Twenty-first Sunday in Ordinary Time (B)
August 22, 2021
Fr. John Colacino C.PPS.











O God, who cause the minds of the faithful
to unite in a single purpose,
grant your people to love what you command
and to desire what you promise,
that, amid the uncertainties of this world,
our hearts may be fixed on that place
where true gladness is found.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
God, for ever and ever. Amen.

First Reading  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."

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.

Second Reading Eph 5:2a, 25-32

Brothers and sisters:
Live in love, as Christ loved us.
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.

Alleluia Jn 6:63c, 68c

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."

Reflection Questions

  1. How does your household serve the Lord?
  2. How are you living in love, as Christ loved us?
  3. Are you ever tempted by the question, “Do you also want to leave?”

Catena Nova

When Jesus asks the Twelve whether they intend to leave him because he demands too much, Peter replies: “Lord, to whom shall we go?” Who else can instruct us in the way we must walk? To whom can we go to find anything better? And then he adds: “You have the words of eternal life!” Jesus’ words seem as difficult to understand as they are lofty; they lead us to the highest of goals and to a life that is unceasing, endless and that never falls apart and ends. Jesus’ words show us most obviously our need to sit at his feet and take him as our one and only teacher. How shall we go about giving Christ our constant and undivided attention? How are we to make him our guide? We begin by recognizing that he alone knows how to lead us to everlasting life. He knows how to ascend to the divine courts of Heaven and to enter into the assembly of the first born who delight in blessings that surpass all merely human understanding. If we know Christ, then the desire to follow him alone and to be with him always is self-evidently good and saving.... Being
always in Christ’s company means being steadfast in following him. We are to be constant in clinging to Him. Yet to accompany the Savior and to be following him all the time is not at all something we can do simply with our bodies. What we have to do can be accomplished only by deeds springing from various virtues. It is on this that the wisest disciples fix their minds. They refuse to depart from it no matter what unbelievers say. The Twelve saw that going away would be fatal. Peter’s reply says it: We will stay with you always and hold fast to your commands. We will accept your words without finding fault or thinking your teaching makes no sense—as the ignorant think. What shall we think? “How sweet are your words to my mouth! They are sweeter to me than is honey or a honeycomb!” These are to be our words at every moment as we follow Christ today and every day (St. Cyril of Alexandria).

“My child, says the Lord, listen to my words, the most delightful of all words, surpassing all the knowledge of the philosophers and wise men of this world.  My words are spirit and life and cannot be comprehended by human senses alone.  They are not to be interpreted according to the vain pleasure of the listener but they must be listened to, in silence and received with all humility and great affection.... Many hear the world more easily than they hear God – they follow the desires of the flesh more readily than the pleasure of God.   The world promises rewards that are temporal and insignificant and these are pursued with great longing.   I promise rewards that are eternal and unsurpassable, yet the hearts of mortals respond sluggishly.   Who serves and obeys me in all matters, with as much care as the world and its princes, are served? ....  What I have promised, I shall give, what I have said I will fulfil for any person, who remains faithful in my love unto the very end” (Thomas á Kempis).

We read in the gospel that when the Lord was teaching his disciples and urged them to share in his passion by the mystery of eating his body, some said: This is a hard saying, and from that time they no longer followed him. When he asked the disciples whether they also wished to go away, they replied: Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. I assure you....that even to this day it is clear to some that the words which Jesus speaks are spirit and life, and for this reason they follow him. To others these words seem hard, and so they look elsewhere for some pathetic consolation. Yet wisdom cries out in the streets, in the broad and spacious way that leads to death, to call back those who take this path....Let all our dealings be in the heart, where Christ dwells, in right judgement and wise counsel, but in such a way as to place no confidence in those dealings, nor rely upon our fragile defenses (St. Bernard of Clairvaux).

We must quickly get to work to save souls by the divine Eucharist, to awaken [a world] numbed in dormant apathy because they don’t know the gift of God, Jesus, the Eucharistic Emmanuel. This is the torch of love which we must carry to tepid souls who haven’t made Jesus in the holy tabernacle their center and their life. Any devotion which doesn’t set up one tent on Calvary and one near the Tabernacle is not a solid piety and will never do anything great. I fear that people are wandering too far from the Holy Eucharist, that this mystery of love par excellence is not sufficiently proclaimed. So souls are suffering, becoming more sensual and materialistic and inordinately attached to human beings. It is because they don’t know how to find their consolation and strength in our Lord (St. Peter Julian Eymard).

There is a mystery, the greatest of all mysteries – not that my adored Lord is in the Blessed Sacrament of the Altar – His word has said it, and what so simple as to take that word which is truth itself? – but that souls of His own creation, whom He gave His life to save, who are endowed with His choicest gifts in all things else, should remain blind, insensible, and deprived of that light without which every other blessing is unavailing! (St. Elizabeth Ann Seton).

The process of Jesus attempting to lead his hearers beyond scandal is shown in John 6. There Jesus attempts to bring his hearers on from their understanding of his miraculous feeding of the five thousand, an understanding rooted in food and a kingly messiah, towards his own subversion of the Passover and the Manna in the desert as pointing to himself as the authentic bread from heaven. During the discourse, the eager listening of his audience is gradually turned into furious questioning, linked by allusion with the murmuring of Israel against Moses on its way to the Promised Land. Finally even many of his disciples find it hard to take, and Jesus asks them if this scandalizes them (John 6:61). The scandal is what prevents people perceiving the unity of Jesus and the Father (v 62), and for John the flesh is precisely the human condition locked in scandal, while the spirit is what leads people beyond scandal into a belief in Jesus as revealing the Father, and the Father as he who sent Jesus into the world (vv 63-65). Many of the disciples are caused to stumble, but Peter and the other eleven stay, having perceived that Jesus has words of eternal life: that is, they have overcome the scandal, at least to some extent. Even so, Jesus knows that one of them is a diabolos who will betray him (v 70). The word diabolos here is quite specifically not used to indicate a metaphysical entity, but a human person locked in scandal. (James Alison).

This passage of the Gospel is the end of an entire episode that began with the multiplication of loaves, when they wanted to make Jesus king, Jesus goes to pray, they do not find him the next day, they go to look for him, they find him and Jesus reproaches them for looking for him to give food and not for the words of eternal life ... and that whole story ends here. They say to him, "Give us this bread," and Jesus explains that the bread he will give is his own body and his own blood. At that time, many of Jesus' disciples, after hearing this, said, "This word is hard: who can accept it?" (John 6: 60) Jesus had said that those who did not eat his body and blood would not have eternal life. Jesus said, "If you eat my body and my blood, you will rise again on the last day." (:54) These are the things that Jesus said and this word is hard, it is too hard. Something's not right here. This man has gone beyond the limits. And this is a moment of crisis.... And from that moment, many of his disciples left and did not go with him anymore. They distanced themselves.

A moment of crisis is a moment of choice, it is a moment that puts us in front of the decisions that we have to make: we have all had and will have moments of crisis in our lives. Family crises, marriage crises, social crises, crisis in work, many crises . This pandemic is also a time of social crisis. How do we react in that moment of crisis?.... In my land there is a saying that says: "When you ride a horse and you have to cross a river, please do not change horses in the middle of the river." In times of crisis, be very firm in your conviction of faith. These who left, changed horses, looked for another teacher who wasn't as tough; as they said to him. In times of crisis there is perseverance, silence; stay where we are, firm. This is not the time to make changes. It is a time of fidelity, of fidelity to God, of fidelity to the things we have chosen before; also, it is the time of conversion because this fidelity will inspire in us some changes for the better, but not to distance ourselves from good.... May the Lord send us the Holy Spirit to be able to resist temptations in times of crisis, to know how to be faithful to the first words, with the hope of living afterward in moments of peace. Let us think of our crises: family crises, neighbourhood crises, crises in work, social crises of the world, of the country ... so many crises, so many crises (Pope Francis).


Eucharistic Incoherence?

            Well, if they no longer walked with him, chances are they no longer walked with each other either.  After all, the Eucharist is what unites his disciples to the Lord and, in one body, to each other.  Which makes me think the two issues threatening our communion in the one body of the Lord today – the new restrictions on the pre-conciliar Mass and the debate over what might disqualify someone from receiving the Eucharist – are two sides of the same coin, an interconnection that might not be obvious at first glance.  For both controversies involve tendencies among Catholics to view the faith of others in the church as suspect.  In one case, the pope himself has become such a target – and not for the first time – being labeled an enemy of tradition.  While the pope, in authorizing limited celebrations of the former rite, laid down as a condition that those attending, “do not deny the validity and the legitimacy of the liturgical reform, dictated by Vatican Council II and the Magisterium of the Supreme Pontiffs.”

            As for the second controversy, certain politicians whose party platform is, in one notable instance, in conflict with Catholic teaching are thought to be so out of communion with the church they are advised by some bishops to refrain from receiving the Sacrament.  The mantra for this second case has become the need for one’s life to manifest “Eucharistic coherence” in order to receive Communion worthily.  Hence, Nancy Pelosi’s bishop, Salvatore Cordileone of San Francisco has said, “no one can claim to be a devout Catholic and condone the killing of innocent human life, let alone have the government pay for it.” In a pastoral letter on the subject, he affirmed that "those who reject the teaching of the church on the sanctity of human life and those who do not seek to live in accordance with that teaching should not receive the Eucharist." This would include those “who support candidates or legislation for the purpose of making abortion a more readily available.”

            Bishops like him have spearheaded a forthcoming “teaching document” from the entire episcopal conference on the Eucharist that will address such litmus tests  – though a national policy will not reportedly be among its contents upon advice of the Vatican.  Hence, President Biden’s Jesuit pastor, Kevin Gillespie, has said, “He’s a man of faith, and I would give Communion to him like any other Catholic coming up for the Eucharist.”  His approach is in line, by the way, with Cardinal Wilton Gregory, the Archbishop of Washington, who has said that he opposes Communion bans on politicians who support the non-criminalization of abortion and was among a minority of bishop who tried to have the document on the Eucharist shelved.

            Of course, there are plenty of other “hard sayings” in the church’s teaching, opposition to which has not garnered threats to withhold the Eucharist from those who either reject them or, as with politicians, support legislation opposed to such teachings.

            Whatever one’s views on the matter, many Catholics are unwilling to walk together any longer, including in the Communion line (or at the Communion rail), whether over liturgical entrenchment or a “hard saying” of the church on a particular moral issue.  And there are plenty of the latter.  One that comes to mind, and about which the gospels themselves have plenty to say, is divorce.  Outside of the Philippines, the last of the Catholic countries that still prohibits divorce, I have not heard of any episcopal drumbeating over an issue where a majority of the populace, including in Italy, Ireland, Chile, and Poland, has seen fit to liberalize strictures that were once firmly in place.  Nor is any Catholic politician being asked to work for their resumption.

            For it seems the rub that will continue to bedevil the church in democratic societies is how its teaching can be proposed in a way that is “coherent” but not “coercive.”  This is how Austen Iverleigh put it in a recent article in Commonweal (July 21, 2021).  Among other things, he notes how, “The Church cannot simply demand that a democratic country outlaw what a majority of its citizens do not consider criminal.” (I might add how counted among such majorities are very many Catholics themselves). 

            Recognizing that politics is the art of the possible, he notes further how, “Many politicians might like to legislate against something they find morally abhorrent, but know they can’t” thus making futile “the claim that every Catholic politician must demand that abortion be criminalized, regardless of political circumstances or constraints.”  Bishops elsewhere in the world understand very well that “no politician, however committed to her faith, can advocate the total criminalization of abortion and expect to be elected.” All of which might well lead, “A Catholic politician might conclude that to press for a particular policy in accord with Church teaching right now will not only fail but make it harder to press for in the future.”  So even where laws are in place that, for example, make the death penalty legal, or authorize the proliferation of nuclear weapons, or seek to disenfranchise voters on the basis of race, “it is not simple, given this fact, to determine what Catholic politicians can or must do (or not do) in the particular circumstances of their office.” Indeed, Democrat or Republican, “no Catholic politician in the West will find an electable party that reflects Catholic teaching in its entirety. If Catholics are to continue to be part of political life, therefore, their discernment must expand beyond the ideal but currently impossible.”

            Which leaves politicians and citizens alike to form a conscience in light of church teaching and the practical exigencies arising from living in a world that is not always prepared “to serve the LORD” (I). And yes, “The bishops’ job is to remind us all, including politicians, what the Church teaches and what the Gospel demands, and to challenge us to avoid the corrosion of conscience by the surrounding culture. With freedom comes responsibility and accountability: politicians must obey their consciences, and voters must hold them to account for their choices. The Church’s task is to walk with them, assisting and guiding them. That means keeping open the channels of grace—not sending Catholic politicians away from the Communion rail (!) but holding them close.”

            Which is, after all, what the Eucharist does, doesn’t it?


Intercessions (Peter Scagnelli)

Let this household of faith present itself now before the Lord our God, praying to the One whose mighty deeds are known to all.

That Christians may reject the values of society that contradict the gospel and choose to serve the Lord whose gifts are freedom and fidelity.

That the difficult teachings of Jesus may not discourage Christians but challenge us to ask for the grace to embrace the cost of discipleship.

That God may deliver our world from its slavery to violence and set the nations free to pursue reconciliation and peace.

That those on whom society has turned its back may not despair but be comforted to find that Christ’s disciples will not abandon them.

That women may be able to share their talents in church and society and that these communities may welcome the gifts and challenges they bring.

That the wives and husbands of our community may grow in love and be living signs of Christ’s love for the church.

That those whose faith is tested may not walk away but stay near Christ who has the words of eternal life.

That this assembly may find Christ’s words to be spirit and life and Christ’s flesh and blood to be the source of life within us.

That we, who have come to know and believe in Christ as God’s Holy One may imitate Christ by serving one another in reverence and humility.

That those who served God and remained loyal to Christ in this life may see Christ, who has ascended to where he was before.

In every age, O God, you give your people freedom to walk in faith or to turn away. Grant us grace to remain faithful to your Holy One, whose words are spirit and life, Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, God for ever and ever (ICEL).

Interlude (Bernadette Farrell)


Your words are spirit and life, O Lord:
richer than gold, stronger than death.
Your words are spirit and life, O Lord;
life everlasting.

God’s law is perfect, refreshing the soul,

reviving the weary spirit.
God’s rule can be trusted: bringing us wisdom,
bringing God’s wisdom to birth.

God’s precepts keep us; their purpose is right.
They gladden the hearts of people.
God’s command is so clear it brings us new vision;
bringing God’s light to our eyes.

Living by God’s truth is holy and sure;
God’s presence is everlasting.
God’s truth is eternal, bringing us justice;
bringing God’s justice to earth.

God’s word is precious, desired more than gold;
worth more than we dare imagine
and, sweeter than honey, this word will feed us,
bringing fulfillment and joy.

Lord’s Prayer

We ask for our daily bread as Jesus taught....

Spiritual Communion

Holy One of God, Lord Jesus Christ, we believe you have the words of eternal life, and that you offer us this gift when we eat your Flesh and drink your Blood in the most holy sacrament of the altar.  Though we find ourselves today away from your table, we trust that our faith in your word will fill us nevertheless with Spirit and life and draw us ever closer to the Father to whom we have come through you.



Closing Hymn (Michael Joncas)

Lord to whom shall we go?
For you alone have words of eternal life.

Your words, O Lord, are a feast for my soul;
Your Word is my hope of salvation Your words, O Lord, are my light and my hope;
Your Word is my hope of salvation.

Your words, O Lord, are my strength and my shield;
Your Word is my hope of salvation.