As for me and my household, we will serve the Lord. (Joshua 24:15)
Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ loved the Church and handed himself over for her to sanctify her so that he might present to himself the Church in splendor. (Ephesians 5:25)
Master, to whom shall we go, you have the words of eternal life. (John 6:68)
There is a popular phrase that captures the essence of the call today for men, husbands, fathers, leaders: It is MAN UP.
Joshua is the leader of Israel, a Judge, and powerful military man. With Moses gone and some of the tribes looking to return to the pagan gods of before or seeking to be like everybody else in the land of the Amorites, Joshua makes a courageous statement. “As for me and my household,” we are not leaving, we are not giving up, we will serve the Lord who has saved us and accompanied. We will serve the Lord. Joshua is a mature man.
And Saint Paul speaks to husbands: Men love your wives, as Christ loved the Church, sacrificing his very self for her so that she might become in his eyes a woman clothed in splendor. Christ calls each husband to marry his wife in the Sacrament of matrimony, to dream big with her, to be loyal until death with her, to be fruitful and give life to her and with her to give life to children, to not forget the dream, to not deny that they are two in one flesh, that they are in an unbreakable bond of love and grace. This is not cohabitating with a room-mate, this is giving your entire self. This is what it means to be a real man.
And Jesus’ disciples tell him, “This saying is hard, who can accept it?” These are not his enemies or critics; this is from his disciples and followers. When Jesus knows they are murmuring he says, “Does this shock you? What if you were to see the Son of Man ascending to where he was before? It is the Spirit that gives life.” So many of the disciples left him and returned to their former way of life. Down through the centuries this Eucharist has been a dividing point. The real presence of Christ in the Eucharist has been fought over and called symbolic only. But If he were speaking of a symbol, no one would have walked away. Yet many did.
This is one of the saddest moments in the Gospels for these are Jesus’ disciples walking away. Why? Because Jesus insists this is not a mere symbol: “My flesh is real food and my blood is real drink. Unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and Drink his blood you have no life in you. He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life and I will raise him up on the last day.”
The words of Jesus have a creative, performative power. When God speaks, it happens. Talitha koum, “Child, arise,” and she gets up. “Lazarus, come out,” and the dead man comes out of his tomb. When Jesus in the Eucharist says of the bread, “This is my body,” it becomes his body; “This is my blood,” it becomes his blood.
When Jesus turns to the twelve and says, “Do you also want to leave?” Simon Peter ‘mans’ up, “Master, to whom shall we go, you have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe and are convinced that you are the Holy One of God.”
All of us are shocked by revelations of abuse in the Church, especially by those whom we call “father” and from whom we have every right to expect protection and safety, especially for our children and vulnerable adults. It is sad. Yet it would be infinitely sadder if we were to leave, walk away from the Lord, and his Church, because He and the Church we love have been betrayed by these horrific deeds of sick criminals.
This is the very time to say, “As for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.” Husbands, when times are tough, especially then, I will not leave my spouse, my wife, my family. And to you, Lord, we say, “Master to whom shall we go, you have the words of eternal life.” We will not leave you. We will stay and we will fight and we will make sure this does not ever happen again. This is the time to MAN UP!
Each weekday, the homily from Daily Mass at Holy Cross Family Ministries is shared online. Visit Family Rosary: World at Prayer and sign up to receive notifications of each day’s homily.
Copyright 2018 Fr. Willy Raymond, C.S.C.