Society of St. Peter and Paul Seminary

Society of St. Peter and Paul Seminary

21st Sunday in Ordinary Time - Year B

Joshua 24:1-2a, 15-17,18a

After Moses died, God selected Joshua to lead the Israelites across the Jordan River into the Promised Land. Years later, as his death approached, Joshua wished to ensure that the people would not forget all that God had done for their ancestors. In today’s reading, we will hear a renewal of the covenant made at Mt. Sinai.

Ephesians 5:21-32

The last part of the letter to the Ephesians, which deals with family relationships, is conditioned by the household structure of the time – slaves, children, wives – with the husband as "patriarch" over all. Today’s excerpt talks about husbands and wives. Later, this letter will talk about the relationship between children and parents, and between slaves and masters. What we learn is not that we should re-create ancient social structures. Rather, we learn the timeless truth that Christ’s love for us should affect the way we love one another.

John 6:60-69

 Bishop Kasomo’s Homily

That’s quite a statement by Peter. And the more you think about it, the more you appreciate what a statement it is.

If this were an old fashioned Confirmation, and the Bishop asked questions, here’s what I’d ask. First of all...

QUESTION: What was Peter’s line of work before he became a disciple of Jesus?
ANSWER: He was a fisherman.

Now it wasn’t as though Peter was a peasant who had a line and a hook, caught a couple of fish every day, and sold them for whatever he could get. Peter, along with three partners, owned a fishing business. They owned boats and nets and equipment. Which leads to my next question...

QUESTION: Can you name two of Peter’s three partners?
ANSWER: If you named two of these three partners you were correct: Andrew (his brother), and James and John (the sons of Zebedee).

You’ve heard that in the Gospels many times, but probably didn’t notice it. I’m sure you remember the passage when Jesus called Peter and his brother Andrew as they were casting their nets into the sea. There’s another familiar passage that names the other two partners, and also indicates that there were others working for them. It was the time when, after preaching on the shore, Jesus got into Peter’s boat and told him to put out into deep water and lower the nets. (I always find that one interesting. Peter is skeptical – here’s Jesus, a carpenter, telling Peter, a fisherman, how to fish.) Peter tells him that they’ve been working all night and the fish aren’t running... but if Jesus insists, he’ll do it, so he goes out and lowers the net. Here’s how it reads from there:

When they had done this they caught a great number of fish and their nets were tearing.

They signaled to their partners in the other boat to come to help them. They came and filled both boats so that they were in danger of sinking. When Simon Peter saw this he fell at the knees of Jesus and said, "Depart from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man." (For astonishment at the catch of fish they had made seized him and all those with him, and likewise James and John, the sons of Zebedee who were partners of Simon.) (Lk 5:6-10) 

Peter’s business was located in Capernaum, a town on the north end of the Sea of Galilee. That’s another indicator that this was no small-time operation. There was a road that ran east and west right through that town, and the road was called the "Via Maris" – the "sea road." It connected the great cities in the east (modern Iraq and Iran) with the Mediterranean Sea, which opened up the way to the great cities of the west. It was a main trading route, and that’s where Peter and his partners had their business.

So... in today’s Gospel passage, when Jesus asks the twelve if they want to leave him too, and Peter steps forward to answer that question, he speaks as someone who knows his way around. In effect Peter says to Jesus: "Lord, we’ve seen a lot of people come and go. We’ve been with you for a long time and heard what you have to say. We’ve seen what you’ve done. You’re on to something, and my partners and I have come to the conclusion that you are the one we want to follow. You have the words that make sense, the way of life that makes sense. We’re with you, even if others walk away."

It helps to know all that background about Peter and his business partners. They knew how to keep books and make hard decisions. They weren’t pie-in-the-sky people who went with every fad.

But there’s more to it than that.

In this section of John’s Gospel Jesus says some very interesting things about the fact that it is the Father that draws people to him. Listen to these three statements Jesus made at different times in this section:

No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws them. Everyone who listens to my Father and learns from him comes to me. No one can come to me unless it is granted them by my Father.

Becoming a disciple of the Lord is more than something we can calculate on a computer, more than something we can find on the internet, more than something we can add up on a balance sheet. We’re dealing here with God. This is way more than the whole universe can hold, way more than something we can put into words.

It’s something deep down inside of us, put there by God. What drew Peter and his partners to Jesus was something inside of them. "No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws them."

We aren’t consumers who pick out a product. We’re disciples, chosen by God, drawn to the Lord by God. We need to get in touch with that. We need to sense it, experience it, and respond to it.

There are bound to be doubts along the way. You can’t have a brain and not have doubts, because a brain can’t hold the truths we believe. But the question we need to ask is, "Am I drawn to the Lord by God? Is there something inside me pulling me in this direction? Am I called to this?"

There are a lot of indicators that we are. Most of us were baptized into this before we even knew what was happening. We were born into this time and place. We were set in this direction by people who were part of our lives.

There is something here far greater hear than eye has seen or ear has heard. We use our reason. We use our feelings. But most of all, we open ourselves up to God’s initiative, and we respond to it.

That is what we need to realize. That is something we may seldom think about. We’re used to making choices of all kinds – but none like this. We’re dealing here with a call... a call from God.

Am I called? That is the only question. And if I am called, then there are only two possible answers: I can answer yes, or I can answer no.

We answer "yes" with every "Amen" we say at Mass:

"Through Jesus, with him, in him, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, all glory and honor is yours Almighty Father, forever and ever. Amen."

"The Body of Christ. Amen."   "The Blood of Christ. Amen"

I invite all of us to sense the wonder of it all, to realize that we have not simply made a consumer decision. We’ve been called... by God. And the call is so strong that we turn to Jesus and say with Peter and his partners and the rest of the 12: "Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe and are convinced that you are the Holy One of God." 



Nineteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

 Reading 1 1 Kgs 19:4-8

Elijah went a day's journey into the desert,
until he came to a broom tree and sat beneath it.
He prayed for death saying:
"This is enough, O LORD!
Take my life, for I am no better than my fathers."
He lay down and fell asleep under the broom tree,
but then an angel touched him and ordered him to get up and eat.
Elijah looked and there at his head was a hearth cake
and a jug of water.
After he ate and drank, he lay down again,
but the angel of the LORD came back a second time,
touched him, and ordered,
"Get up and eat, else the journey will be too long for you!"
He got up, ate, and drank;
then strengthened by that food,
he walked forty days and forty nights to the mountain of God, Horeb.

Responsorial Psalm Ps 34:2-3, 4-5, 6-7, 8-9

R. (9a) Taste and see the goodness of the Lord.
I will bless the LORD at all times;
his praise shall be ever in my mouth.
Let my soul glory in the LORD;
the lowly will hear me and be glad.
R. Taste and see the goodness of the Lord.
Glorify the LORD with me,
Let us together extol his name.
I sought the LORD, and he answered me
And delivered me from all my fears.
R. Taste and see the goodness of the Lord.
Look to him that you may be radiant with joy.
And your faces may not blush with shame.
When the afflicted man called out, the LORD heard,
And from all his distress he saved him.
R. Taste and see the goodness of the Lord.
The angel of the LORD encamps
around those who fear him and delivers them.
Taste and see how good the LORD is;
blessed the man who takes refuge in him.
R. Taste and see the goodness of the Lord.

Reading 2 Eph 4:30-5:2

Brothers and sisters:
Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God,
with which you were sealed for the day of redemption.
All bitterness, fury, anger, shouting, and reviling
must be removed from you, along with all malice.
And be kind to one another, compassionate,
forgiving one another as God has forgiven you in Christ.

So be imitators of God, as beloved children, and live in love,
as Christ loved us and handed himself over for us
as a sacrificial offering to God for a fragrant aroma.


Gospel Jn 6:41-51

The Jews murmured about Jesus because he said,
"I am the bread that came down from heaven,"
and they said,
"Is this not Jesus, the son of Joseph?
Do we not know his father and mother?
Then how can he say,
'I have come down from heaven?'"
Jesus answered and said to them,
"Stop murmuring among yourselves.
No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draw him,
and I will raise him on the last day.
It is written in the prophets:
They shall all be taught by God.
Everyone who listens to my Father and learns from him comes to me.
Not that anyone has seen the Father
except the one who is from God;
he has seen the Father.
Amen, amen, I say to you,
whoever believes has eternal life.
I am the bread of life.
Your ancestors ate the manna in the desert, but they died;
this is the bread that comes down from heaven
so that one may eat it and not die.
I am the living bread that came down from heaven;
whoever eats this bread will live forever;
and the bread that I will give is my flesh for the life of the world."

Reflection: Today’s readings are all about food and nutrition.  In the world we are obsessed about these topics.  So much mone y and time is spent on dieting, looking for healthy foods, and in changing the eating habits of a whole generation.  Needless to say, food was an important topic in Jesus’ time and earlier as well. As one of our most basic needs it is something that we have to think about each and every day. We can’t survive without it. People who are poor think about food in a very different way than people who are well off. But it still occupies the mind.

Elijah, the prophet, was thoroughly discouraged. He had just had his most famous moment under the sun. In a head-to-head confrontation with the prophets of a false god, he had utterly discredited them and won a resounding victory. The idolatry of the Israelites would cease and Elijah thought his troubles were over. Never again would the Jews worship false gods - or so he thought.


He soon found out how wrong he was. Israel's corrupt queen (her name was Jezebel) was infuriated and vowed revenge. She wanted to kill Elijah and a lot of people were going along with her. It was a hard blow for Elijah to absorb and we find him in today's first reading sitting under a little tree out in the blazing desert feeling as if he were useless, that his life was a wasted effort, and that he might as well die.


How many of us feel as if our lives don't amount to much at all, that we are unloved, unappreciated, that no one cares about us, and that our lives are meaningless and purposeless? We are not great prophets or great celebrities. But in our own ways we try to do good, try to be faithful to God, only to discover that few people care, or if they do they mock us for being "goodie, goodie" people who think we're holier than others. No matter how hard we try to do good and struggle to walk in God's ways, those around us who do not walk in His ways seem to live happier and better lives than we do. The Jezebel's of this world are celebrated -- we are not.


Elijah was not a weakling looking for a way to escape from God and God's ways. He was in fact one of the most renowned and great figures in Israel's entire history. He was one of God's greatest prophets. When Jesus was at the height of his career many thought he was Elijah returned to earth. And it was Moses and Elijah appeared with Jesus when he was on top of the Mount of Transfiguration.


But as great as Elijah was, he was not immune from sickening depression. Following after him another prophet was given to Israel, Jeremiah. He stood up against corruption in high places as few ever have. He cried out for justice as few others have done. But the day came when he, too, was ready to throw in the towel.


Great men and women, great prophets of God, and saints too, experience depression and discouragement. The higher they are, the deeper the valleys of depression, discouragement and defeat. Abraham Lincoln, for instance, suffered from severe bouts with depression.


Even Jesus himself experienced a form of depression. At one point in his public ministry Jesus cried out "0 faithless and perverse generation, how long must I be with you? How long must I

put up with you?" And at the end of His life, just after His triumphal Palm Sunday entry into Jerusalem, we find Jesus on the Mount of Olives weeping over Jerusalem's rejection of Him. Shortly thereafter, while dying in his cross, Jesus cries out "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?"


Perhaps it is just such moments that we come to truly realize how much we need God's love, His presence, his power and his life-giving Spirit. Isn't it true that in good times, when everything is going along wonderfully for us, we hardly pay any attention to God? We even neglect to thank Him for all that He's done for us. Isn't it true that we only get serious about turning to God when terrible things happen to us, or when we're really discouraged and depressed? I'm afraid it is true. It's happened in my life, and I'm sure it's happened in yours, too.


To return to the story of Elijah, we find him out there in the desert, exhausted, depressed and falling into a deep sleep. It was then that an angel touched him, woke him up, and gave him fresh bread and refreshing water. I wonder how that angel looked?


You have, I'm sure, been touched by an angel… someone who came to you when you were beaten down, depressed and discouraged, one who gave you refreshing words, encouragement, and some new hope. Sometimes you find them there for you after a family funeral, or when you've received bad news from your doctor, your teacher, or someone has rejected you. In those terrible moments, look for an angel - someone who will give you a message or a sign from God. They will come to you. They well be there with you.


Elijah went on to accomplish wonderful things for God. God had greater things for him to do. And He has such plans for each one of you ... and for me. Endings are never just endings. They are always beginnings. Every Good Friday is followed by an Easter Sunday. Every night is darkest and coldest just before the dawn.


Those words are not just nice sayings - pretty poetry and nothing more. Those words are true words, wise words. For God is never defeated. God is always bringing meaning out of absurdity, order out of chaos, victory out of defeat, good out of evil and life out of death. The history of the bible is a history of how God is always starting over again with us.

So, too, in our first reading, the prophet Elijah had gone a long time without eating because he could find no food.  Finally, he realized that he might possibly die and he lay down under a tree and prayed for his death, leaving everything in God’s hands. But God had other plans for Elijah.  Suddenly an angel appeared, an angel who brought him food and drink, bread and water. God did not want Elijah to perish.  So Elijah ate and drank and went back to rest, but the angel wouldn’t let him rest, but told him to eat more and strengthen himself for the journey. And after Elijah ate, he was granted strength and he was able to continue the trip to God’s mountain, which took him forty days. God had strengthened Elijah’s spirit as well as his body.  Once his body was taken care of, he was able to do God’s bidding.

 In Psychology and Sociology we learn about Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. In case you aren’t familiar with it, or  as a review, basically Maslow says that in order to function on a higher level – being a moral person, a creative person, an unprejudiced person – certain needs have to be taken care of. Simply put, if a person is starving, he will not be writing poetry.  A person’s physiological needs – air, food, water, sleep, etc. are base needs.  Without these needs being taken care of, the higher needs of a person cannot be achieved.

Maslow’s theory is much more complex than I am describing and are really quite fascinating to study, but the reason I bringing it up at all, is that Jesus knew at a very base level that we cannot feel safe, we cannot love, we cannot have self-esteem, we cannot be self-actualized until our most basic needs were taken care of.  That is why food is so important a topic in the Gospels, and why it is metaphorically so important.  We have to feed the body before we can feed the mind and soul. Jesus understood this at a very base level.  We have noted in the last number of homilies how in the Gospel of Mark, Jesus always saw to the physical needs of people he had cured, like the little girl whom he raised and then told to get something to eat, or with the needs of his pupils when away from the city, listening to his preaching, he discovered they had no food and so he fed the multitudes so they could hear what he had to say.

 This concern about food reaches a much higher level in the Gospel of St. John.  This is the Gospel that is so much more poetic and metaphorical than the others. This is the Gospel where Jesus makes all the “I am…” statements. The Gospel today begins with Jesus making an “I am” statement. “I am the bread of life that came down from heaven.” How apt and wonderful a metaphor, though it confounded the people listening to him who knew him merely as a carpenter’s son. Then he says another “I am” statement.  “I am the bread of life”, and another: “I am the living bread”.  Obviously Jesus is talking metaphorically, but there is so much truth and beauty in the metaphor.  At the very base of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs is food.  And Jesus says that he is that food.  With Jesus as food, we are able to climb the hierarchy of needs and become the spiritual, moral people we were meant to be. “The bread that I will give is my flesh for the life of the world.”  And now we move from metaphor to miracle – the very bread that Jesus gives us in the Eucharist, bread made of human hands, crushed wheat – that can sustain our lives, becomes Jesus himself, our God. And now all our spiritual needs can be sustained as well, again allowing us to grow into t he spiritual, self-actualized persons we were meant to be.

I cannot stress too much the importance of this gift of the Eucharist which we hear Jesus talk about today.  At this point in John’s story, Jesus has not even instituted the Eucharist. John never tells us about a last supper Eucharist institution- by the time John’s gospel was written, it was probably taken for granted and John spends his time on the washing of the feet, the service aspect. But John places the institution of the Eucharist here  as part of his teaching, which of course confounded the listeners. Jesus tries to make it clear by using Jewish references.  God fed the people in the desert with manna. They lived long lives but eventually died, many of them before they saw the promised land.  Jesus will feed us with a form of manna as well, but this time when we eat the bread, we will not die.  It will be a very special bread that gives us an eternal spiritual life through Christ’s death and resurrection.

What I want to stress today is that the Eucharist is so important in our lives.  That we be fed each week and nourished by Christ’s body will allow us to reach the higher perfection for which we were created. It is the food for our soul.  We must never hunger spiritually.  God has given us the means to be the very best we can be.  Do we really take the time to meditate on that each week, and realize how it sustains us?  We need to.

That is the meaning of the Bread of Life. That is the content of the Bread of Life. For Jesus comes to us in wheat that has been ground up and grapes that have been crushed. Jesus comes to us in a Holy Communion that He gave us in His own agony, suffering and death. For the Bread of Life is Jesus coming to us in His Spirit-filled, glorious resurrection. He rose from the dead to begin a new, a higher and a more power-full life ... God's very own life, a life that He didn't keep for Himself but gives us each and every time we receive Him in His Holy Communion.


Never give up, never give up, never give up. The greatest among us have had their own valleys of death and depression to traverse in order to climb out and up to their mountain top experiences. Can we expect better or easier lives than theirs? Can we expect better and easier lives than Jesus' life?  

I want to close today by looking at the passage from Paul to the Ephesians. The second reading is often not linked to the other readings of the day thematically and today’s really isn’t either.  It doesn’t talk about food, or eucharist or manna. But, it does give us the effects of the Eucharist, a higher level of Maslow’s hierarchy.  Once we have been fed, we can then start to be, in the words of Paul: kind to one another, compassionate, and forgiving one another.  This is really the end result of the Eucharist for our time on earth. We are God’s beloved children and can live in love.  All of this is brought about by Jesus’ great gift to us of his own body – both in his own time when he died for us, and today when we will be nourished by the bread, his body. And this is the good news I bring you today.

Rt.Rev. Bishop Kasomo Daniel, PhD, D.Sc.

The Roman Catholic Bishop of The Society of St. Peter and Paul Inc.