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Sunday Scripture: The moment of decision

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Wednesday, August 19, 2009

By Terrance Callan

Twenty-First Sunday in Ordinary Time: Joshua  24:1-2, 15-17, 18; Psalm 34:2-3, 16-21; Ephesians 5:21-32; John 6:60-69

When we are confronted by a difficult choice, we study the issues involved and consider the consequences of different options. Sometimes this process of reflection makes it clear to us what we should choose. At other times we simply make the best choice we can despite our uncertainty.

In the reading from the Book of Joshua, Joshua addresses the people of Israel after they have conquered the promised land of Canaan. He calls on them to make a decision either to serve the Lord, or to serve other gods. And the people answer that they will continue to serve the Lord, who brought them out of Egypt and protected them as they made their way to the Promised Land.

In the reading from the Gospel according to John, we hear the end of Jesus’ long presentation of himself as the bread of life. His disciples have found what Jesus has said to them hard to accept. Because of this many cease to be His disciples.  But Simon Peter, speaking for the 12, affirms his faith in Jesus, saying, “You have the words of eternal life.”

These two readings show us that faith is a decision on our part, a decision to accept that Jesus is the bread of life, a decision to serve the God of Israel. And these readings call us to re-affirm our decision of faith, recognizing what God has done for us, the life we find in Jesus.

The reading from the Letter to the Ephesians does not speak about the decision of faith. But it can be seen as speaking about the implications of faith for our understanding of marriage and the church. This passage is one that causes difficulty for many people at the present time. Our growing awareness that in Christ there is no male or female (see Galatians 3:28) makes it difficult to accept a passage that urges wives to be subordinate to their husbands (though it first says that Christians should be subordinate to one another). However, without denying the reality of this problem, we should not overlook the other things this passage has to say to us.

This passage tells us that Christian marriage makes two people one, creating a union so intimate that what one spouse does to the other is actually done to him or herself.  Thus spouses should love each other as they love themselves. Even more, they should love each other as Christ loved the church, giving himself up for the church.

The relationship of Christ to the church can be used as the model for marriage because both are intimate unions in which two become one. Married couples can look to the union of Christ and church to learn what marriage should be. On the other hand we can all look to marriage to learn about the hidden reality of the church.

Despite its problematic aspects this passage from Ephesians presents us with an inspiring and challenging vision of the church and of Christian marriage. This spells out concretely what our decision of faith means in these two areas.

Callan is a faculty member at the Athenaeum of Ohio.

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