26Aug 26 August. 21st Sunday

1st Reading: Joshua (24:1-2, 15-18)

When the people cross over to the Promised Land, will they continue to serve the true God?

Joshua gathered all the tribes of Israel to Shechem, and summoned the elders, the heads, the judges, and the officers of Israel; and they presented themselves before God. And Joshua said to all the people, “Thus says the Lord, the God of Israel: Long ago your ancestors-Terah and his sons Abraham and Nahor-lived beyond the Euphrates and served other gods. Now if you are unwilling to serve the Lord, choose this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your ancestors served in the region beyond the River or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you are living; but as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.”

Then the people answered, “Far be it from us that we should forsake the Lord to serve other gods; for it is the Lord our God who brought us and our ancestors up from the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery, and who did those great signs in our sight. He protected us along all the way that we went, and among all the peoples through whom we passed; and the Lord drove out before us all the peoples, the Amorites who lived in the land. Therefore we also will serve the Lord, for he is our God.”

Responsorial (Ps 34)

R./ Taste and see the goodness of the Lord

I will bless the Lord at all times;
his praise shall be always in my mouth.
Let my soul glory in the Lord;
the lowly will hear me and be glad. (R./)

The Lord has eyes for the just,
and ears for their cry.
The Lord confronts the evildoers,
to destroy remembrance of them from the earth. (R./)

When the just cry out, the Lord hears them,
and from all their distress he rescues them.
The Lord is close to the brokenhearted;
and those who are crushed in spirit he saves. (R./)

Many are the troubles of the just one,
but out of them all the Lord delivers him;
he watches over all his bones;
not one of them shall be broken. (R./)

2nd Reading: Ephesians (5:21-32)

In Paul’s mind, marriage symbolises the love between Christ and the Church

Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, in order to make her holy by cleansing her with the washing of water by the word, so as to present the church to himself in splendor, without a spot or wrinkle or anything of the kind-yes, so that she may be holy and without blemish. In the same way, husbands should love their wives as they do their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. For no one ever hates his own body, but he nourishes and tenderly cares for it, just as Christ does for the church, because we are members of his body. “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.” This is a great mystery, and I am applying it to Christ and the church.

Gospel: John (6:60-69)

When many turn away from him, Jesus’ apostles must choose

Many of Jesus’ hearers remarked, “This teaching is difficult; who can accept it?” But Jesus, being aware that his disciples were complaining about it, said to them, “Does this offend you? Then what if you were to see the Son of Man ascending to where he was before? It is the spirit that gives life; the flesh is useless. The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life. But among you there are some who do not believe.”

For Jesus knew from the first who were the ones that did not believe, and who was the one that would betray him. And he said, “For this reason I have told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted by the Father.” Because of this many of his disciples turned back and no longer went about with him. So Jesus asked the twelve, “Do you also wish to go away?”


Where do you stand?

After all the turbulent, argumentative scenes, John 6 closes with words which sound very contemporary: ‘What about you, do you want to go away too?’ With all that’s going on church-wise, it can indeed be hard to keep going. The question is reminiscent of the first words of Jesus in this Gospel: “What are you looking for?” (John 1:38) Also it recalls his question to Mary Magdalen: “Whom are you looking for?” (John 20:15) Each of us must answer these questions based on our own experience of faith and prayer.

(Kieran O’Mahony). For his exegetical commentary on today’s readings, click here.

The Pope speaks for many

In a generous essay about this weekend’s papal visit to Ireland (Irish Times, 25/08/2018), Gordon Linney accepts that the Pope speaks for many, by preferring a church which is “bruised, hurting and dirty because it has been out on the streets, rather than a church which is unhealthy from being confined and from clinging to its own security.” Linney praises the pastoral instincts of pope Francis and his impatience with rules that lack compassion. and his critical awareness that the church could become a museum piece if not open to renewal. While this Pope strongly defends the life of the unborn, he calls on people to equally value the lives of the poor, those already born, the destitute, the abandoned and the underprivileged, the vulnerable infirm and the elderly exposed to covert euthanasia, the victims of human trafficking, new forms of slavery, and every form of rejection.

Francis, who carries the great responsibility of the church’s chief pastor, has famously urged clerics to engage closely with their people’s lived reality, to “carry the smell of the sheep.” He want us to step beyond the comfort zone of sacred buildings and solemn liturgies and engage gently with people in the marketplace of everyday life as Jesus did. But, soberly, Gordon Linney adds how today’s Gospel has a cautionary word for anyone who has exaggerated expectations of the pope’s visit. Even Jesus himself could not keep the loyalty of all his listeners, since even among his own disciples many “turned away and no longer went about with him.”

Still, many in Ireland who continue to value the core of our Christian heritage will listen respectfully to to the man from Argentina for some encouragement and guidance in these complicated times.

Family life is noble

Today’s text from Ephesians is specially suitable on this day when Pope Francis concludes the World Meeting of Families in Dublin. Last evening he affirmed to an enthusiastic gathering in Croke Park, that family life is a noble vocation, to be lived in patience, love and joy.

Saint Paul understands marriage as the vocation within which most adult adult Christians seek to do God’s will for themselves and for others in their family. Every disciple of Jesus is called to integrity of life, to holiness really, and for most of us this is largely achieved within and through a faithful partnership in marriage . Whoever find this too idealistic may have such an austere idea of holiness that they find it hard to see how their  fits into it. Old-style devotional writing often linked holiness to heroic devotional or charitable activity by women and men vowed to  celibacy. It set the vocation to holiness and the choice of married life as not easily compatible. By contrast, St Paul presents the faithful living of family life as a basic way to holiness. This is not some second-best option for those who have neither the talent nor the zeal for apostolic works.

Our Church links holiness with embracing our role in this world. The married Christian’s vocation is to show genuine love as husband, wife, mother or father. Of course, to exercise this love with integrity is not so easy. The statistics of breakdown suggest how hard it is to sustain a permanent relationship. Far from the self-absorption which marks so much of modern living the ideal of faithful, life-long love looks more and more like a holy ideal, a glimpse into another and better world.

Most of us know people of patient courage who remained faithful despite the strain of their partner’s prolonged illness, or separation due to economic hardship. These challenging situations  are a true test of commitment. The promise made in Christian marriage is the commitment to no longer be the sole master / mistress of our own destiny. The married Christian no longer thinks merely in terms of “my life”– for everything is now related to another. This commitment is not one-sided but is mutually shared. At root, it is the mystery of Christ’s love, laying down our life for another. It is in and through this loving relationship, in the joy of giving and receiving love, that the married Christian is called to holiness. And living it is the married vocation.

(Peter Briscoe)

What if the minority is right?

In our culture success and value tend to be measured in numbers – of Hits, or Likes, or Votes. The most successful TV programme is one with the largest viewership. If the viewership declines, the programme is in trouble. Democracy is based on majority vote. In a Referendum, the side with the most votes wins.  In all kinds of ways, numbers matter in our society. The high-school with most of its graduates going on to University is top of the league. Any event that only attracts a small crowd is considered a failure.

Today’s gospel suggests that Jesus was not too concerned about numbers. Over the last four Sundays we have read from chapter 6 of John’s gospel where Jesus calls himself the Bread of Life and declares that we need to eat his flesh and drink his blood in order to have life. In today’s section, some of his own disciples strongly object to this teaching. ‘This is intolerable language’, they say, ‘How could anyone accept it?’ Jesus was very aware of this reaction among some of his followers. Yet he did not make any effort to soften his teaching in order to hold on to his numbers. Rather, he insists that his message conveys truth, spirit and life. As a result,  ‘many of his disciples left him and stopped going with him.’ He suddenly lost a whole swathe of his following. From the perspective of the culture of the time and of our own culture Jesus was no longer a success. Then he turned to the twelve apostles, his inner circle or core group, and asked them, ‘What about you? Do you want to go away too?’ He was prepared to lose even some of them rather than compromise on the teaching that he had given.

Clearly he did not regard the number of his followers was not the most important thing. His major aim was sharing the truth as he received it from God his Father. As it turned out, Jesus kept the loyalty of the twelve apostles. Peter, their spokesperson, grasped the moment to declare trust in Jesus, ‘Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the message of eternal life.’ Even so, Judas later betrayed him and Peter denied him. If success is measured by numbers, by the end of his life Jesus was a total failure.

Popular opinion does not always show what is really true. Numbers are not everything. If we opt to follow Jesus it is not because he was or is popular but because, like Peter, we recognize that he has the message of eternal life, that his words are spirit and life. At times we too will find some of his teaching hard to follow. It may be his challenging ideals in the Sermon on the Mount, about loving our enemies, or praying for people who did us wrong. Or we may question the justice in some of his parables. We may feel sorry for the older son in the parable of the prodigal son; or for those wage-slaves (in the parable of the Workers in the Vineyard) who worked all day and yet got the same wages as those who worked only for the last hour. It is alright to find ourselves struggling with some of what Jesus says. As Isaiah wrote, God’s thoughts are not our thoughts; God’s ways are not our ways. Someone has said that Jesus afflicts the comfortable as often as he comforts the afflicted.

The teaching and the life of Jesus will always challenge us at some level. There may even be times when we feel like giving up on it… but it is vital to keep renewing our response to his influence. The Eucharist is the primary moment when we commit ourselves again to the Lord’s vision. It is our weekly opportunity to make our own those words of Peter in today’s gospel, ‘Lord, you have the message of eternal life.’


Machtnamh: Is féidir don cheart a bheith ag an mionlach (Minorities can be right)

Deallríonn sé nach raibh Íosa ró-bhuartha faoi uimhrecha. Ní raibh sé sásta beag-is -fiú a dhéanamh ar aon chuid dá theagasc d’fhonn a chuid cáinteoirí a shásamh d’aon ghnó greim a choinneáil ar an slua a bhí bailithe thart air. Ag pointe áirithe thréig go leor de na deisceabail é. Chas sé ansan chuig an chuig an Dáréag, a phríomhghrúpa, agus d’iarr orthu, “Cad mar gheall oraibhse? Ar mhaith libh scaradh liom freisin?” Bhí sé sásta caillteanas a fhulaingt fiú ón bpríomhghrúpa sin seachas bheith géillliúil faoi fhírinne a theagaisc. Dealraíonn sé gur beag leis uimhreacha i gcomparáid leis an fhírinne a thug sé leis ó Dhia a Athair a roinnt ar an slua. Mar a tharla dh’fhan an dáréag dílis dó. Thuig Peadar, a n-urlabhraí, go raibh an deis ann chun dílse gan teorainn a dhearbhú d’Íosa, ‘A Thiarna, cé leis a rachaimis? Tá teachtaireacht na beatha shíoraí agat. ‘ Ach, ina dhiaidh sin, tráth a phaisean, dhein Judas é a bhrath agus shéan Peadar é. Má ghlachtar le humhreacha mar shlat tomhais don dea-thoradh, is cinnte tá gur theip in a iomlán ar saothar Íosa!

6 Responses

  1. Brian Fahy

    I have always loved visiting churches. I suppose it began with my own little parish church in Lancashire, a little gem of a building that I found cosy and warm and a place of love and presence. Often, on holiday in Ireland I would call into little churches and would feel the presence of the local people even when they were not there. In the course of my life as a Redemptorist, and as a christian, I must have been inside hundreds of churches.

    Of course the building is not really the church. It houses the church, for the church is the gathered people, and it is the gathered people we mean when we say, ‘Christ loves the church.’ Christ loves his people and sacrificed himself for us. Christ loves us and as part of his body we are graced to love one another. For us to love one another is for us to love ourselves. That is the nature of love. We find the fulfilment of our own hearts precisely in loving others.

    It is exactly like marriage. Man and woman find their fulfilment in mutual loving. They find in one another what I first found in my little parish church in Lancashire – a place of warmth and love and presence.

  2. Soline Humbert

    Following the Irish bishops’ document on domestic violence in 2000,
    several texts have been dropped from the Mass readings,including Ephesians 5:21-22.(Thank you Larry Ryan and Willie Walsh…)
    It is gratifying that the Second Reading at the WMF papal Mass will incorporate this change in Ephesians 5:2,25-32.(see WMF papal Mass liturgy).
    I hope that parishes throughout Ireland (and may be some elsewhere too)will read the same text as the one being read in the Phoenix Park in the presence of Pope Francis.A small step for woman….
    It is to be regretted that,18 years on,this is not mentioned on this site nor in the Sunday Mass readings on the Irish bishops’conference own website….
    We live in hope….


  3. Soline Humbert

    Further to enquiries,and to make it very clear,the Second Reading from Ephesians 5 at the forthcoming papal Mass of the World Meeting of Families 2018 Dublin OMITS verses 21,22,23,24.
    ( WMF website,click on Resources,click on Liturgical Resources,Scroll down to papal Mass….you can verify for yourselves)
    Thank you to all the courageous and persevering women,many of whom are now dead,who pushed for the changes in 2000.Take a bow,on earth and in Heaven.

  4. Soline Humbert

    Thank you for making the changes and dropping the subordinating verses.

  5. Brian Fahy

    I was home from junior seminary after my first three months away and was talking in the kitchen. My little sister, Sheila, aged 6, was looking and listening. Then she turned to her mammy and said, ‘oh mammy, his voice!’ Hearing the sound of her beloved brother again filled her with joy.

    In the gospel story of the cure of the leper – you can cure me if you want to – the scripture scholar, Denis McBride says that Jesus ‘declares his choice to heal the man and then speaks him better with the power of his word.’ And today we hear in the gospel of John that ‘the words I have spoken to you are spirit and they are life’. The gospel word speaks the world to health.

    If we take the Lord’s words into ourselves and speak them out to one another we will bring one another alive in the Lord. In all the confusion of the world Peter knows for sure that this word of the Lord is the message of eternal life. The voice of the Lord is our life.

  6. Joseph katongole

    Inspiring. Thank u

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