Sunday, August 9, 2009

Bread from Heaven

Reflections on the Readings
Nineteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time - August 9, 2009, Year B
The Tenth Sunday after Pentecost
By Dennis Hankins

The Jews then murmured at him, because he said, "I am the bread which came down from heaven." (John 6:41)

You can feel the tension building.  And if there was going to be any misunderstanding, wouldn't Jesus say something to tone it down? Until now, Jesus' teaching has been metaphorical; that is, come to Jesus and believe in him for salvation.  The metaphor however is not without complications. Jesus explains, "But I said to you that you have seen me and yet do not believe." (John 6:35)

As Jesus builds on his theme, he is revealing the other side of the same coin.  Jesus said, "I am the bread which came down from heaven."  

"Hey Charlie, did you hear that?"  

"I sure did George!"  "I thought he was old man Joseph's boy.  He died a few years ago, and his mom I've known since she was girl."

"That's what I mean, Charlie.  So how can he say, 'I have come down from heaven?"

Jesus called it 'murmuring,' explaining that the Jews were a people who had been taught by God.  To this the prophets agree.  So being taught by God naturally gravitates to mean, being attracted to Jesus, who is from above, that is from God.  He is not Joseph's son, he is the Son of God.  

Jesus explains, 

"I am the bread of life.  This is the bread which comes down from heaven, that a man may eat of it and not die.  I am the living bread which came down from heaven; if any one eats of this bread, he will live forever; and the bread which I shall give for the life of the world is my flesh."

It is the most intimate meaning of Jesus' words. "If any one eats this bread, will live forever," Jesus says. The two sides of the same coin, metaphor and sacrament, are now joined.  I lived most of my Christian life not looking at the other side of the coin.  In retrospect, I always knew there was more.  The 'more' being the sacramental union with Jesus in his glorified humanity, partaking of his divine nature, through the bread which is his body and the cup which is blood. The same Jesus whom we love and adore and believe in with all of our hearts, is taken into our hands and our lips, Christ in you the hope of glory.  

While I was courting Debbie, I kept AT&T in business.  The post office appreciated my business since I was writing at least once a day.  I adored her and believed in my heart she was the one for me.  Everyone who is married will agree with me that believing is wonderful.  But it is not so wonderful that you live the rest of your life as almost a husband and almost a wife.  On the day of our marriage, I received Debbie as my wife, and she received me as her husband.  She was the same Debbie, but I came to know her in a way I had never known her before.  We both entered into a deeper reality of each other, an awareness that grows with each day together.

What Jesus is revealing to us is the deep things of himself to us and of our relationship with him.  There is more to being just acquainted with him; Jesus asks us to be one with him.  This is a step of faith.  The human reasoning of flesh without faith will find Jesus' words repugnant.  It is the heart alive with faith which knows there is more, there is deeper, there is life in him, with him, and through him.  Peter described it to the early Church as partakers of the divine nature.(2 Peter 1:4)

The power of an endless life is what we celebrate in every Eucharist.  From this life is derived the power of the Spirit to resist bitterness, anger, shouting and malice.  Life in Christ imparts to us the desires to imitate Christ and live in love with one another.  How to be sacrificial is learned at the altar of God.  It is here we commune with our heavenly husband in the Spirit on the Lord's Day.  Face of Jesus shine on us!

Let us pray: God our Father, in whom is life and love, be glorified this day as we commune with you through the Son of your love by the Holy Spirit.  Amen.



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