Twenty-first Sunday in Ordinary Time
August 22, 2021
It’s a scene we’ve witnessed before: frantic people clinging hopelessly to a departing jet as it taxied down a Kabul runway, about to take flight. In terms of human drama, it was much like the events of April 30, 1975, when U.S. troops departed from Saigon.
The terror, the feelings of hopelessness, the heartbreak of knowing the dreams of living in a free and open society without violence and constant fear are now completely dashed…it’s all there…the tragedies run parallel. Just try to imagine the challenges that awaited those “left behind.”
The exodus from Afghanistan and the exodus from Viet Nam have this much in common with The Exodus of Israel from slavery in Egypt. Those eager to be liberated…yearning to live in freedom and peace…were terrified of being “left behind.”
The overwhelming desire to “take flight” in search of a better life is common to every exodus story. Regardless of the time, or the place, or the tyrant, freedom-loving people do not want to be “left behind.”
But, once they’ve made the mad dash across the Red Sea, or the Pacific Ocean, or the Rio Grande, many refugees find that the Promised Land is not all that they had hoped for. Refugee camps, for example, are not exactly places of milk and honey.
Becoming disillusioned, disenchanted, refugees begin to grumble. And eventually, they must make a choice:
Do we return to face the wrath of Pharaoh…the Taliban…the Viet Kong…the drug cartel?
Trusting in God’s goodness and mercy, do we continue our pilgrim journey?
Today’s Gospel brings to a close what is commonly referred to as “The Bread of Life Discourse.” First delivered to His followers in the synagogue in Capernaum, John 6 is The Lord’s great teaching about Eucharist. But, at the same time, it is a reminder to us of all that God has done for us through Jesus Christ.
Fortified and invigorated with this reminder, we are able to continue our pilgrim journey towards the ultimate “Promised Land,” the new and Eternal Jerusalem.
Finally, this passage asks us to make a choice. The critical decision that people have made throughout the ages: Do I dare risk going back to that place from which I fled?
Or: With trust in a brighter future…do I continue the search for the Promised Land?
Do I turn back to face the wrath and ravages of sin? Or do I continue to follow Jesus…The New Moses…with the renewed strength that comes from The Bread of Life?
What is so hard about making that choice? Do you really want to be “left behind” as disciples continue to make their way to that place of perfect peace and lasting joy…THE KINGDOM OF GOD?