Twenty-First Sunday in Ordinary Time

Cycle B
Fr. Steven Roth

Would you ever leave Him? Would you ever stop following Jesus? Just think how different our lives would be! Just think we could live as we want. Money, well money is money. We can earn as much as we want not taking into consideration how fairly we earn a living or the impact our job might have on family. Our lives would be different because we would no longer have to exert energy to forgive others. We could hold grudges and dislike them as much as we want. And helping those less fortunate than ourselves would no longer be a concern. Let them fend for themselves. There would be no more guilt or frustration in trying to live according to the gospel. Instead we could do as we feel. You have to admit, it sounds appealing.

I’m sure life apart from Jesus was appealing to Peter as well. So often we think of Peter as some peasant fisherman with a row-boat and fishing pole. Peter, with three others, owned a fishing business. They had boats, equipment etc. We also know that Peter had this business in a town called Capernaum on the north end of the Sea of Galilee. A major road ran right through this town that became a trade route. So we can be sure that Peter saw and encountered many people who lived very different lives. These various lifestyles, we could imagine, must have been very appealing and even enticing.

And so when Jesus says to Peter, are you going to leave too? Peter’s reply in saying, “Lord, to whom shall we go, You have the words of everlasting life” is essentially saying “Jesus, I know the other ways people live their lives. Yet it is Your way, as hard at times as it might be, which is the way I want to live.” Brothers and sisters, we too echo those same words. Week after week we continue following Jesus for the same reason.

However, in this realization, let’s not forget that like Peter, we too will make mistakes as followers, despite our commitment to follow Him. Like Peter, we will deny Jesus in word and deed. Like Peter, we too will get mixed up, say dumb things and need to be brought back on track. But brothers and sisters, it is far better for us to be an imperfect follower of Jesus than to not follow Him at all.

While it might be appealing to not follow Jesus, we know it would not make us happy. Just think, do we admire or like the people who hate, hold grudges, are self-centered or self-absorbed? Do we aspire to be like people who are cheap or stingy? Of course we don’t. They are not happy or content because they are following an unattainable goal. How much is enough? What job is prestigious enough? What car or house will ever be good enough if that is what we direct our lives according to?

Today, Jesus asks you and me the same question He asked Peter. “Will you leave Me too?” Indeed our lives would be so different not following Him, but is that really what we want?

Nineteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Cycle B
Fr. Steven Roth

Living a vocation in life is very difficult. Now I know you are expecting a long homily on the woes of priesthood. While priesthood certainly has its struggles, I’d like to focus on the other noble vocations in life that deserve our admiration. Parents sacrifice so much each day. Many of you as parents work so hard to make sure your children get educated, develop good morals, do their homework and on and on. So often you put your needs after the needs of your children. Grandparents, you might have it even a bit harder. Not only do you care for your children, but now you have the added worry of your grandchildren.

The vocation as a married couple certainly has its burdens too. Spouses care for one another in illness. They are patient when the other spouse just isn’t his/herself because of a job. So often as spouses you work diligently to love each other even if it means working through some tough stuff.

The single life has its shares of difficulties too. Whether it is loneliness or the dilemma of who to marry or how you want to make a difference in the world. This is no easy path as well.

These vocations can be exhausting and can bring us to our knees like Elijah. Yet, brothers and sisters, our relating to the story of Elijah is not just to commiserate on the difficulty of life, but instead to be assured of hope because of where we are. We find ourselves beneath a tree, not a broom tree like Elijah.

We find hope because we find strength, nourishment and help because we reflect on this story beneath a tree, the Tree of Life. Underneath this Tree, on which we see our crucified Lord, we soon will find and experience the nourishment the Lord offers to us for our journey. Not a hearth cake and water, but beneath the Tree of Life we receive the Body and Blood of Jesus. This passage offers us incredible hope. Life is indeed difficult and there is no point in pretending otherwise. But we are not alone on this journey called life. God walks with us on this journey not placing obstacles in our way to make this journey harder. He does not stand back and watch to see what we will do. Instead like the experience of Elijah, God is there with us to help. God sends to us not just an angel pointing us to hearth cake and water. Rather God directs us to the food for the journey, the Eucharist. We gather here, more often than not, exhausted from the week and yet God invites us to this privileged place beneath a tree. Not the broom tree, but beneath the Tree of Life where we receive the necessary strength we need to continue on our journey.

How incredible it is to be here and to be nourished. But how good it is that we gather here together. What a wonderful witness and reminder this is to each one of us that as we soon will walk up one by one to receive the Eucharist, we do so because we are hungry people. We eat the Body and Blood of Jesus because we need strength. It is not a parade of honor and glory, but a moment in which each one of us recognizes we cannot continue on our own, but need the nourishment our loving God freely gives us.

But with any journey, we always need to remember where we are going. Elijah, we are told, was on his way to Mt Horeb. Ironically this mountain was formerly called Mt. Sinai, the place in which Moses received the Ten Commandments and the place where later Elijah would receive direction as well. We too journey in life to be closer to God and better understand what He wants us to do.

So let’s eat of this Eucharistic banquet because we need it. This week we continue our journey called life and we will need all the help we can get. Whatever our vocation in life is, may we know we are never alone.