XXI SUNDAY OF THE YEAR
joshua 24:1-2a, 15-17, 18b; ephesians 5:21-32; john 6:60-69
1924. a few weeks before the paris olympics. the favourite in the four-man canoe race: the us of a. one team-member, bill havens, faces the toughest decision of his life: his wife is expecting their first child about the time of the event… should bill go to the olympics or be with his wife? a very tough choice! bill’s wife urged him to go but he decided to be with her.
the us won the gold medal. and ironically, the child was born much after the due date. bill could have competed in the event, and returned in time for the birth. but he had no regrets. he had made a commitment to be with his wife always; he was faithful to that commitment.
bill havens’ story is a story of one man paying a high price to fulfil a commitment. it is a story that illustrates how we should be committed to our choices.
the first reading describes the covenant renewal at shechem before the israelites entered the promised land. joshua gathered the people together, declared his choice to serve the LORD, and asked them to make their choice: to follow the GOD of their ancestors or the gods of the land. the people made their choice: «we will also serve the LORD, because he is our GOD». every generation (and every person) must freely choose to live up to its commitment.
in the second reading, st paul urges husbands and wives to be faithful to their marriage commitment. this fidelity is based on CHRIST’s fidelity and love for his church.
the gospel, too, features commitment! JESUS offers his disciples the choice to be with him or to join the ranks of the unbelievers. he had been a popular man: the wonder worker; the healer; the feeder of the 5000! but then he started talking tough; many disciples are first confused at his teaching (about the bread of life), then find it intolerable/unacceptable, and finally choose to leave him. we have one of the saddest lines in the gospels: «many of his disciples drew back and no longer went with him.»
then, JESUS gives the twelve the choice: to remain with him or to leave; to be the faithful minority or to follow the majority! peter – the spokesperson of the twelve – tells JESUS that they cannot turn to anyone else. they have made their choice and remain committed to that choice.
the word of god challenges us to make our choice for GOD and to be committed to that fundamental choice… every day.
do i remain faithful to GOD in times of difficulty and trials… when my integrity is tested? or do i «no longer go with him»? do i opt for him in the daily choices i make? am i faithful to my commitment to my family? in what aspects do i need to renew my commitment to GOD and my family?
ps: there is a sequel to the story of bill havens.
twenty eight years later, bill received a cablegram from his son, frank, from helsinki, the venue of the 1952 olympics: «dad, i won. i’m bringing home the gold medal you lost while waiting for me to be born.» frank havens won the gold medal for the united states in the canoe-racing event, a medal his father had dreamed of winning but never did because he lived his commitment.
there is a sequel to our acts of commitment too! may we stay committed our fundamental choices, to GOD and to one another.