The Nazareth Page - A gospel meditation for your home
August 22, 2021 – 21st Sunday in Ordinary Time - John 6:60-69
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While we are sometimes described as “creatures of habit,” one of the great gifts we are given is that of freedom. In other words, an anti-habit power. We all have to ability to chose this or that, to turn right or left, to have our coffee with or without sugar and cream. We have lots of choices.
Today’s gospel describes those who followed Jesus faithfully and those who left Jesus after a while. What’s important to reflect on is that Jesus forced no one to follow him. It was their decision to do so or not. They were free to go this way or that.
I have walked planet Earth for eight or so decades. I can’t give you a number as to how many free choices or decisions I made along the way. If I have any regrets, it might be that I often failed to consider all my options. I stepped back from making decisions that involved going a new way or trying harder to finish this or that project. I know that I often did this out of shyness or lack of self-confidence. Or remained in place rather than moving on.
I judge that many of us go along with the crowd rather than trying something new. Maybe we lack courage. Or worried too much about what others might think. In a word, we failed to use one of God’s most precious gifts to us, the gift of freedom.
As noted, following Jesus is not a matter of force, but of freedom. And the act of living the Christian life is something that can be freely chosen each day. Of course, responding fully to the daily challenges of being a disciple of Jesus is no easy matter. According to Jesus, it might mean going the narrow way, even at times the way of the cross.
But making free decisions is also a guarantee that one is living fully in a way that God intends us to live. While some think we are pre-programed by genetics or by the position of the stars, I believe there remains plenty of space and opportunity to defy so-called pre-existing conditions. We are given at least a few blank pages to fill in on our own. To act in ways that are new and unique. To follow Jesus in ways that no one else ever had. That’s what God expects of us.
Years ago, I made a vow to try and do something new (for me) each day. Something that I had never done before. To try to use the gift of freedom given to me by God who first freely created me in the first place. Imagine that!
©David M. Thomas, PhD