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21st SUNDAY -B- August 26,2018

Joshua 24: 1-2a, 15-17, 18b Psalm 34 Ephesians 5:21-32 John 6: 60-69

by Jude Siciliano, OP

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Dear Preachers:


 The 21st




How many decisions do we make each day? Most are ordinary, just part of our daily routine: What shall I have for breakfast? Shall I have an egg? What time shall I go to bed? Will I watch television tonight… go online… or read? Others, not as frequent, require deliberation and are more consequential: What kind of work will I do? Which school will I attend? With whom will I form a friendship, or enter into a lasting relationship? These are decisions similar to the ones today’s readings challenge us to make: they call for commitment. They are not choices we are forced to make out of fear or punishment. But what we choose will affect our whole lives – how we view the world. They will also guide us in our makeing life-directing decisions. Today’s readings ask us: whether we will continue to choose, or not choose God, as we face the new challenges life puts before us.

In our first reading Moses’ successor, Joshua, is now the leader of the people. We are at the close of the Book of Joshua and the people are ending their 40 year desert journey. They are about to enter Canaan, where they will not only meet opposition, but their allegiance to God will be tempted by the new difficulties and false gods they will encounter. Before they cross over Joshua addresses them. The setting is important, Shechem was the place of the shrine Abraham visited (Genesis 12:ff). It also may have been the place where, for a time, the ark of the covenant was housed. It is the appropriate place for Joshua to call the people to renew their covenant with God.

Before he asks for the people’s commitment, Joshua reminds them what God has done for them: "For it was the Lord our God who brought us and our fathers up out of the land of Egypt, out of a state of slavery." God chose the enslaved people, freed them from bondage and cared for them for the 40 years they traveled across the desert. When Moses first went to the people, he invited them to trust God and follow him out of slavery into the desert. It was a turning point – a moment of decision. Now, Joshua invites them to renew their commitment. Once again they are at a turning point; once again they are invited to choose God. Based on what? Based on what God has done for them in their past. In case they have forgotten, or are hesitant, Joshua reminds them of who their God is and what God has already done for them. He is assuring them that God will continue to be their protector and deliverer in this new moment of the community’s life.

Not all of life’s turning points lead to something better. Sometimes we are faced with a moment of crisis – a death, collapse of our life’s project, rupture in a relationship, family disruptions, etc. At these moments it is as if Joshua is standing before us saying what he said to the Israelites at a crucial moment in their history – Remember God’s faithfulness in your past difficult moments; when your strength was not enough to see you through. Remember how God was with you each step of that difficult journey. Drawing on that memory can you once again trust in "the God of our ancestors" to sustain and enlighten you each new step you must take? The God of the Covenant, your Deliverer and Protector, Joshua proclaims, was and still is, your faithful God.

Drawing on our past experience of God we do our best to profess, as Joshua did: "As for me and my household we will serve the Lord." Parents, like Joshua, are called to be the prophetic leaders of their "household"; called to guide their families in commitment to God’s ways. That seems more difficult these days, as fewer of our children profess the faith we, who gather in worship, profess today. Should we invite Joshua to join us in prayer for those we parent, teach in religion classes and also in our classes at school? God is loyal to us, Joshua assures, and we pray today to be faithful to the God Joshua and Jesus reveal to us.

This summer we have been hearing readings from John 6, which began with the multiplication of the loaves and fish. In the "Bread of Life Discourse" following the miracle, Jesus has been teaching its significance for our faith. Today his teaching comes to a close, next week we return to Mark, our gospel for this liturgical year.

Jesus’ disciples were no different than the Israelites crossing the desert. When times were difficult they also murmured against God. The Israelites complained about the stress of their long desert travel. Jesus’ disciples murmured about what he had just said to them, after he multiplied bread for the crowds.

Today we are at a turning point in Jesus’ ministry. As he ends his discourse he asks his disciples for a decision: will they accept the bread he is offering them – his teaching and his very self? They have eaten the bread he fed them and, just as Joshua asked faith from the gathered tribes at Shechem, Jesus asks his disciples to profess faith in him. Will they accept what he has taught them and accept him, the bread of life?

Jesus is forthright with his disciples. He is inviting a faith that will encourage them to draw near to him, faith not in the wonders he performs, but in himself, the life he has shown in the signs he has performed. What was it that turned many of his followers away? Was it the hard saying that they must eat his flesh and drink his blood? Or, was it what he said about participating in the death he was about to undergo himself? Either was hard for them to grasp and accept.

Jesus reminded them and us what makes our faith possible, who is the Source that enables us to follow him. "No one can come to me unless it is granted by my Father." Peter’s faith will falter; like ours does when it is tested. But after hearing Jesus’ challenging words, Peter does not turn away. He may not understand the consequences of saying "Yes" to Jesus, but he believes in the one he has come to love and will continue to follow him.

Today, at our Eucharistic celebration, Jesus is again teaching and encouraging us to accept and follow him. Then, he gives us the gift of real food and drink – his very self. Joshua’s words echo in the discussion between Jesus and his disciples: "Decide today, who will you follow." When we eat and drink the meal offered us at this Eucharist do we realize the choice Jesus gave his disciples is also put before us? But the very fact we come forward to eat and drink is a sign of the Spirit’s life in us and that Spirit will enable us to profess what Peter did, "To whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe that you are the Holy One of God."

Click here for a link to this Sunday’s readings:




If it does not please you to serve the Lord, decide today whom you will serve

Joshua 24:15

No one can be forced to love someone because to genuinely love is to freely choose. Scripture is quite clear that God creates humans with free-will--God gives us choices, offers us the way that is best, and calls on us to choose that way (for an example, read Ezekiel 18). Yet, despite all that God does for us, even God can’t be guaranteed to be loved in return.

To love someone requires us to give of ourselves. In order to show God our love, we willingly perform loving service as a person guided by core values. The rich treasure of wisdom in scripture, Jesus’ life, and the repository of wisdom found in Catholic social teaching offers us the path. As we enter the autumn season, this is a good time to review the latter.

The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) highlight several key themes that are at the heart of our Catholic social tradition.

Life and Dignity of the Human Person. Human life is sacred and the dignity of the human person is the foundation of a moral vision for society.

Call to Family, Community, and Participation. The human person is not only sacred but social. We have a right and a duty to participate in society’s functioning, seeking together the common good and well-being, especially of the poor.

Rights and Responsibilities. A healthy community protects human rights and we have a responsibility to respond to abuses.

Option for the Poor and Vulnerable. This is not an option, as in optional. Recall the story of the Last Judgment (Mt. 25:31-46) and we know the importance of putting the needs of the poor and vulnerable first.

The Dignity of Work and the Rights of Workers. The economy must serve people, not the other way around.

Solidarity. We are one human family and loving our neighbor has global dimensions. At the core of the virtue of solidarity is the pursuit of justice and peace.

Care for God’s Creation. We have been given the job of stewardship of creation, and by doing so, we show respect and love for the Creator.

Whom will you serve?

--Barbara Molinari Quinby, MPS

Director of Social Justice Ministries

Holy Name of Jesus Cathedral, Raleigh, NC


Mini-reflections on the Sunday scripture readings designed for persons on the run. "Faith Book" is also brief enough to be posted in the Sunday parish bulletins people take home.

From today’s Gospel reading:

Jesus said to the Twelve, "Do you also want to leave?"

Simon Peter answered him, "Master to whom shall we go

You have the words of eternal life."


When we eat and drink the meal offered us at this Eucharist do we realize the choice Jesus gave his disciples is also put before us? But the very fact we come forward to eat and drink is a sign of the Spirit’s life in us and that Spirit will enable us to say what Peter said, "To whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life."

So we ask ourselves:

  • Do our daily choices reveal to others our choice to follow Jesus?
  • How can we further commit ourselves to him today?


"One has to strongly affirm that condemnation to the death penalty is an inhuman measure that humiliates personal dignity, in whatever form it is carried out."

---Pope Francis

Inmates on death row are the most forgotten people in the prison system. Each week I post in this space several inmates’ names and addresses. I invite you to write a postcard to one or more of them to let them know we have not forgotten them. If you like, tell them you heard about them through North Carolina’s, "People of Faith Against the Death Penalty." If the inmate responds you might consider becoming pen pals.

Please write to:

  • Marcos Mitchel #0488288 (On death row since 11/4/97)
  • Jerry M. Cummings #0095361 (11/11/97)
  • Elrico Fowler #0134151 (11/14/97)

----Central Prison 4285 Mail Service Center, Raleigh, NC 27699-4285

For more information on the Catholic position on the death penalty go to the Catholic Mobilizing Network:

Also, check the interfaith page for People of Faith Against the Death Penalty:


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Thank you and blessings on your preaching,

fr. Jude Siciliano, O.P.

Jude Siciliano, OP - Click to send email.


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