Today’s First Reading and Gospel call for a decision. Upon their settlement in the Promised Land, the Israelites are called to decide who will be their God: the God who settled them in that land, according to his word as promised to their ancestors; or the gods of the various peoples among whom they were now living. Joshua called for this decision because some of the Israelites were worshipping the gods of their neighbors, in violation of the First Commandment. The God of Abraham had revealed himself as the one true God, as Moses taught: “Hear, O Israel! The LORD is our God, the LORD alone!” (Deuteronomy 6:4) He demanded undivided loyalty. Joshua leads the way: “As for me and my household, we will serve the LORD.”
After hearing Jesus’ incredible assertion in last Sunday’s Gospel that his flesh is true food and his blood true drink, many listening decided that they could not accept such a “hard saying” and no longer followed Jesus. (Today’s Gospel) Finally the Twelve (Apostles) are asked to decide whether or not to believe Jesus, whether or not to remain in his company. They make the leap of faith: “We have come to believe and are convinced that you are the Holy One of God.”
We are called to make the same leap of faith whenever we come to Mass. Its true nature as the re-presentation of the sacrifice of our redemption can only be known by faith. We respond on Sundays to the proclamation of God’s Word with our Profession of Faith. Finally our “Amen” in response to the communion minister’s acclamation of “The Body of Christ” and “The Blood of Christ,” is our acknowledgment that his flesh is true food and his blood is true drink, being presented to us under the appearances of bread and wine. These are indeed the “words of eternal life”: for “Unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you do not have life within you.” (Last Sunday’s Gospel)
The clerical abuse scandal revealed in Pennsylvania has shocked the world and probably challenged the faith of many. Yes, this too is hard to endure. While it may be the excuse more will use to c ease the practice of the catholic faith, I have to ask with St. Peter, “To whom shall we go?” Jesus has the words of eternal life and the Catholic Church is the Church that he founded. Only here can we hear the Word of God in its fullness, and only here can we receive the sacraments of our salvation. The process of justice and purification from the grave sins of those who have abused their authority must go on; but the one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church of Jesus Christ must continue her mission of saving souls through the proclamation of the Word and the celebration of the sacraments. Pope Francis has written a letter to all of us about this crisis. Because of its importance I am making it available to you as an insert in this week’s bulletin.
This weekend Bishop Callahan is concluding his stay in the Chippewa Falls and Eau Claire Deaneries as part of this year’s ongoing celebration of the diocesan sesquicentennial. I want to call special attention to the youth encounter at St. Olaf in Eau Claire for middle-schoolers through young adults at 7:00 PM this Saturday, August 25; the Holy Hour for Vocations at Notre Dame Church at 1:00 PM this Sunday, August 26; and the Mass and picnic following at St. Charles at 3:00 PM.
Pray the Rosary this week for the Church in our diocese and the Church throughout the world, for the victims of abuse, for the conversion of sinners and, as always, pray for peace.
May God bless his people with peace.