To Whom Can We Go? 21st Sunday in Ordinary Times


We need God! It doesn’t really matter what we call God – he, she, they, Lord, Jesus, Abba, Father, Mother, Allah, the Creator, Yahweh, a Higher Power, and so on. Our needs may be for a being to offer us hope or strength or peace in a turbulent time of life. It may express the situation of being desperate and knowing how powerless we are to effect change through our own efforts.

The psalms are filled with beautiful images to describe the power of God in our lives. For instance, today’s Psalm 34 describes a God who keeps eyes and ears directed towards us. “The Lord is near to the broken-hearted, and saves the crushed in spirit.” Our personal name for God likely comes from the ways we were taught, to the ways we have grown in intimate awareness of God’s place in our life.

Joshua is the leader of the Israelite tribes after the death of Moses. Moses gave the people a choice – life or death, blessing or curse. Joshua also places an alternative before the people. If you choose not to serve the Lord, choose this day who you will serve. He goes on to state, “As for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.”

The assembled people concur. “Far be it from us that we should forsake the Lord to serve other gods.” They then recount the things that the Lord did for them, starting with release from slavery in Egypt and the marvels they have experienced. “Therefore we also will serve the Lord, for he is our God.”

John’s Gospel includes the acknowledgement that some could not accept the teaching of Jesus. They turned back and no longer went about with him. This caused Jesus to ask the twelve whether they also wished to go away. We hear in response that Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom can we go? You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe and know that you are the Holy One of God.” Peter’s confession shows that the twelve had begun to recognize Jesus as Messiah.

Many of us have reached the point whereby we are stating the same thing. To whom can I go? If I am desperate enough, the specific name by which I cry to God is secondary to the very fact that I am crying and pleading. Try to imagine the person caught in addictive behaviour. Think of the parent who is worried sick about a child.

Call to mind a refugee who has lost everything and is starting over. That famous first step in the 12-step program applies to far more than our addictions. It’s a cry for help. “We admitted we were powerless … that our lives had become unmanageable.”

What is the name you use to address God? Do you use different words at different times in life? What name or image do you fall back on when your life is unmanageable?

Philip Shano, SJ has many years of rich and varied experience working with Ignatian spirituality: teaching, writing and using it in his ministry. He resides in the Jesuit community in Pickering, Ontario.

  • graeme quinlan
    Posted at 02:01h, 22 August Reply

    For each one of us ,this is our profound proclamation of faith.”I BELIEVE’ Therefore this is the way I intend to follow. To walk in the footsteps of He who came to give us salvation.

  • Peter Bisson
    Posted at 07:50h, 22 August Reply

    Thank you Philip!

  • Grace C.
    Posted at 15:24h, 22 August Reply

    Thank you for your words: “What is the name you use to address God?” and for noting the reality that this is secondary to the fact that we are calling out.

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