Despite the threat of a tropical storm, we planned on celebrating every single one of our eight scheduled Masses this weekend. We had no idea how bad the storm would be, but if someone showed up to pray, Mass would be celebrated. Every Mass was indeed celebrated. They were simple and brief yet solemn. There was no music yet the sounds of nature outside the church provided a moving soundtrack. More importantly, every Mass was celebrated with great faith by the people who came, which is what today’s readings, were all about:
“We have come to believe and are convinced that you are the Holy One of God.” (John 6:69)
You have no idea how moving it is for me as a priest to see all of you at Mass today. Last night when I went to bed, I thought I would be celebrating Mass for the statues because I really had no idea how bad the storm was going to be. Your very presence here despite the wind and the rain is a great act of faith. You made a decision this morning that in spite of whatever obstacles nature threw your way, you were determined to come to Mass to thank the Lord for his goodness. He has spared us from this storm and we gather to give thanks. Besides, as St. Peter says at the end of today’s gospel, “To Whom shall we go?” It is awesome to see nature on display particularly during a storm, but it is only here that we hear the words of eternal life and consume the bread of eternal life.
Yes, today you made a decision of faith just like Peter did in the gospel and Joshua made in the first reading. Joshua gathered the people of Israel whom he now lead after Moses had died and basically told them that it was time for them to decide if they truly wanted to serve the Lord or not. Many of the Israelites, despite having seen God’s power first hand after being freed from Egypt, were still opting for false gods which caused Joshua to draw a line in the sand and basically tell them “who are you going to follow?” This prompts Joshua to utter one of my mother’s favorite bible quotes: “As for me and my household, we will serve the Lord (Joshua 24:15).” My mother had this verse on a magnet on our fridge when I was a kid. The people of Israel had reached a crossroads in their faith journey just as the disciple did at the end of today’s gospel. Jesus sees many of his followers leave because they found his teachings too harsh, so the Lord turns to the twelve and asks them if they were also going to leave. Peter speaks for all of them when he basically surrenders to Jesus and says “To Whom shall we go?” But he takes it a step further when he says, “We have come to believe and are convinced that you are the Holy One of God.” That word “convinced” is what really floors me. The twelve see no other path in their lives but a path with the Lord. Their conviction is what is exemplary. It is the same conviction that each of you demonstrated by braving the elements and making your way to Mass this day. May we always have the conviction of Joshua and Peter to always opt for the Lord for only He has the words of eternal life.