First Reading: Joshua 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: Psalms 34:2-3, 16-17, 18-19, 20-21
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: Ephesians 5:21-32
Brothers and sisters: Be subordinate to one another out of reverence for Christ. Wives should be subordinate to their husbands as to the Lord. For the husband is head of his wife just as Christ is head of the church, he himself the savior of the body. As the church is subordinate to Christ, so wives should be subordinate to their husbands in everything. 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.
Gospel: John 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.”
Four years ago, I pulled the into the driveway, feeling unusually upbeat after a long day at work. My spirits lifted even more as I saw my husband, wearing his baggy camouflaged uniform that matched my own, climbing out of his already-parked car. He'd arrived just ahead of me. I scrambled out of my car and ran to meet him, but stopped abruptly as I registered the look on his face. He grasped my hand as his troubled eyes raised to meet mine; a feeling of dread washed over me and the happiness drained away.
"I got a casualty report from the old unit today," he said heavily. "From the description . . . I think . . . I mean . . . it's him*." He wrapped his arms around me and my heart dropped to my stomach. "No." I whispered. Not this friend. No! Please God! NO!
There had been many before in our line of work. There would be too many after. But this time, this soul, this young man with a beautiful little family . . . this one had hit the hardest of all. In the weeks following my head swam with thoughts and emotions, and words tumbled from my mouth so inadequately as I delivered meals, as I sat through the memorial ceremonies, as I grasped at a sliver of faith big enough to fill the void of the questions that held no answers.
But in the urge to run away from it all—to crumple under the weight of the sadness, to wonder that a God who is Love could let this happen—slowly, the whispers of truth rose forth.
"The Lord is close to the broken hearted."
He was. He was close, and He was present. He was in the ongoing stages of hurt and healing as the weeks blurred into months and beyond.
At every turn, the Healer held in His scarred and outstretched hands the offer of eternal life and love when everything else had been lost.
Four years later, there are still just as many recipes for brokenness as there are evils in the world. It may be a broken heart, aching with loss. A broken body wracked by pain. A broken spirit crushed by life's hurts. A broken soul, riddled by sin.
"It is the Spirit that gives life, while the flesh is of no avail."
Whatever our season—whatever our brokenness—whenever the world falls away, and it would be so easy to run but for our heart crying out, "to whom shall we go?" It is then we must hold fast to the Spirit and truth that remain. The only place to go is straight to Him.
"You alone have the words to eternal life."
Bring whatever brokenness you carry today to the Giver of Eternal Life, and allow him to speak His truth into your heart. And if you have an extra moment, I invite you to help me honor my friend today on his birthday into eternal life: pray a Divine Mercy Chaplet for our broken world that cannot seem to accept God, and for all the souls of the departed.
* The name of our dear friend has been withheld out of respect for his family's privacy.
Megan Hjelmstad is a wife, mom, writer and sometimes soldier whose real passion is equal parts faith and chocolate. You can find out more about her here.