Finding Freedom Through Commitment
We are so blessed in this country to have many choices. We have the freedom to choose everything from where we worship, where we live, and even what we eat. Yet, all these choices can lead us to a sort of paralysis of decision. What should I choose? We are experiencing in our society what might be called a crisis of commitment. Some people think that maintaining our freedom means “keeping all our options open.” However, you probably can’t think of anyone whom you admire who is famous for “keeping all their options open” and going through life without committing to anything. Rather it is precisely our commitments in life that define who were are.
Our readings this weekend are all about these two things: choices and commitment. In the first reading, Joshua and the Israelites boldly choose to worship the true God. In our second reading, St. Paul reminds us of the beautiful commitment expressed in marriage. Husband and wife joyfully commit to each other in marriage and thus become “subordinate,” ordered to each other, or “submissive,” under a common mission. Does such a commitment close the door on some options…yes, but the result is not a lessening of freedom, but the finding of a new and greater freedom. Once you are in your vocation there is a great freedom knowing where your life is going and with whom.
In the Gospel, Jesus asks for a commitment of his disciples. He gives them the choice of accepting his teaching or parting ways. Sadly, St. John tells us that many of Jesus’ disciples left him. We might think that perhaps there was a misunderstanding, but then Jesus turns to the apostles and is willing to let them go too if they can’t commit to what he is asking. What could be so important that Jesus would allow everyone to leave if they can’t accept it? It’s the Eucharist! Jesus has just told his disciples that they must eat his flesh and drink his blood in order to have eternal life. Those who were there understood Jesus literally and Jesus made it plain to them that he was not speaking symbolically. Thus many leave rather than trust in his words. The Eucharist is the sacred sign of total commitment to Jesus and of being his follower.
Today Jesus requires no less of a commitment from us if we are going to receive him in the Eucharist. St. Paul uses the image of marriage to describe the love that should exist between us and Jesus. Just as you can’t get married half way or choose only certain things of your spouse that you will marry, so you can’t take only part of what Jesus teaches and still be a member of his Church. Jesus wants a total commitment from us, a commitment that is expressed in our eating his body and drinking his blood in the Most Holy Eucharist. This is where we become one flesh with Jesus in the marriage banquet celebrated at every Mass. Today we renew the wedding vows made to God in Holy Baptism and are then invited to share in the wedding supper of the lamb. What a beautiful choice.