Catholic homily outline for the Twenty-first Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B – Commitment to Christ

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God’s fidelity and love is to be lived within the commitment of Christian marriage.

Central idea: Commitment to Christ. Doctrine: God’s fidelity and love lived in Christian marriage. Practical application: Renewal of commitment.

Written as an aid for homilists and a resource for the faithful, this doctrinal homily outline (1) provides insights into the Lectionary readings, (2) explicates a doctrine of Catholic Faith or morals from them, and (3) shows specific ways lay persons can live these truths. (To read more about this approach, click here.)

This outline is written to be in accord with the Homiletic Directory issued by the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments (2014). (To read an excellent summary of the Homiletic Directory, click here.)

To view Lectionary 122, click here.

Central idea: Commitment to Christ

Reading 1 Jos 24:1-2a, 15-17, 18b

Joshua gathered together all the tribes of Israel at Shechem,
summoning their elders, their leaders,
their judges, and their officers.
When they stood in ranks before God,
Joshua addressed all the people:
“If it does not please you to serve the LORD,
decide today whom you will serve,
the gods your fathers served beyond the River
or the gods of the Amorites in whose country you are now dwelling.
As for me and my household, we will serve the LORD.”

But the people answered,
“Far be it from us to forsake the LORD
for the service of other gods.
For it was the LORD, our God,
who brought us and our fathers up out of the land of Egypt,
out of a state of slavery.
He performed those great miracles before our very eyes
and protected us along our entire journey
and among the peoples through whom we passed.
Therefore we also will serve the LORD, for he is our God.”

  • Joshua calls on the Chosen People to make a decision, to commit themselves or to recommit. It is taken for granted that they will serve some god. Joshua announces his own decision: He and his household will serve the Lord. All the rest of the men in authority over Israel wholeheartedly agree. They decide based on their experience with the Lord who freed them from Egyptian slavery, performed wonders, and protected them.
  • We, too, need to experience God in some way if we are to serve him.

Responsorial Psalm Ps 34:2-3, 16-17, 18-19, 20-21

R. Taste and see the goodness of the Lord.

I will bless the LORD at all times;
his praise shall be ever in my mouth.
Let my soul glory in the LORD;
the lowly will hear me and be glad.

The LORD has eyes for the just,
and ears for their cry.
The LORD confronts the evildoers,
to destroy remembrance of them from the earth.

When the just cry out, the LORD hears them,
and from all their distress he rescues them.
The LORD is close to the brokenhearted;
and those who are crushed in spirit he saves.

Many are the troubles of the just one,
but out of them all the LORD delivers him;
he watches over all his bones;
not one of them shall be broken.

  • Each person has to decide what his way of life will be. Joshua asks the Israelites which God they will serve. Jesus asks the disciples if they, too, will go away. The psalmist contrasts the just man and the evildoer.
  • God often asks hard things of us: “Many are the troubles of the just one.” We are just if we choose the Lord and take truth and justice as our standards.
  • It is better to endure difficulties, even crushing ones, with the Lord, than to enjoy the fleeting happiness of the evildoer.
  • Those who are close to the Lord retain a peace and joy even while suffering. We also understand God’s promise to deliver us in light of Christ and our own resurrection.

Reading 2 Eph 5:21-32

Brothers and sisters:
Be subordinate to one another out of reverence for Christ.
Wives should be subordinate to their husbands as to the Lord.
For the husband is head of his wife
just as Christ is head of the church,
he himself the savior of the body.
As the church is subordinate to Christ,
so wives should be subordinate to their husbands in everything.
Husbands, love your wives,
even as Christ loved the church
and handed himself over for her to sanctify her,
cleansing her by the bath of water with the word,
that he might present to himself the church in splendor,
without spot or wrinkle or any such thing,
that she might be holy and without blemish.
So also husbands should love their wives as their own bodies.
He who loves his wife loves himself.
For no one hates his own flesh
but rather nourishes and cherishes it,
even as Christ does the church,
because we are members of his body.

For this reason a man shall leave his father and his mother
and be joined to his wife,
and the two shall become one flesh.

This is a great mystery,
but I speak in reference to Christ and the church.

  • Be subordinate to one another out of reverence for Christ. This is a basic rule for Christian life. A follower of Christ should consider the other as superior to himself and serve that other like a servant would. This is how Christ himself behaved to the highest degree.
  • Christian marriage is a one-flesh union of mutual submission. St. Paul provides a very high standard that Christian spouses can aspire to. St. John Paul II points out that “The husband and the wife are in fact ‘subject to one another,’ and are mutually subordinated to one another” (ToB 89.3).
    • A Christian husband can be tempted to be overbearing rather than to serve. But the husband is to love his wife in the totally sacrificial way that Christ loved his Church.
    • A Christian wife can be tempted to resent serving her husband. But the wife is to love her husband in the totally submissive way that the Church obeys Christ. St. John Paul continues: “The wife can and should find in her relationship with Christ—who is the one Lord of both the spouses—the motivation of that relationship with her husband which flows from the very essence of marriage and of the family” (ToB 89.3).

Gospel Jn 6:60-69

Many of Jesus’ disciples who were listening said,
“This saying is hard; who can accept it?”
Since Jesus knew that his disciples were murmuring about this,
he said to them, “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,
while the flesh is of no avail.
The words I have spoken to you are Spirit and life.
But there are some of you who do not believe.”
Jesus knew from the beginning the ones who would not believe
and the one who would betray him.
And he said,
“For this reason I have told you that no one can come to me
unless it is granted him by my Father.”

As a result of this,
many of his disciples returned to their former way of life
and no longer accompanied him.
Jesus then said to the Twelve, “Do you also want to leave?”
Simon Peter answered him, “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.”

  • Flesh and spirit. The truth about the Eucharist that Our Lord reveals is not a natural truth that reason can grasp (like honor your father and mother) but a supernatural truth that can only be known if it is revealed. In addition, we need the grace of Christ to assent to it.
    • In the case of the faithful apostles, this grace seems to come from their personal encounter with Jesus. They trusted Our Lord, so they could believe the words he spoke.
  • In Evangelii Gaudium, Pope Francis wrote: “I invite all Christians, everywhere, at this very moment, to a renewed personal encounter with Jesus Christ, or at least an openness to letting him encounter them; I ask all of you to do this unfailingly each day” (EG 3).
    • This is what we need and. We can encounter Christ in many ways, especially in the Eucharist.

Doctrine: God’s fidelity and love lived in Christian marriage

  • God is faithful to his promises (CCC 1063). Jesus Christ is “the definitive ‘Amen’ of the Father’s love for us” (CCC 1065). The word “amen” refers both to God’s complete fidelity and love for us and to our trust in him. (CC 1062). Christ “takes up and completes our ‘Amen’ to the Father” (CCC 1065).
  • Each Christian is called to love God and neighbor in friendship. This is the essence of God’s New Covenant. This friendship is presented in both the Old and New Covenants as a nuptial relationship between God as the bridegroom and the Chosen People and the Church as his bride. (CCC 1612, 1617).
  • “Marriage is a uniquely intimate form of friendship that calls a man and a woman to love each other in the manner of God’s covenant” (Love is Our Mission (p. 41)).
  • Just as the bond of God’s love and faithfulness for us is indissoluble, Christian spouses are called to faithful, life-long, fruitful love (CCC 1614).
  • “Jesus has not placed on spouses a burden impossible to bear” for “he himself gives the strength and grace to live marriage in the new dimension of the Reign of God.” Christian spouses do this by “following Christ, renouncing themselves, and taking up their crosses” with “the help of Christ.” “This grace of Christian marriage is a fruit of Christ’s cross, the source of all Christian life.” (CCC 1615)
  • The vocation to love also pertains to those who are not married. All grace is the fruit of Christ’s cross and it gives us the strength to love as Christ loved. With grace we can follow Christ, renounce ourselves, and live in this new dimension of willing the good of the other.

Practical application: Renewal of commitment

  • In a few moments we will recite the Creed, at the end of which we will say “Amen.” Then a little later, after the celebrant repeats Christ’s words which instituted the New Covenant, we will say together the Great Amen. Even later, if we receive Holy Communion we will respond with another “Amen.” These “amens” say to Christ Yes, I believe, I trust in you, You will be faithful to your word.
  • Let’s let these amens and all the amens of this next week be renewals of our commitment to the New Covenant. Joshua asked the Israelites to declare whom they would serve. Our commitment is to love God above all things and to will the true good of our neighbor.
  • Who is my neighbor? Charity begins at home and spreads outward. My neighbor is my spouse, parents, children, relatives, friends, neighbors, and anyone in need that I can serve.
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