Sunday, Aug. 26, is the 21st Sunday of Ordinary Time (Year B). Mass Readings: Joshua 24:1-2, 15-17, 18; Psalm 34:2-3, 16-21; Ephesians 5:21-32; John 6:60-69.

Despite everything God does for us, we can still be ungrateful. We still have free will, and we can choose to turn our backs on him.

Joshua presented the leaders of Israel with a choice: Would they serve the true God or would they serve the false gods of the nations? This occurred during the first generation to live in the Promised Land. They had received all the benefits God had assured them he would provide, and they were grateful. They declared that they would follow the Lord, for he “brought us and our ancestors up from the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery, and who did those great signs in our sight. He protected us along all the way that we went, and among all the peoples through whom we passed” (Joshua 24:17).

Despite this initial resolve, Israel’s gratitude faded, and many eventually rejected God and began to worship idols, bringing disaster upon the nation. It doesn’t have to take generations for this to happen. People can abandon God even though they’ve just experienced his blessings.

When Jesus fed the 5,000, countless disciples saw how he miraculously multiplied the loaves. But when he then declared an even greater miracle — that he would offer us his flesh and blood in the Eucharist — many balked. Jesus knew this, and he told them: “Among you there are some who do not believe.” He refused to water down his teaching on the Eucharist, and then we read one of the saddest verses in the Bible: “Because of this many of his disciples turned back and no longer went about with him” (John 6:66).

Think about that: These people were already so committed to Jesus that they had become his traveling companions, like the Twelve Apostles. But despite this commitment, and despite the miracle they had just seen, they refused to accept his teaching and turned their backs on him.

Today many people abandon their Catholic faith because the Church has “hard sayings” that people don’t want to accept. But when Jesus asked the Twelve if they also wanted to depart, St. Peter replied, “Lord, to whom can we go? You have the words of eternal life.” Peter didn’t deny that Jesus’ saying was hard, but he accepted it anyway. In the same way, we can accept the difficult teachings of the Church, because Jesus is guiding it.

St. Paul tells us that “Christ loved the Church and gave himself up for her,” caring for it the way each and every one of us cares for our own bodies. Not only does Jesus love and care for the Church, he also loves and cares for each one of us, especially when we encounter hardships in life. “The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit. Many are the afflictions of the righteous, but the Lord rescues them from them all.”

Knowing that God loves us and cares for us no matter what happens gives us the hope and courage we need to remain his disciples.

Jimmy Akin is the senior

apologist at Catholic Answers,

a contributing editor to Catholic Answers Magazine

and a weekly guest on Catholic Answers Live. He blogs at NCRegister.com.