Nineteenth Sunday in OrdinaryTime
- · Dan’s Deliberations, Discoveries, & Declarations
- · Joke of the Day
- · Today’s Gospel Reading
- · Gospel Reflection
- · Reflection Prayer
This next Wednesday, August 15th, is the “Feast of the Assumption of Our Mother Mary”. Each year for the past 6 years, on this date, I have completed my preparations and renewing my “Total Consecration to Jesus through Mary”. This devotion was created by St. Louis Marie de Montfort, and takes 33 days of preparation by means of prayer, reading, meditation, reflections, and personal promises – – a true “metanoia” (conversion process)! (But then again, each and every day, I try to convert myself to God’s will, even if ever so slightly.) Each time I have completed this particular devotion, the experience and journey itself seems to “taste “a little sweeter. I’ll take this as a good sign to continue this yearly practice.
There will no Reflection next Sunday, August 18th. I will be on my yearly Franciscan (OFS) Retreat at King’s House in Belleville, IL. Our OFS Region (about 100 Secular Franciscans) will get together there for the weekend to celebrate, learn, rejoice, pray, contemplate, and enjoy each other in community. It is truly an awesome, up-lifting, powerful, and exciting time for me, both personally and spiritually.
Anytime spent with friends, family, and God – – all rolled into one experience – – is a true grace from God Himself. Amen, Amen, Amen!!!
Today’s reflection: Jesus responds to the murmurs of the crowd, who wonders what He means when He says, He “came down from heaven”. What are your “murmurs” towards Jesus?
(NAB John 6:41-51) 41 The Jews murmured about him because he said, “I am the bread that came down from heaven,” 42 and they said, “Is this not Jesus, the son of Joseph? Do we not know his father and mother? Then how can he say, ‘I have come down from heaven’?” 43 Jesus answered and said to them, “Stop murmuring among yourselves. 44 No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draw him, and I will raise him on the last day. 45 It is written in the prophets: ‘They shall all be taught by God.’ Everyone who listens to my Father and learns from him comes to me. 46 Not that anyone has seen the Father except the one who is from God; he has seen the Father. 47 Amen, amen, I say to you, whoever believes has eternal life. 48 I am the bread of life. 49 Your ancestors ate the manna in the desert, but they died; 50 this is the bread that comes down from heaven so that one may eat it and not die. 51 I am the living bread that came down from heaven; whoever eats this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give is my flesh for the life of the world.”
On this Sunday, we continue to read from the “Bread of Life discourse” found in the sixth chapter of John’s Gospel. We have been reading from this chapter for the past two Sundays and will continue to read from it for another two. (Since I have grown to love John’s unique multi-dimensional viewpoint of Jesus Christ, one month of solely John’s Gospel (at the Sunday Mass) is totally awesome.). Last week, the crowd with whom Jesus had been dealing for two liturgical weeks now asked Him for a sign which would show that He truly came from God. (So, He’s not a magician or con-artist). Jesus replied by saying that “HE” is “THE” sign AND “the bread of life” truly sent by God!
Today’s Gospel begins with a report that the Jews (the crowd) are “murmuring” about Jesus’ claim regarding His identity. After all, they knew Jesus’ family (Mary and Joseph). So, they could not comprehend what Jesus meant when He said that He “came down from heaven” (John 6:41). Jesus responds to the crowds request by saying, “Only those who are chosen by God will recognize Him” (John 6:44) as the one sent by God; this is (and will be) a recurring theme in John’s Gospel. WOW! Reflect on the fact that God chooses those who will have faith in Jesus. (And He always chooses those who wish to follow Him – – to come to Him!!)
In the verses which follow in today’s reading, Jesus talks more about His unique unity, His personal union, with God the Father. He is the “One” who has seen God the Father and, therefore, truly and fully knows God the Father, and as His Father. (But let me ask: “Was He the ONLY one?” The answer will come a little later.) Those who listen to God – – and HEAR Him and BELIEVE (John 6:47)- – will recognize Jesus as being the “One” sent from God the Father Himself. Those who believe this will have eternal life according to Jesus’ proclamation.
Jesus will conclude today’s reading with the essential principle of our Eucharistic theology – – the Source and Summit of our Catholic Faith – – Jesus, “the bread of life”, will share ETERNAL life to those who believe Him!! Jesus promises that His “bread of life” will bring ETERNAL life to those who come to, and partake of it. Jesus also prophetically tells us “the bread of life” will be “His own flesh, given for the life of the world” (John 6:51). The flesh Jesus is referring to is the reality of His “Risen” self to a new life.
In Capernaum (the location of today’s reading), Jesus is rejected solely because His origins are known to the people there. By their “murmuring” (John 6:41), Jesus’ audience (the crowd who followed Him to Capernaum from Bethsaida) behaved like the Israelites of the Exodus, while lingering in the desert. If you recall, their own “murmuring” provoked the gifts of water and manna being delivered to them from God the Father:
“As the people grumbled against Moses, saying, ‘What are we to drink?’ he cried out to the LORD, who pointed out to him a piece of wood. When he threw it into the water, the water became fresh.” (Exodus 15:24-25);
“Here in the wilderness the whole Israelite community grumbled against Moses and Aaron. … in the morning you will see the glory of the LORD, when he hears your grumbling against him. But who are we that you should grumble against us? …[God says] I have heard the grumbling of the Israelites. Tell them: In the evening twilight you will eat meat, and in the morning you will have your fill of bread, and then you will know that I, the LORD, am your God.” (Exodus 16:2,7,12).
“But when the LORD has brought to an end all his work on Mount Zion and in Jerusalem, I will punish the utterance of the king of Assyria’s proud heart, and the boastfulness of his haughty eyes.” (Isaiah 10:12);
“Next they despised the beautiful land; they did not believe the promise. In their tents they complained; they did not heed the voice of the LORD” (Psalm 106:24-25).
Familiarity with His family and societal background led them to regard Him as pretentious and boastful in His claim. They saw Jesus as a person they felt they knew completely and intimately; yet they were truly blind.
Jesus’ command to “stop murmuring” (John 6:43) is followed by a short series of sayings. The next two verses of today’s reading reiterate that only those “drawn by God” will believe in Jesus:
“No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draw him, and I will raise him on the last day. It is written in the prophets: ‘They shall all be taught by God.’ Everyone who listens to my Father and learns from him comes to me.” (John 6:44-45)
John is demonstrating the claim that God Himself is responsible for the faith of those who believe in Jesus. There is NO knowledge of God the Father apart from Jesus:
“Not that anyone has seen the Father except the one who is from God; he has seen the Father.” (John 6:46).
“But you cannot see my face, for no one can see me and live.” (Exodus 33:20);
“No one has ever seen God. The only Son, God, who is at the Father’s side, has revealed him.” (John 1:18);
This belief reflects the Jewish tradition: to see God meant instant death!! However, this belief is contradicted by others who DID “see God”, yet live:
“To the LORD who spoke to her [Hagar] she gave a name, saying, ‘You are God who sees me’; she meant, ‘Have I really seen God and remained alive after he saw me?’” (Genesis 16:13);
“ Jacob named the place Peniel, ‘because I have seen God face to face,’ he said, ‘yet my life has been spared.’” (Genesis 32:31).
In seeing Jesus Christ, this crowd truly SAW God. Yet, we see the Holy Eucharist; we are also truly witnessing the Risen “God” is being revealed to us in a unique visible and spiritual (supernatural) way. “Seeing”, and partaking of God in the Holy Eucharist, does not bring death, but everlasting life through Jesus Christ!! “Seeing” is believing in and partaking of – – participating in – – God’s communion (co-union)! This “seeing” God by faith does not bring death but everlasting life through Jesus Christ.
Finally, Jesus concludes His series of sayings with this final affirmation:
“Amen, amen, I say to you, whoever believes has eternal life.” (John 6:47)
The following “final” verse from today’s reading is an extremely powerful revelation:
“I am the living bread that came down from heaven; whoever eats this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give is my flesh for the life of the world” (John 6:51),
At the end of this sixth chapter of his Gospel, John will shift his Gospel from the topic of Jesus as “the revealer of God the Father” – – to Jesus as the “living bread” which He Himself gives to us as a gift, revealing to us the grace, which we have learned to call “the Holy Eucharist”.
Here follows is the next portion of John’s sixth chapter. The verses which immediately follow today’s reading are also the verses for next week’s Gospel reading at Mass:
“The Jews quarreled among themselves, saying, ‘How can this man give us [his] flesh to eat?’ Jesus said to them, ‘Amen, amen, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you do not have life within you. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him on the last day. For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me and I in him. Just as the living Father sent me and I have life because of the Father, so also the one who feeds on me will have life because of me. This is the bread that came down from heaven. Unlike your ancestors who ate and still died, whoever eats this bread will live forever.’ These things he said while teaching in the synagogue in Capernaum.” (John 6:52-59)
These verses definitely say, and identify, the “Holy Eucharist” to me! Does it to you?
In today’s reading, we hear Jesus say again, as He did in last week’s Gospel, that “HE” is “the bread of life” (John 6:48). We also hear Jesus adding that HE is “the living bread” (John 6:51). Both of these statements help us understand better the gift Jesus gives us in the Holy Eucharist. We celebrate this special and unique gift (grace) of Jesus each time we gather for Mass. We, as Catholics, truly and fully believe that receiving the “Risen” Jesus in the Eucharist will lead us to our eternal life in the paradise of heaven, with our Trinitarian God. (His “bread” is truly divine – – truly “heavenly”!!)
Today’s Gospel draws our attention to the faith in Jesus’ real, true, full, and Risen presence in the Holy Eucharist. Jesus IS then, truly and fully “the bread of life”. He gives us His Body and Blood as “the living bread” so that we may have eternal life. When we receive Jesus’ Body and Blood in the Holy Eucharist, with the proper attitude, our lives reflect the reality that our communion – – our unique union – – with the divine Jesus Christ Himself, is truly preparing us to see the way to reach His kingdom. Our Holy Eucharist leads us to live as His people of promise, confident we will one day share the fullness of life with, and united to, God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit!! (Not a bad deal for us sinners!!)
The crowd in today’s story despised Jesus because they thought they knew who He was – – understanding Him to be an uneducated laborer from a rural “Hick” town called Nazareth. They regarded His mother, Mary, and His “foster” father, Joseph as ordinary people with no particular distinction to their name or identity. Their collective thoughts were: “How could such a common man claim to be God’s spokesman?”
This crowd surrounding Jesus became even more offended when Jesus claimed something only God could claim. His claim which He revealed to them is that He is the very source of life who comes from God the Father, and who lasts forever and ever (John 6:51).
I am sure we all make the same mistake as did the crowd in today’s Gospel. We sometimes (maybe even oftentimes) refuse to listen to others solely because we think they are inferior to us? (No humility in thinking such thoughts, is there? NOT!!!!) We can miss what God may wish to speak to us through others, especially when He speaks through these “inferior beings”. We can miss what God says to us, if we despise and spurn the “instrument” God chooses to work through. John states that the Jews from today’s reading “murmured” at Jesus. They listened to Him, but with a critical spirit rather than “hearing” Him with faith, with an open ear, and with an earnest desire to learn and believe what God the Father wanted (and still wants) to speak to them (and us) – – through His Only-Begotten Son, Jesus Christ. There are many different ways people can choose to listen to others: with an attitude of superiority, with indifference, or with a teachable spirit, wishing to learn, believe, grow, and ultimately, to be transformed. Let me ask: With what “way” do you listen to God’s “Word”?
God is offering His people an abundant life; yet, we can miss out on this unique gift. What is “the bread of life” which Jesus offers us? When Jesus offers us a true life, He brings us into a new relationship with God the Father – – a relationship of trust, love, and obedience. Jesus offers us a true, abundant, ever-sustaining life – – lasting forever and ever. Jesus offers us a life of enduring love, fellowship, communion, and union with the “One” who made us “in love” to be uniquely united with Him forever and ever!!
Think about your hope that one day you will share eternal life with God in heaven. This “hope” can transform the way you (and we) live out our daily experiences and lives. We are called to BE people “of hope”; we are taught to believe in God’s promises and to have confident “hope” that we will experience the fulfillment of those promises in our daily lives. In today’s Gospel, Jesus promises us this gift of eternal life in and through the Eucharist. Jesus taught us that those who listen to God know that He had been (and is still) sent by God the Father – – for the life of the world – – and for ALL creation. Jesus is fulfilling His promise to us through His passion, death, and Resurrection. Jesus Christ gave (and still gives) us the gift of HIMSELF in the Holy Eucharist – – in His Body and Blood – – given so we may have, and grow in, eternal life with Him. Ask God to increase your faith in His true and full presence present in each morsel of the Holy Eucharist, and each sip of the cup of salvation, which we experience with all our senses. (Doesn’t smell fishy to me at all!!)
There is NOTHING to “murmur” about when it comes to God the Father’s Salvation plan FOR US!!!
“Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.
Where there is hatred, let me sow love.
Where there is injury, pardon.
Where there is doubt, faith.
Where there is despair, hope.
Where there is darkness, light.
Where there is sadness, joy. O Divine Master, grant that I
may not so much seek to be consoled, as to console;
to be understood, as to understand;
to be loved, as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive.
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned,
and it is in dying that we are born to Eternal Life. Amen.”