Joshua 24:1-2a, 15-17, 18b
Ephesians 5:21-32 or 5:2a, 25-32
"So, what are you going to do?"
This basic question about what is fundamentally important in our lives links today’s first reading from the Book of Joshua and the selection from John’s Gospel. In the first, Joshua asks the People of Israel to "decide today whom you will serve." In the gospel, Jesus asks the disciples, "Do you want to leave?" In each case, it’s a moment of decision. Yes or no? Leave or stay? Serve God or not?
Perhaps the stark yes/no question strikes us as silly. We all think we will say, "Yes, of course, we’re in; we’re staying with the Lord until the end." But the question usually gets asked at moments when we understand that there is a junction that will define us well into the future. In the gospel, there were those who just couldn’t understand Jesus or what he was teaching. "Many returned to their former way of life," the gospel reports. There is no calling down fire or brimstone on them. They simply went home. They made a decision. Peter decides to stay…at least for now.
Today, my youngest brother would have turned 46 had he lived. But he was killed 23 years ago. That was a moment in my life where I struggled with the question, "So, what are you going to do now?" He didn’t have to die. In a senseless moment, two young men caused his death. I had to ask myself some fundamentally important questions about how I was going to choose to live my life from that moment on. Not quite as simple as a yes/no question.
Moments of considering a proposal of marriage, welcoming a new child, moving to a new city, or discerning life in a religious community are opportunities to sharpen our commitment to living lives of service by following Christ. Moments of dealing with loss and death and disappointment – just like the People of Israel and the disciples – force us to ask, "What now?"
The question leads us to the very core of our identity, as it should. There we encounter God-within-us, the Holy Spirit dwelling in each of us. And in that encounter we listen to God’s question that Jesus asked the first disciples: "What are you looking for?" (John 1:38). These moments, scary or intimidating as they might be, require an answer. But the answer already is deep within us. We know the kind of person we want to be and become. And we know that our joy is in being faithful to the people God created us to be. When we are honest with ourselves and admit our deepest desires, we’ll know what we need to do.
Robert Hotz is a consultant with American City Bureau, Inc. and is the Director of The Passion of Christ: The Love That Compels Campaign for Holy Cross Province.