Saturday, August 8, 2015

Jesus, the living bread that came down from heaven

Readings: 1 Kgs 19:4-8; Ps 34:2-9; Eph 4:30-5:2; John 6:41-51

Jesus Christ is the bread of life. Do you believe this? I would even ask, Do you want it to be true? If so, what difference does it make in your life and the lives of others?

In our Gospel reading for this week, once again from the Gospel According to St John, chapter 6, Jesus says something that has far-reaching implications: "No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draw him, and I will raise him on the last day... Everyone who listens to my Father and learns from him comes to me" (6:44.45b). I am not able to unpack all the implications of even this small bit of our passage, but it does have bearing on discipleship and evangelization. As St Paul writes elsewhere:
For "everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved." But how can they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how can they believe in him of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone to preach? And how can people preach unless they are sent? As it is written, "How beautiful are the feet of those who bring [the] good news!" But not everyone has heeded the good news; for Isaiah says, "Lord, who has believed what was heard from us?" (Rom 10:13-16)
In no way does Jesus draw us more than in and through the Eucharist, the miracle of which makes what happened to Elijah - who, representing the prophets, appeared with with Moses, who represented the Law, alongside Jesus at His Transfiguration, which great feast we commemorated last Thursday - pale in comparison.

I know that it was my desire to receive Christ in communion that developed over several months that ultimately caused me to become Catholic when I was an undergraduate more than twenty-five years ago. In effect, I heard the Lord bidding me, "Taste and see my goodness." Over the past twenty-five years my hunger and thirst for Him only increases. How can we come to know the Lord in this way and not feel compelled to share what we taste and see with others? When we are dismissed at the end of each Mass we are sent forth to do just this, make Him known. As St Paul notes, not everyone will heed the good news, that is, repent and believe the Gospel. Faith, after all, is a gift from God. But their response is not your responsibility, faith, conversion, is the work of the Holy Spirit.

Our partaking of the Body and Blood of the Lord is to transform the way we live, as indicated in our reading from Ephesians. After all, our witness must have credibility, which only comes from sincere discipleship, which is borne of love. As the title of one of Kierkegaard's works put it, Purity of heart is to will one thing. We cannot serve the Lord with a divided heart.

The journey to God's kingdom is long and, as we know from our current circumstances, often treacherous. In this Eucharist, like Elijah, God bids us "Get up and eat, else the journey will be too long for you." We are refreshed before we're sent forth

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