Friday, August 3, 2012

The Church Year and the Lectionary Commentary – 18th Ordinary (Day 4)

John 6:24-35

24 When the crowd saw that neither Jesus nor his disciples were there, they got into the boats and came to Capernaum looking for Jesus. 25 When they found him on the other side of the lake, they asked him, “Rabbi, when did you get here?”
26 Jesus replied, “I assure you that you are looking for me not because you saw miraculous signs but because you ate all the food you wanted. 27 Don’t work for the food that doesn’t last but for the food that endures for eternal life, which the Human One will give you. God the Father has confirmed him as his agent to give life.”
28 They asked, “What must we do in order to accomplish what God requires?”
29 Jesus replied, “This is what God requires, that you believe in him whom God sent.”
30 They asked, “What miraculous sign will you do, that we can see and believe you? What will you do? 31 Our ancestors ate manna in the wilderness, just as it is written, He gave them bread from heaven to eat.”
32 Jesus told them, “I assure you, it wasn’t Moses who gave the bread from heaven to you, but my Father gives you the true bread from heaven. 33 The bread of God is the one who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.”
34 They said, “Sir, give us this bread all the time!”
35 Jesus replied, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.


We are like people who enter a store one day and find that during the night a prankster has broken in and changed all the price signs on the merchandise. What yesterday was expensive, even too expensive for us, is now cheap, ridiculously so. Little plastic toys formerly less than a dollar are now beyond our means.

Most of us are savvy enough consumers not to be thrown off balance or fooled by this act of mischief into purchasing cheap items dear or passing by the now cheaply-priced items of high quality and value. But are we that wise in living our lives?

Apparently not! We smirk smugly at the bumper sticker saying “Whoever dies with the most toys wins.” Yet our non-Christian friends and neighbors claim to see no difference in the patterns of spending, consumption and desire between themselves and those who go to church regularly!

Like the people Jesus fed in our story today from John, we want Jesus for what he can give us. Prosperity gospels promising us that God desires our health and wealth, our driving luxury vehicles, and, in short, having everything we could want in this life tempt us to treat Jesus this way.

The third commandment not to take the Lord’s name in vain has to do with using God’s name in just this way – as a talisman or magical or spiritual guarantee of the success and prosperity we pronounce his name over.

But Jesus will not let his first-century followers off any easier than he lets us off on this point. Similar in kind to God’s requiring Abraham to sacrifice his long-promised son, Isaac, so here Jesus confronts head-on our tendency to try to use and manipulate him for our purposes, our ease and comfort.

The people want and never-ending supply of this divine-given bread (v.34). Jesus gives them himself - “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.” We can’t get the goodies without embracing and following the Giver. Abraham couldn’t. These people in John 6 couldn’t. And neither can we!

When we seize on God’s gifts for themselves we inevitably elevate them to the place in our lives on the living God should and can occupy. Like the manna of old, if hoarded beyond its daily need, or held in place of or lieu of their Giver, they rot and are of no good to anyone.

They bread Jesus offers as we embrace his will and way for our lives in this world (v.27). As we grow in unity with and mature in following Jesus (vv.28-29), a miracle even greater than what Catholics believe happens in Eucharist occurs – we become part of this Bread of God “who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world” (v.33).
Is this not what we celebrate every time we observe the Eucharist. In the Great Prayer of Thanksgiving these words are often prayed: “Make them (the bread and the wine) be for us the body and blood of Christ, that we may be for the world the body of Christ, redeemed by his blood.”

And as the body of Christ in the world, we will be broken as was he that God’s love may pour forth from us in blessing and new life. The gifts God gives and uses to sustain us along the way are those needed for us to be and to be broken as the Body of Christ given for the life of the world.

Don’t be fooled, friends. Though the world and our own broken instincts incline us to grab for the goodies and do all we can to insure their continued provision, the true gift of God unites us to its Giver in such a way that we too give up our own lives (and ease and comfort) for the well-being and flourishing of others and, indeed, of the creation itself!

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