I recently read a story in the Catholic Worker about Daniel Elsberg who walked 3000 miles from San Francisco to the Pentagon in the year 1976. This made me reflect on today’s scripture from Joshua because it reminds us that the God of Israel journeys, or walks, with us through the events of human history. Daniel Elsberg, along with others, made this walk with the hope of saving the world from nuclear catastrophe. When asked if he thought the world could be saved from this catastrophe, he said it would take a miracle. We have faced many challenges since then, but people like Daniel Elsberg and their hope, I believe, continue to carry human history forward. Today’s readings call us to reexamine our commitments and priorities and ask us as people of faith if we will be those people that join the Daniel Elsbergs and other pioneers on the journey to continue to walk toward a better tomorrow. This challenges us to not become immobile but to keep moving forward. Perhaps the gods we can succumb to are to choose to live in the securities of the past, to give into the temptations of complacency in the present, or to believe in the God of Israel who wants to lead us on the journey of human freedom. This is what Nelson Mandela, who stood against apartheid and racism in South Africa, called the long walk to freedom. I think, more than ever, today we need the courage of the pioneers of hope who have been willing to make that long walk to freedom.
I am finding out from experts in the medical field that Covid and the delta variant is on the rise; that ICU units are being filled and that lives are continuing to be lost from this terrible pandemic. The experts tell me that getting the vaccine is a matter of life and death. If we think about getting this vaccine as the miracle, it is a way of joining those who work to move human history forward. We can also think of parishioners heroically working in the medical field, or many of you who volunteered to help vaccinate people and save lives. Pope Francis this past week reminded us that getting vaccinated is a small act of love that can make the world a better place. May we continue to march on with those small acts of love as a pilgrim people. Our commitment is to walk towards a new world of justice, equality, freedom, and the dignity of the human person.
Our reading from Ephesians reflects on marriage, something that has evolved throughout human history—sometimes in ways that have held up equality and human dignity but at other times that have been abusive. We certainly view marriage much differently today in the twenty-first century. Families that could be considered traditional or nontraditional can be a school of love and embody ideals that help the whole human family make that long walk to freedom.
Today’s gospel gives us food for the long walk to freedom, that Jesus is that living word and the body and blood that feeds us, nourishes us, gives us the hope to believe in miracles. A God of love always gives us freedom, and some choose to walk away. Many disciples, as we know, have faltered in the walk. We all do from time to time. The Lord in mercy gently nudges us to get up again and continue the journey. Peter makes the choice today to follow Jesus; to be fed and nourished and continue the long walk to freedom. As we gather at this Eucharist to be fed by the living word of Jesus and his body and blood, let’s join all the women and men that have gone before us who have not given up on the miracle and continue the long walk to freedom.