“Assessing the situation… while thinking about the virtue of fidelity to God.”

Joshua 24
Psalm 34 “the Lord is close to the brokenhearted, and those who are crushed in spirit He save.
Ephesians 5
Gospel of John 6:60-69 which begins
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?…. (But do you know Who I am?!)  What if you were to see the Son of Man ascending to where he was before?  (And what is real important to note here is that)  It is the spirit that gives life, while the flesh is of no avail.  (People of this world are in sin, yet)  The words I have spoken to you are Spirit and life.  But there are some of you who do not believe.”

Here’s a quote to begin…”True happiness… is not attained through self-gratification, but through fidelity to a worthy purpose.”  So said Helen Keller.  She was one to see well into things unseen.

Fidelity is a virtue we need today. It is the virtue of consistency, leading to healthy, reliable thought and reason, high morality, worthy trust, and relational or communal loyalty. It is the way of living as by high principles, which builds into a lifetime of doing what one says, and of being real, sincere, and of having a congruence of words and actions, by following a knowledgeable trusty path.  Fidelity follows not blindly, but with truth and understanding and insight. It leads a person to a content one-mindedness, not the doubled minded, divided, unsatisfied personality. Fidelity disfavors hypocrisy much, for it wants to follow a practice of alignment and some impeccability. Hypocrisy is a self-betrayal. The wise sage has always said: To thine own self, be true.  

Still, in a phrase: Fidelity is the consistency virtue.   

Fidelity is neither fickleness—as in being too particular, or aloof or too strictly demanding, nor is it obstinacy—as in the practice of unfounded persistence or stubbornness.   Fidelity is not solely interested in being exacting or being precise—unless one is simply copying something.  In relationship to life, fidelity seeks to have love on its same path. Fidelity and love walk together, and need to be together.

Fidelity is a consistency of thought, reason, morality, and loyalty to the higher good.  Synonyms for it are devotion, allegiance, fealty, and obedience.  It is often referred to as in a faithfulness to a person, cause, or belief, and it is demonstrated by the practitioner’s  continuing loyalty and support.  It is from the Latin fidelitas.  It’s people being the fidelis or “the faithful.”

In something as beautiful as joining to the Perfection of Christ Jesus the Lord—we can talk of fidelity—as in his beautiful fidelitas to us. Likewise, He calls us into imitation of His good, by His asking for our being as His fidelis, His faithful.

A Fidelity Agreement or Contract of this kind is called a Covenant by God.  We come to keep in covenant with Him, following His faithful love to us. The Church is in a covenant life.  It exists for it. We long to be right with God and faithful.

Today in the Scriptures of Mass, God brings up the question of “Will you be faithful to Me?” as we listen to the challenge of Joshua at the close of that Bible book and his words to the fully back Jewish people…. Or as we listen to Jesus and His question to His apostle in a walk-away time of the people towards infidelity or the non-cooperation to what fidelity as a virtue challenges its adherents to.  

Joshua gathered together all the tribes of Israel to be at Shechem, and he
summoned the elders, leaders, judges, officers and many peoples.  They had just finished the task of the Exodus, of getting home from Egypt to Israel, and putting down back in their God-given land.  But Joshua sees that some have lost focus on the spiritual mission of the whole Exodus enterprise. He assesses the situation, and there is absolutely no joking around, as he says:  “Some people have taken to the local gods of the Amorite peoples who had infiltrated our lands. Among those of you, you have found some excuse to lose your fidelity now to the God of Israel, the One served by your forefathers and foremothers… (and then here Joshua makes it a direct pitch):  So “if it does not please you to serve the LORD, decide today whom you will serve.  How will it be?! Who will it be? (Then Joshua waits and gives a long silence before he speaks again.) But as for me and my household, we will serve the LORD!

In the Gospel today, we have another similar and serious assessment situation going on.  Jesus has seen numerous disciples and followers depart upon the revelations given in His Bread of Life Discourse.  As people got so upset that they left (about His covenant of Body and Blood offer, literally as when God in Christ put all His cards on the table and called out His remaining people there to decide), Jesus posed to them:   “To you, my apostles, do you also want to leave?”  

Jesus will put it squarely to them.   ‘Look, the rest of the folks, once here, have just found reason to bolt.   Now is your time of decision. What will it be?’

I think in my life, and probably in yours—you have come to some crossroads. Jesus has asked, or asks now: What will it be?  Which way are you going?

Jesus is saying to us.  ‘It’s personal—I give out my Body and Blood to you, and here you know Me as your Bread of Life?  Is it too much for you to follow Me?’

I hope that we can answer, as Simon Peter did answer Jesus, as like in this John 6:68 gospel verse: “Master, Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.   You are the Holy One of God—this we believe!!

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Some people mistakenly think you can separate the Church or body of believers from Jesus. But this Gospel shows how it’s not so, and later St. Paul certainly finds it out in his own conversion, when God says to Saul—the blinded by The Light persecutor of the First Church—“Why do you persecute Me?”  

It would move Paul, this church starter in Ephesus, to write to them passionately about the marriage of the Lord to His people, which is the main message of Ephesians chapter 5. He teaches them:  “The mission of God’s Son was to pour Himself into us, all to sanctify us, His body, His bride, His people chosen for Glory. Vs. 25-26 says: “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.”  Take that verse in again one extra time, and hear it to your soul. “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.

People:  This IS Christ’ ultimate Mission for you in this parish, to be formed for bridal union to His eternal love. That is The First Order of Things about a parish.   Don’t let anyone steer you otherwise.

As you assess things, and as I assess them, let’s listen to the Spirit of Truth.

As for cleaning house in this Temple of His Body, that’s another message in John’s Gospel, and its actually most of the message in John chapter 2.    That message, and this one of John 6, which we have visited four weekends in a row—all go together, and it’s all about fidelity.   Will we be His holy Temple now?   

What did Christ say in John 2:  I will raise up My temple….  It will be a Third Day Miracle.   paraphrased

What did Christ say in John 6:  He/she who eats My body, drinks My blood—I will raise them up on the last day—they shall not die and be no more, but shall live on eternally!  Almost word- for- word   How do you feel about being Christ’ Bride, the Church?  

Assess the situation….

One thought on “Homily for the Twenty-First Sunday in Ordinary Time: Assessing the Situation

  1. Believers in Jesus Christ are the bride of Christ, and we wait with great anticipation for the day we will be united with our Bridegroom. Until then we can choose to remain faithful to Him and say with all the redeemed of the Lord , Come, Lord Jesus!”

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