Whom shall we Serve?
(21st Sunday in Ordinary Time: Joshua 24:1-18; Eph. 5:21-32; John 6:60-69)
When Joshua challenged the people to decide which gods they would serve, they answered, “We will serve the Lord.” That generation did their best to be faithful to keep that pledge.
Jesus asked the Twelve: “Do you also want to leave?” Peter answered with a question of his own: “To whom shall we go?” His profession of faith, which followed immediately, did not prevent his later denial, but preserved him from despair and prepared him to devote his life to the Lord’s service.
St. Paul also speaks of service. The word in our translation is “subordinate,” which sound more like servitude than service. He says that reverence for Christ should make Christians “subordinate to one another,” in other words willing to serve each other.
The question of choosing whom we shall serve finds a different expression on the lips of the Beautiful Lady of La Salette, in her use of the conditional “If my people refuse to submit” is equivalent to “will you submit or not?” or, to paraphrase Joshua, “decide to whom you will submit.” Let’s look at the alternatives.
The pursuit of pleasure, power or wealth is easily confused with the pursuit of happiness, and yet none of those good things can ensure we will be happy.
Knowledge, wisdom, and the arts have the power to uplift us. Practical skills can bring satisfaction, especially when placed at the service of others. But even here a certain self-sufficient, self-serving arrogance can creep in, undermining the good we do.
After Peter’s question, “To whom shall we go?” we read, “You have the words of eternal life.” This is more than a declaration, it is a commitment.
We must not assume that the Twelve understood Jesus’ discourse on the Bread of Life, especially the part about eating his flesh and drinking his blood, any better than those other disciples who said, “This saying is hard; who can accept it?” and who no longer accompanied him.
And notice that Peter calls Jesus Master, a word indicating submission. That means Peter sees himself as both disciple and servant.
Mary’s words at La Salette, even her hard sayings, call us to submit to him who has the words of eternal life.