Do you know what it means to be “all in”?
When someone is gambling – playing poker, let’s say – and they feel totally confident in the strength of their position, they will risk as much as they can – often everything – and go “all in.” It is a complete commitment, and it is usually very impressive.
When declaring American independence in 1776, the signers of the Declaration ended their statement with the following words: “We, therefore, the Representatives of the United States of America… for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.”
“Our lives, our fortunes, and our sacred honor.” That’s going “all in.” That is commitment.
Thus, today, we hear in all our readings of the power of commitment for the disciple – and it is not easy.
In the First Reading, Joshua challenges the People of Israel to make their decision – either for the Lord or for someone else. He knows to whom he is committing himself and his family; and Israel also commits to the Lord, recalling the great things that He had done for them. They are confident in their God, and they make the commitment.
Paul speaks of another commitment in the Second Reading. It might be difficult to hear at first – especially if you are a wife being told to “be subordinate to their husbands.”However, the commitment here is not simply one of submission of one part to the other. Rather, Paul prefaces his teaching like this: “Be subordinate to one another out of reverence for Christ.” The message is that Jesus is the key to our commitment, not our own pleasure or comfort. Husbands are likewise told to “love your wives, even as Christ loved the church and handed himself over for her to sanctify her.” Husbands, too, are being called to the same sacrificial love that “subordinate” wives are, and the two are called to imitate Jesus.
Finally, the Gospel presents us with a significant point in Jesus’ ministry – a point when some walked away and others remained. Jesus is asking the disciples to commit to Him, even as He is committing Himself to us – He who has said that He is the living Bread come down from heaven, and that we must eat His Body and drink His Blood, which is true drink and His Flesh for the life of the world. This is no simple task, and many of the disciples found it too difficult to take.
But this commitment is at the heart of discipleship. We are called to adhere to Christ not only when it is easy or when it “looks good,” but especially when it is tough – when we must “submit.” Even today, many disciples find this language too difficult to follow, and we look for loopholes and “spin.” Jesus never did that, though, and He lost followers because of it.
Christ knew that His way was hard; He knew it would end in suffering for Him and for His followers. That is why He gives us the choice – as He did to the Apostles today. Christ offers us the choice because commitment must come from us – it cannot be forced – it must be a total gift of ourselves to Him – we need to be “all in.” We see this in the commitment of spouses in Holy Matrimony, who are called to “be subordinate to one another out of reverence for Christ.”
And Jesus also knows that commitment is impossible unless there is something worthwhile behind it – something valuable and solid upon which our commitment rests. There has to be trust. Like the poker player who trusts that he has the best hand; like the founding fathers who trusted that their cause was the right one; we too must trust the One who promises to feed us, sustain us, and ultimately give us eternal life.
The Eucharist is so important for us because it is Christ, present and active in our midst. Here, we are fed, sustained, and promised eternal life – tasting it ahead of time, as it were. Only God can make that sort of promise; only God can fulfill it. Therefore Peter can confidently respond to Christ’s offer: “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.”
Today, we stand before Jesus – just as the crowd of disciples did, just as Peter, just as Israel and Joshua, just as a couple coming together in marriage – and we are offered the decision to commit – to go all in.
What is your answer?