their way through the desert to the Promised Land; the Apostles had many experiences of the works and teachings of Jesus as they made their way from town to town.  And so based on their encounters with the living God, both the Israelites and the Apostles immediately respond to the invitation to faith by essentially saying, “Yes. God. Definitely. We’re in. All the way. Absolutely. Without a doubt.” 

 

But of course even an unflinching “yes” is not always so easy to live out.  Those Israelites who said “Far be it from us to follow anyone but God” would fail to remain faithful and would turn away from God time and time again.  And the Apostles, too, had their weaker moments, even fleeing from Jesus at his darkest hour.  But fortunately God remains faithful and merciful.  And the question remains; as well as the invitation. 

 

This brings us to ourselves/our own lives/our own relationship with God.  We too have the decision to serve the Lord or to serve other things.  We too have the choice to follow Jesus.  But maybe we’re tempted to lump this choice in with the many other choices we have in life—things that we can either do or not do.  But THIS choice is not even a big choice.  Really, it’s THE choice.  And it all has to do with who Jesus is, and whether or not we believe He is who He says He is.  He asks, “What if you were to see the Son of Man ascending to where he was before?”  He’s the Second Person of the Most Holy Trinity come down from heaven, the incarnate Word of God.  That’s who He is.  So when He says things like, “I am the bread of life,” “my flesh is true food and my blood is true drink,” “this is my body…this is my blood,” it means something.  His words are Spirit and life.  They make things happen.  Last week we heard, “Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me and I in him” and “Whoever eats this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give is my flesh for the life of the world.”

 

Our response to this—to Jesus—means everything.

 

St. Ignatius of Loyola, founder of the Jesuits in the 1500s and considered one of the great spiritual masters in the history of the Church, taught what he called the “first principal and foundation”:
The human person is created to praise, reverence, and serve God Our Lord, and by doing so, to save his or her soul.  All other things on the face of the earth are created for human beings in order to help them pursue the end for which they are created (http://www.bc.edu/bc_org/prs/stign/ignatian_spirit.html).  In this, we’re called to make the choices God wants for us because God knows what’s best for us.

 

One of the leaders of the Jesuits in the 1900s, Fr. Pedro Arrupe, is well-known for saying this: “Nothing is more practical than finding God, than falling in Love in a quite absolute, final way. What you are in love with, what seizes your imagination, will affect everything. It will decide what will get you out of bed in the morning, what you do with your evenings, how you spend your weekends, what you read, whom you know, what breaks your heart, and what amazes you with joy and gratitude. Fall in Love, stay in love, and it will decide everything.” (http://www.ignatianspirituality.com/ignatian-prayer/prayers-by-st-ignatius-and-others/fall-in-love)

 

This sets the stage, too, for our hosting the Parish Ignition Nights—Living the Ultimate Adventure—that the folks from Mass Impact [MassImpact.us] will be coming to guide us in, as I mentioned last week.  This three-night movement will be October 4-6, a Sunday through Tuesday.  It’s new way to help us discover more who Jesus is in our own lives and how we can better live out our faith.  Each evening will include a special session for those high school age through adults, one for middle school students, and things for children 5th grade and below to do as well, before all coming back together again.  Families are welcome, married couples are welcome, unmarried people are welcome, all are welcome.  I really pray you all make the decision to attend, because I believe not only would it have a mass impact on you and your household, but also on our parish family as a whole.  More information will follow.

 

With all of the ups and downs in life, and really because of all the ups and downs in life, we truly must make the decision each day to turn closer to God—who, of course, has first chosen us.  And as we journey along the way, God gives us the Sacraments to grace us and to help us to grow in faith.  To whom else shall we go?  Taste and see the goodness of the Lord.