21st Sunday of Ordinary Time: Do You Also Want to Leave?

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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?”

As Catholics, and in light of current events, these words from John’s Gospel take on new significance. And Saint Peter’s answer really cuts to the heart of it. “Master, two whom shall we go?”

To whom, indeed?

In the course of the past year, it seems like the news has inundated us with stories of men behaving badly. From our political leaders and entertainers to business leaders and educators, it can feel as though every corner of our society these days is infested with sexual predation.

In the first reading, Joshua puts the challenge to his people, and to us, to “decide today whom you will serve.” Do we serve the values and ideals of the culture in which we live? Or do we serve God?

The values of the World we live in are values of power and influence. Those who have it take what they want from those who don’t. And our society has, largely, let them get away with it. But God has always taken the side of the downtrodden, the underprivileged, the abused. So whom will we serve?

Saint Paul, in describing the relationship between Christ and His Church as that of a Bridegroom to His Bride, invites us to reconsider our Worldly assumptions of how we relate to each other. In Christ we have the God who, as Saint Paul says elsewhere, “empties Himself, taking the form of a slave.” This is not the conquering or domineering relationships of worldly power. Christ’s love is generous, giving His whole self without condition or reserve. It is by imitating this love, by modelling it in our lives and in our own relationships, that we present an alternative to the predominant culture of violence, rape, abuse, and assault,

At a time like this, it is important to keep in mind that the hierarchy is not the Church. The priests, bishops, and cardinals are the curators of our Deposit of Faith, but the Church is us. Saints and sinners united in Christ, striving, mostly failing, but pressing on none the less. And in the end, when this life with its power and wealth and influence has passed away, this love of God and of our neighbor is all we take with us to the next life.

That is the choice before us. And as for me and my household, we will serve the Servant King.