Commitments are easily made, but not so easily kept

Twenty-first Sunday of the Year: Joshua 24: 1-2 & 15-18; Ephesians 5: 21-32; John 6: 60-69

By Bishop David McGough on Friday, 24 August 2012

Commitments, whether to God or to each other, are easily made, but not always so easily kept. For this reason we see, throughout the scriptures, a pattern of renewal in which, at key moments, the people were reminded of the Covenant relationship that bound them to their God.

One such occasion was the possession of the land, when the tribes of Israel, after the victorious campaigns led by Joshua, finally secured the land that had been promised to them through Abraham and Moses.

Now was the time to review the commitment that had been made long ago when Moses had entrusted to them the tablets of the Law. Much had happened in the meantime. They had struggled through the wilderness and experienced fierce opposition in settling the land. For the first time they had experienced what it was to be a powerful people, what it was to enjoy the fruits of their struggles. They had mixed with peoples whose religious and family values were quite alien to their own.

The constant danger, in a changing situation, was that this people would forget the commitments that had brought them to the promised land, that they would surrender themselves to the enticements of a new life.

For this reason Joshua assembled the tribes of Israel at Shechem’s ancient shrine. There he challenged them to choose which commitment would rule their lives as they settled in the land. Would they surrender themselves to the novelty of a changing situation, or remain faithful to their God? The commitment of the people was renewed in their response.

“We have no intention of deserting the Lord our God who brought us and our ancestors out of the land of Egypt. We will serve the Lord, for he is our God.”

Throughout our lives we encounter new situations, new relationships and changing values. We, like Israel’s tribes, must remind ourselves of commitments both to God and to each other, commitments that should never be compromised.

Today’s Gospel narrative brought the disciples of Jesus to a similar crossroads where they were invited to renew their commitment.

Jesus had presented himself to his disciples as the Bread of Life. Many had found his language intolerable and had abandoned him. At this point Jesus presented a direct challenge to his remaining disciples.

“What about you, do you want to go away too?”

The disciples had enjoyed the good times when the crowds had flocked to Jesus. Now they were to experience life as the prevailing climate turned against their Lord. We also know what it is to live in a world that is, at best, indifferent to gospel values, and is, at worst, positively hostile to such values.

Peter remained faithful in a changing situation.

“Lord, who shall we go to? You have the message of eternal life, and we believe; we know that you are the Holy One of God.”

It is in prayer that we are called to examine the many commitments of our lives in a changing world. It is in prayer that the Spirit guides our discernment, committing our lives to the Lord whose words are spirit and life.

Jesus challenged the commitment of his disciples. Let us allow him to review and challenge our own commitments in the prayerful celebration of the Sacrament of Reconciliation.