..it is as if our readings at this very time have been chosen for us..the hour for the chosen people was a historic one, as the people entered the Promised Land, a long period of wanderings through the desert is ending; they have a new leader to replace Moses who was stood down by God..a new era is beginning.. & they are called to renew their commitment, a personal commitment, taken in complete freedom..choose today..you decide..
“..choose today whom you wish to serve..” ; Lord have mercy “..we have no intention of deserting the Lord our God, who preserved us all along the way we travelled..” ; Christ have mercy “..we too will serve the Lord, for he is our God..” ; Lord have mercy May Almighty God have mercy on us, forgive us our sins & bring us to everlasting life. Amen.
“..but there are some of you who do not believe” a liminal moment for Jesus & his emerging community of followers..they were still rookies & he gave them every possible benefit of doubt to question, to ponder, & to return with further questions or issues..much patience care & understanding, & now the decision. It reminds me of Ch 58 in Rule of St Benedict “reception of candidates for the community” wisdom gentleness & common sense in evidence..”entry to monastic life should not be made too easy; make trial of the spirits to see if they are from God..evidence of patient perseverance & does not waver from request for entry, accepts rebuffs & difficulties put in way; then, with strength of purpose they shall be received among the novices, a senior chosen to look after them, closely attentive to their spiritual development..is it God himself they truly seek? do they have a real love for the work of God? a willing acceptance of obedience & demands in humility & patience”..& the novice master Jesus Christ asks his novice disciples “does this upset you? what if you should see the Son of Man ascend to where he was before?” & of novice Rule puts it starkly clearly “this is the law under which you ask to serve; if you can be faithful to it, enter; if you cannot, then freely depart” novice kneels in front of Abbot & whole Community night before his profession; on table on one side, a folded monastic habit, on other side his lay clothes he arrived in..he is asked to go to the one he chooses; habit & monastic life, lay clothes & back into world. First disciples, like some novices, hesitant, followed to an extent but waiting waiting to make up their mind, a reserve caution like rich young man “there is one thing you lack, go sell all you own, then come follow me” we know only too well his response [our response] “he went away sad for he was a man of great wealth” “after this, many of his disciples left him & stopped going with him” they hadn’t lost their faith so much as their illsuions; how often in faith do we sign up to a future we expect & end up living out joyfully wholeheartedly a future we could never have imagined?..it is faith..to commit ones whole life, not in spite of but especially because of the question mark “how can this come about?” asked Mary of Nazareth..”father take this cup of suffering from me” Jesus in Gethsemane..instead of hearing Our Lords invitation to rich young man, & to you, from heart, & you look back & perhaps say with some sadness “if only I hadn’t walked out on him” do you ever wonder how long it took rich young man to come to his senses & turn for home? “you might not remember me but I am the one who walked out on you 2yrs ago..will you have me back please?”..remember my dying man in hospice who I gently persuaded to go to Confession when he thought it was all too late..”bless me Father for I have sinned, it is 70yrs since my last Confession” & forgiven healed & Holy Communion he died 2days later..story Abbot Gregory told us on retreat last week, of couple in his parish in USA happily married two fine children..one night husband didn’t come home from work..his wife desperately looked in his clothes cupboards & all had been cleared..she never saw him again..she took a job brought up two children on her own..27yrs later knock on front door her husband standing there..he explained three doctors had told him he had terminal cancer with 3months to live..she took him in & nursed him until he died..”does this upset you?”.. ”what about you, do you want to go away too?”..70yrs 27yrs how long have you been away, distanced observant dutiful in family in community in parish but having spiritually walked out long ago?..”there are some of you who do not believe” some of you here..I don’t think it is a clear demarcation between believer/unbeliever practising/lapsed..sheep/goats... swaledale/herdwick..wheat/chaff..it is the invitation to come, to postpone to delay to take chronos [clockwork ] time to consider the invitation to come in or return home in kairos [divine] time..a time of decision & of grace be sure..He never denies us his grace ..in his own Gethsemane moment of choice his Father was at His closest..”take this cup of suffering from me” & then the graced if terrifying moment for him before he chose “but let it be as you not I would have it” ..Peter as ever comes straight out with vote of confidence & faith, so soon in his bravado to be found a failure, his faith constantly being tested, not by a novice master or marriage partner nor by Jesus Christ, but by life itself & its experiences. As novice makes his profession he sings “receive me O Lord in accordance with your word & I shall live..do not disappoint me in the hope you have given me” sung three times..& 69yrs later last Friday in Monks Wood as Fr Michaels coffin was lowered into grave we sang on his behalf again “receive me O Lord in accordance with your word & I shall live..do not disappoint me in the hope you have given me”..“Lord, who shall we go to? You have the message of eternal life, & we believe” can I suggest that there is a whole spectrum of belief among us here & now?.. some of you who delay, wobble, hang on by a finger-tip, some rich young men & women for whom the call seems just now too much..the hesitant, the wounded, the certain & the chaff..take heart, stay with us, we need each of you, valued for who you are & where you are..& when, in kairos time, you get to the gate of heaven..when not if..Our Lord will look steadily at you, as he did the rich young man, & love you into his kingdom..& then ask you “where is Bede?” ..please remember me.. [ 21st SunYrB Jn 6;60-69 ]