(A biblical refection on THE 21ST SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME – August 26, 2012)
First Reading: Josh 24:1-2,15-18; Psalms: Ps 34:2-3,16-23; Second Reading: Eph 5:21-32; Gospel Reading: Jn 6:60-69
The movie Lady Sings the Blues tells the life story of singer Billie Holliday. To play the role of Billie Holliday, singer Diana Ross spent almost nine months reading clippings about Billie, sifting through pictures of her and listening over and over again to her recorded songs. Diana Ross also researched Billie’s era of fame, the 1930’s and 1940’s, and the drug addiction that tragically ended her career.
Diana Ross said: “I was committed to doing a good job on the film because so many people loved and admired Billie Holliday. So I spent a lot of time listening and kind of feeling her music. I tried very hard to know her as much as I could, so I could let it come out in the songs I sang.”
Diana Ross’ motion picture debut in Lady sings the Blues was a huge success, not only because of the powerful story it told about Billie Holliday, but also because of Diana Ross’ commitment to honor a singer she admired very much.
Commitment is one the subjects of today’s readings.
In the first reading, Joshua and his people commit themselves to serve the Lord their God, for He it is who delivered them from slavery.
In the Gospel, Jesus questions His disciples about their commitment to Him: “Do you too want to leave me?” Simon Peter answers: “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We are convinced that You are God’s Holy One.”
What does commitment mean to us in an age of rapid electronic change?
First, consider how a commitment is based on a promise to do something in the future. Even though we cannot foresee the inevitable difficulties that will arise, we promise to find, if possible, solutions to them. By our promise we forbid ourselves to take the easy way out when a crisis comes up.
For example, in marriage there will be unavoidable conflicts which a couple cannot anticipate. Nonetheless, their public commitment to each other is a declaration of their determination to overcome these conflicts as they arise.
Second, a commitment is made to persons and not to institutions. It is a relationship established with real people and not with abstract organizations. Thus a teacher says to his students or an employer to his workers: “You can count on me when troubles arise. You can trust in me in spite of the uncertainties of the future.”
In other words, a bond of justice is established with others, and we no longer have the right to consider our actions only our own. They belong also to others to whom we are committed.
Third, a commitment requires a response on our part. It is easy to make a promise in a moment of enthusiasm. It is difficult to carry it out when a crisis comes up.
Yet, if our commitment is to have any meaning, we must respond to the crisis with determination, creativity and generosity. A commitment demands that we discover, insofar as it is possible, a solution to the difficulties. Otherwise we stay in a state of narcissism.
As William James said: “A mature individual commits himself to something larger than the service of his own little ego.” In other words, commitments carry us out of the vicious circle of self-seeking into the service of people who need our love.
Diana Ross made a commitment to honor Billie Holliday in the movie Lady Sings the Blues, and so she did all the hard work necessary to live up to that commitment.
Joshua in the Old Testament and the apostles in the New Testament made a commitment to follow the Lord, and so they were ready to make the sacrifices necessary to carry out their promises.
How committed are we to the Lord? How far are we willing to go with Him?
Note: Taken from Albert Cylwicki CSB, His Word Resounds, Makati, Philippines: St. Paul Publications, 1991, pages 176-177.
Jakarta, 21 August 2012
A Christian Pilgrim