XXI Sunday of Ordinary Time
Joshua 24:1-2, 15-17
Thoughts for your Consideration: by John Gonzalez
In this Sunday’s readings we are invited to be renewed and recommitted to our faith community. The first reading offers us an historical glimpse of the evolution of our faith. The people with Joshua are now aware of the new situation they find themselves in. They have reached a new stage in their development where they are no longer wandering migrants but are now stable and responsible for a land that has been given to them. It was God who chose them and brought them here, but at this point they need to declare their own commitment to God and the faith of their fathers. This becomes the basis of their covenant, a social contract where two parties freely commit responsibility and faithfulness to each other. Joshua tells them that this covenant, should they freely choose to make it, will be difficult and challenging to keep. The historical development of this community will be a testament to this difficulty and we will witness the ups and downs of this covenant relationship.
In a sense what we are witnessing, through Jesus, is the relationship of faith evolving. The commitment that Jesus is offering his disciples is recommitment to the faith of their fathers. And yet the faith that Jesus if offering here sounds somewhat strange to them. Last week we heard his audience ask, “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?” But faith is evolving here and changing. Of course change is difficult. We are fortunate to have the vantage point of where we are in history. We can now understand that faith in God is now beyond any tribal borders and is indeed universal. This was clarified through the work of St. Paul and the early Christian community.
But we can only imagine the bewilderment of the people who heard this invitation. We should marvel at the stance of Peter and the remaining disciples. To recommit to a relationship when that relationship is definitely changing is to take a leap of faith into the unknown. Our faith continues to evolve in our present day. Our current situation is in the midst of great change and we must again renew our own faith tradition in light of what is happening to our society. What is God calling us to do? We must accept that this tradition will be consistent with that faith that Moses and Joshua had in God and with the faith that Jesus offered the disciples. But because our own situation has changed this faith will look different for us. One “sign of the times” that many of us are exploring is the question of our relationship towards creation. We are becoming well aware of the deep interconnection between what we do and how our environment reacts. Is it possible that our faith is growing towards a relationship not just with the global human community (which is still in need of development) but also with the larger ecological world? How shall we respond to this?
Paul’s use of the image of husband and wife is an excellent analogy for me to understand my own response to this evolving faith. The first covenant of our marriage was wonderful and in many ways simple, but the marriage developed and changed. Many aspects of our own relationship had to change when my daughter was born. That change was even greater after my son was born. I had wanted to go back to the covenant and expectations that we had originally made. It was my wife however who kept me in check with the fact that things have drastically changed and that if we were to continue in relationship we would have to accept a new dynamic in how we were to relate. This took me awhile but I began to see more clearly the truth of this matter. Our relationship had changed and if we were to choose to stay together then we had to renew our commitment based on the new dynamics that were part of our life. I remember taking a leap of faith and letting go with so much of my own expectation and desire. I also remember how years later I was able to again fully appreciate this renewal. Paul tells us that our relationship with God is quite similar. We do not live in a static unchanging environment. As God gets ready to change the dynamics of our relationship we will again be called to renew this relationship.