Murmuring is closing one's heart

Lectio Divina: 

 Sunday, September 9, 2018

The healing of the deaf and dumb. 


Jesus gives back to the people the gift of speech.


Mark 7:31-37

1. Opening prayer

Lord Jesus, send your Spirit to help us to read the Scriptures with the same mind that you read them to the disciples on the way to Emmaus. In the light of the Word, written in the Bible, you helped them to discover the presence of God in the disturbing events of your sentence and death. Thus, the cross that seemed to be the end of all hope became for them the source of life and of resurrection. 


Create in us silence so that we may listen to your voice in Creation and in the Scriptures, in events and in people, above all in the poor and suffering. May your word guide us so that we too, like the two disciples from Emmaus, may experience the force of your resurrection and witness to others that you are alive in our midst as source of fraternity, justice and peace. We ask this of you, Jesus, son of Mary, who revealed to us the Father and sent us your Spirit. Amen.

 

2. Reading

 

a) A key to the reading:

This Sunday’s liturgy shows us Jesus healing a deaf and dumb person in the land of Decapolis and praised by the people thus: «He has done all things well; he even makes the deaf hear and the dumb speak!» This praise is inspired by some passages in Isaiah (Is 29:8-19; 35:5-6; 42:7) and shows that the people saw in Jesus the coming of the messianic times. Jesus himself had used this same expression in reply to the disciples of John: «Go back and tell John what you hear and see: the blind see again, and … the deaf hear” (Mt 11,4-5).


The early Christians used the Bible to clarify and interpret the actions and attitudes of Jesus. They did this so as to express their faith that Jesus was the Messiah, the One who was to fulfil the promise, and so as to be able to understand better that which Jesus did and said during those few years that he spent in their midst in Palestine.

b) A division of the text as an aid to the reading:

Mark 7:31: 

a geographical description: Jesus is somewhere outside Judea. 
Mark 7:32: 
the man’s condition: deaf and dumb.
Mark 7:33-34: Jesus’ movements in healing the man.
Mark 7:35: the result of the healing action of Jesus.
Mark 7:36: the recommendation of silence is not obeyed.
Mark 7:37: the praise of the people.

 

c) The text:

31 Then he returned from the region of Tyre, and went through Sidon to the Sea of Galilee, through the region of the Decapolis. 32 And they brought to him a man who was deaf and had an impediment in his speech; and they besought him to lay his hand upon him. 33 And taking him aside from the multitude privately, he put his fingers into his ears, and he spat and touched his tongue; 34 and looking up to heaven, he sighed, and said to him, "Ephphatha," that is, "Be opened." 35 And his ears were opened, his tongue was released, and he spoke plainly. 36 And he charged them to tell no one; but the more he charged them, the more zealously they proclaimed it. 37 And they were astonished beyond measure, saying, "He has done all things well; he even makes the deaf hear and the dumb speak."

 

3. A moment of prayerful silence

so that the Word of God may penetrate and enlighten our life.

 

4. Some questions

to help us in our personal reflection.

a) What is the attitude of Jesus towards the deaf and dumb person and towards the people? How do you understand the actions of Jesus: he places his finger in the man’s ears and with his saliva touches the man’s tongue, then, looking up to heaven, he sighs and says: «Ephphatha»?


b) How can we understand Jesus’ concern for taking the man away from the crowd?
c) Why does Jesus forbid the spreading of the news? How do we understand the people’s disobedience of Jesus’ command?
d) What other New Testament and Old Testament texts are connoted or form the basis of this text?

5. Further information on Mark’s Gospel

 

Mark 7:31: Jesus in the land of Decapolis
The episode of the healing of the deaf and dumb man is little known. Mark does not state clearly where Jesus is. It is understood that he is somewhere outside Palestine, in the land of the pagans, across a region called Decapolis. Decapolis literally means Ten Cities. This was, in fact, a region of ten cities, southeast of Galilee, where people were pagan and influenced by Greek culture. 


Mark 7:32: They brought him a deaf man who had an impediment in his speech.


Even though he is not in his native land, Jesus is known as someone who heals the sick. Thus, the people bring him a deaf man who has difficulty with his speech. This is someone who cannot communicate with others. He reflects many who today live as a mass in large cities in complete solitude, without the possibility of any communication.


Mark 7:33-34: A different kind of healing
The manner of healing is different. The people thought that Jesus would simply place his hands on the sick person. But Jesus goes beyond their request and takes the man away from the crowd, places his finger in the man’s ears and with his spittle touches the man’s tongue, then looking up to heaven sighs deeply and says: «Ephphatha» which means “Be opened!”

 

The finger in the ear recalls the magicians’ exclamation in Egypt: “This is the finger of God!”(Ex 8:15) and also the expression of the Psalmist: “You…opened my ear!” (Ps 40:7). The touching of the tongue with spittle gives back the faculty of speech. In those days, people thought that spittle had medicinal value. Looking up to heaven says that the healing is from God. The sigh is an attitude of supplication.

Mark 7:35: The result of the healing
All at once, the ears of the deaf man were opened, his tongue was loosed and the man began to speak correctly. Jesus desires that people might open their ears and loosen their tongues! Today too! In many places, because of an authoritarian attitude on the part of religious powers, people have been silenced and do not speak. It is very important that people regain the power of speech within the Church in order to express their experience of God and thus enrich all, including the clergy.


Mark 7:36: Jesus does not want any publicity
Jesus commands that no one tell of that which took place. However, there is an exaggerated importance attached to Mark’s Gospel’s prohibition to spread the news of the healing, as if Jesus had a secret that had to be kept. In fact, sometimes Jesus tells people not to spread news of a healing (Mk 1:44; 5:43; 7:36; 8:26). He asks for silence, but gets the opposite effect. The more he forbids, the more the Good News is spread (Mk 1:28.45; 3:7-8; 7:36-37). On the other hand, many times, in most cases, Jesus did not ask for silence concerning a miracle. Once he even asked for publicity (Mk 5:19). 

Mark 7:37: The praise of the people
All were in admiration and said: «He has done all things well!» (Mk 7:37). This statement recalls the creation: “God saw all he had made, and indeed it was very good!” (Gen 1:31). In spite of the prohibition, those who had witnessed the healing began to proclaim that which they had seen, expressing the Good News in the brief form: “He has done all things well!” It is useless to prohibit them talking. The inner power of the Good News is such that it spreads itself! Whoever has experienced Jesus, has to tell others, whether s/he likes it or not!

 

ii) Information on the internal divisions of Mark’s Gospel

 

1st Key: Mark’s Gospel was written to be read and listened to in community.
When one reads a book alone, one can always stop and go back so as to connect one thing with another. But when one is in community and someone else out in front is reading the Gospel, one cannot shout: “Stop! Read that again! I did not understand it well!” For a book to be listened to in community celebrations, it must be divided differently from other books meant for personal reading.

 

2nd Key: Mark’s Gospel is a narrative.
A narrative is like a river. Going down a river in a boat, one is not aware of divisions in the water. The river has no divisions. It is a single flow, from beginning to end. The divisions are made on the banks not in the river. For instance, one may say: “The beautiful part of the river that goes from that house on the bend up to the palm tree three bends down river”. But one does not see any division in the water itself. Mark’s narration flows like a river. Listeners come across divisions along its banks, that is, in the places where Jesus goes, in the people he meets, in the streets he walks down. These marginal indications help listeners not to get lost in the midst of so many words and actions of Jesus and concerning Jesus. The geographical setting helps the reader to walk along with Jesus, step by step, from Galilee to Jerusalem, from the lake to Calvary.

3rd Key: Mark’s Gospel was written in order to be read all in one go.
That is how the Jews read the small books of the Old Testament. For instance, on the eve of Easter, they read the complete Canticle of Canticles. Some scholars are of the opinion that Mark’s Gospel was written to be read in its entirety on the eve of Easter. Now, so that the listeners might not get tired, the reading had to have divisions, pauses. For, when a narrative is long, such as is Mark’s Gospel, the reading needs to be interrupted from time to time. There must be some pauses. Otherwise, the listeners get lost. The author of the narrative provided for these pauses. These were marked by summaries between one long reading and the next. These summaries were like hinges that gathered what was read before and opened the way to what was to come. They allow the narrator to stop and start again without interrupting the flow of the narrative. They help the listeners to take their bearing within the river of the flowing narrative. Mark’s Gospel has several of these pauses that allow us to discover and follow the course of the Good News of God that Jesus revealed and that Mark narrates. In all there are six longer blocks of readings, interspersed with summaries or hinges, where it is possible to take a small pause.

 
Base on these three keys, we now present a division of Mark’s Gospel. Others divide this Gospel in different ways. Each way has its distinctive character and its value. The value of any division is that it opens several ways of going into the text, of helping us to discover something about the Good News of God and to discern the how Jesus opens a way for us to God and the neighbour.

Introduction: Mk 1:1-13: Beginning of the Good News


Preparing the proclamation
Summary: 1,14-15

1st reading: Mk 1:16-3,16: Growth of the Good News
Conflict appears
Summary: 3:7-12

2nd reading: Mk 3:13-6,6: Growth of the conflict
The Mystery appears
Summary: 6:7-13

3rd reading: Mk 6:14-8,21: Growth of the Mystery
Misunderstanding appears
Summary: 8:22-26

4th reading: Mc 8:27-10:45: Growth of the misunderstanding
The dark light of the Cross appears
Summary: 10:46-52

5th reading: Mk 11:1-13:32: Growth of the dark light of the Cross
Appearance of rupture and death
Summary: 13:33-37

6th reading: Mk 14:1-15:39: Growth of the rupture and death
Victory over death appears
Summary: 15:40-41

Conclusion: Mk 15:42-16:20: Growth of the victory over death


Reappearance of the Good News.

In this division the headings are important. They point to where the Spirit is blowing, to the inspiration that runs through the whole Gospel. When an artist feels inspired, he tries to express this inspiration in a work of art. The poem or image that is the result carries within it this inspiration. Inspiration is like the electric power that runs invisibly through the wires and lights the lamps in our houses. So also, inspiration runs invisibly in the words of the poem or in the form of the image to reveal and light up within us a light equal or almost equal to that which shone in the artist. That is why works of art attract us so much. The same occurs when we read and meditate the Gospel of Mark. The same Spirit or Inspiration that moved Mark to write his text remains present in the thread of the words of his Gospel. By our attentive and prayerful reading of his Gospel, this Spirit begins to act and operate within us. Thus, gradually, we discover the face of God revealed in Jesus and that Mark communicates to us in his book.

 

6. Psalm 131

Filial surrender

O Lord, my heart is not lifted up, 
my eyes are not raised too high; 
I do not occupy myself with things too 
great and too marvellous for me. 
But I have calmed and quieted my soul, 
like a child quieted at its mother's breast; 
like a child that is quieted is my soul. 
O Israel, hope in the Lord from this 
time forth and for evermore.

 

7. Final Prayer

Lord Jesus, we thank for the word that has enabled us to understand better the will of the Father. May your Spirit enlighten our actions and grant us the strength to practice that which your Word has revealed to us. May we, like Mary, your mother, not only listen to but also practise the Word. You who live and reign with the Father in the unity of the Holy Spirit forever and ever. Amen.

 


 

Lectio Divina:

 

Sunday, August 26, 2018

 

The disciples' heart tested by the

 

 

Word of the Lord.


The challenge: to keep faith in

 

the Father and the Son

 
or to side with the evil one.


John 6: 60-69

 

1. OPENING PRAYER

Lord, Your Word is sweet, it is like a honeycomb, it is not hard nor is it bitter. It may burn like fire, it may be like the hammer that breaks rock, it may be the sharp sword that pierces and separates the soul… but, Lord, Your Word is sweet! Grant that I may listen to it, that it may be gentle music, a song and an echo in my ears, my memory and my intellect. I offer my whole being to You and ask You to grant that I may listen faithfully, sincerely, strongly. Lord. grant that I may keep my ears and heart fixed on Your lips, Your voice, so that not one word may be in vain. Pour forth Your Holy Spirit to be like living water watering my field so that it may bear fruit, thirty, sixty and a hundredfold. Lord, draw me, grant that I may come to You, because, You know… where shall I go, to whom on this earth if not to You?

2. READING

 

a) Placing the passage in its proper context:

These are the concluding verses of the great chapter six of John's Gospel, where the evangelist presents his "Eucharistic theology". This conclusion is the climax of the chapter, because the Word leads us deeper into and towards the center of things; from the crowd at the start of the chapter, to the Jews who discuss with Jesus in the synagogue in Capernaum, to the disciples, to the twelve, even to Peter, the only one who stands for each one of us, alone, face to face with the Lord Jesus. Here we hear the reply to Jesus' teaching, to the Word sown abundantly in the heart of His listeners. Here we verify whether the soil of the heart produces thorns and weeds or green shoots that produce ears and finally good corn in the ears.

b) An aid to the reading of the passage:

v. 60: Some disciples condemn the Word of the Lord, and therefore Jesus Himself, who is the Word of God. God is not seen as a good Father who speaks to His children, but as a hard master (Mt 25:24), with whom it is not possible to enter into dialogue. 


vv. 61-65: Jesus unveils the incredulity and hardness of heart of His disciples and reveals His mysteries of salvation: His ascension into heaven, the gift of the Holy Spirit and our participation in the divine life. But these mysteries can only be understood and accepted by the wisdom of a docile heart, capable of listening, and not by means of physical intelligence. 
v. 66: This verse reveals the first great betrayal by many disciples who have failed to understand the true teaching of Jesus. Instead of turning their gaze on the Master, they turn their backs on Him and thus break communion and no longer walk with Him.


vv. 67-69: Jesus now addresses Himself to the twelve, His most intimate friends, and places before them a final and absolute choice, whether to stay with Him or go away. Peter answers on behalf of all and proclaims the faith of the Church in Jesus as Son of God and in His Word, which is the true source of life.

 

c) The text: 

Many of Jesus' disciples who were listening said, "This saying is hard; who can accept it?" Since Jesus knew that his disciples were murmuring about this, he said to them, "Does this shock you? What if you were to see the Son of Man ascending to where he was before? It is the spirit that gives life, while the flesh is of no avail. The words I have spoken to you are Spirit and life. But there are some of you who do not believe." Jesus knew from the beginning the ones who would not believe and the one who would betray him. And he said, "For this reason I have told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted him by my Father." As a result of this, many of his disciples returned to their former way of life and no longer accompanied him. Jesus then said to the Twelve, "Do you also want to leave?" Simon Peter answered him, "Master, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe and are convinced that you are the Holy One of God."

 

3. A MOMENT OF SILENT PRAYER

 

I have received the gift, the grace. I have listened to the Word of the Lord, now I do not wish to murmur (v. 61); I do not wish to be scandalized (v. 61); nor do I wish to yield to incredulity (v. 64). I do not wish to betray my Master (v. 64); I do not wish to withdraw and not walk with Him any longer (v. 66)… I wish to remain with the Lord at all times! In the silence of my heart, I repeat endlessly to Him: "Lord, to whom shall I go, if not to You??! Behold, Lord, I come…”

 

4. A FEW QUESTIONS

 

to open my heart and plow my interior soil with a plow capable of pulling up the roots of hardness and incredulity. 

a) What kind of disciple am I? Am I really willing every day to learn at the school of Jesus, to receive His teaching, which is not the doctrine of human beings but the wisdom of the Holy Spirit? 
b) "This is a hard saying, who can listen to it?" Is it really the Word of the Lord that is hard or is it my heart that wants only to close itself and no longer listen? 


c) "Jesus knowing in Himself…". He knows my heart and knows what is in each person (Jn 1:48; 2:25; 4:29; 10:15). How do I react to His gaze, to His voice that calls my name, to His coming into my life, to His constant knocking (Rev 3:20)? What choices do I make?

 
d) "It is the Spirit that gives life.” However, do I allow myself to be led like Mary (Lk 1:38) and Simeon (Lk 2:27), do I allow the Lord to take me where He wills, where He waits for me, or do I always want to decide for myself the direction of my life? 


e) Do I answer Jesus' personal invitation "Come to Me! Come and follow Me!" every day, every moment, in the most diverse situations of my life, in various circumstances, in the presence of others? To whom do I go? Where do I turn to? Whose footsteps am I following?

 

5. A KEY TO THE READING

 

I ask the Scriptures to be my guide, to enlighten each step, each movement, because I wish to go to Jesus. I use the verbs He uses, the expressions He repeats, the silence of the unsaid words, to reveal to me the way… to find Him and not someone else.

 

• The Word of the Lord and the love relationship with it

 

In this passage, John presents the Word of the Lord as a meeting point, the holy place for an encounter with Him. I realize that this is the place of my decision, of ever deeper separations in my heart and in my conscience. I realize also that the Word is a person, it is the Lord Himself, present before me, given to me, open to me. The whole of the bible, page after page, is an invitation, sweet, yet at the same time strong, to meet the Word, to get to know the Promised One, the Bride who is really the Word that comes from the kiss of love from the mouth of the Lord. The meeting accorded is not superficial, empty, nor is it fleeting or sporadic, but intense, full, constant, uninterrupted, because it is like the meeting between the bride and groom. Thus does the Lord love me and give Himself to me. It is, therefore, important to listen carefully and lovingly so that not one word may be in vain (1 Sam 3:19); it is important to listen with the heart, with the soul (Ps 94:8; Bar 2:31); it is important to obey in practice for a lifetime (Mt 7:24-27; Jas 1:22-25); it is important to make a true and final decision that will choose the Word of the Lord even to making it my sister (Prov 7:1-4) or my bride to be taken into my home (Wis 8:2).

 



• Murmuring is closing one's heart

 

The theme of murmuring, of rebelling, shakes me up and creates a crisis in me; when I read the bible, even when I just recall it, I realize that murmuring against the Lord and His actions in our lives is the most terrible and destructive thing that could possibly live in my heart, because it takes me away from Him, it separates me strongly and makes me blind, deaf and insensitive. It makes me say that He does not exist while all the time He is very near; that He hates me when He loves me with an eternal and faithful love (Deut 1:27)! It is the greatest and most profound foolishness! In Exodus, Numbers and the Psalms, I come across a people of God that weeps, complains, gets angry, murmurs, closes itself, rebels, turns away (Ex 16:7ff; Num 14:2; 17:20ff; Ps 105:25); a hopeless, lifeless people. I understand that this kind of situation comes about when there is no longer dialogue with the Lord, when the contract with Him is broken, when, instead of listening to Him and asking questions of Him, there is only murmuring, a kind of continuous droning in the soul, in the mind, that makes me say, "Can God supply food in the desert?" (Ps 77:19). If I murmur against my Father, if I stop believing in His love for me, in His tenderness, that He showers me with every good thing, I am lifeless, I am without nourishment for the everyday journey. Or if I get angry, if I become jealous because He is good and gives His love to all, without reserve, and I act like the Pharisees (Lk 15:2; 19:7), then I am entirely alone and besides no longer being His child I am no longer even brother or sister of anyone. In fact, there is a close relationship between murmuring against God and murmuring against brothers and sisters (Phil 2:14; 1 Pt 4:9). I learn all this when I follow the trail of this word…



• The Gift of the Son of Man: the Holy Spirit

 

It seems that I see a road full of light, traced by the Lord Jesus and almost hidden in these verses that are so compact and overflowing in spiritual richness. The starting point lies in a true and deep listening to His words and in welcoming them. From here we pass on to the purification of the heart, which from a heart of stone, hard and closed, becomes, through the tenderness of the Father, a heart of flesh, soft, a heart that He can hurt, mold, take into His hands and hold tight, as a gift. Yes, all this is accomplished by the words of Jesus when they come to me and enter into me. It is only thus that I can continue on my journey, overcoming murmurings and scandal, until I am able to see Jesus with new eyes, eyes renewed by the Word, eyes that do not rest on superficial things, on the hardness of the rind, but eyes that learn, every day a little more, to go beyond and to look on high. "Then what if you were to see the Son of Man ascending where He was before?" (v. 62). This is the welcoming of the Spirit, gift of the Risen One, gift of the One who ascended at the right hand of the Father, gift from on high, perfect gift (Jas 1:17). He had said, "When I am lifted up from the earth, I will draw everyone to Me" (Jn 12:32) and He draws me with the Spirit, He makes me His own with the Spirit, He sends me in the Spirit (Jn 20:21), He strengthens me thanks to the Spirit (Acts 1:8). If I take a long look at the pages of the Gospels, I can see how the Spirit of the Lord is the strength that dwells in each person, each reality, because He is the eternal love of the Father, the very life of God in us. I pay attention and dwell on the verbs and the expressions used, on the words that follow and enlighten each other, enriching each other. I feel that I am really immersed in living waters that gush and gurgle. I feel that I receive a new baptism and I thank the Lord with my whole heart. "He will baptize you in the Holy Spirit and fire" (Mt 3:11), so cries John and, as I read, this Word comes true in me, inside me, in my whole being. I feel the Spirit speaking in me (Mt 10:20); who, with His power, drives away from me the spirit of evil (Mt 12:28); who fills me, as He did Jesus (Lk 4:1), John the Baptist (Lk 1:15), the Virgin Mary (Lk 1:28,35), Elizabeth (Lk 1:41), Zachary (Lk 1:67), Simeon (Lk 2:26), the disciples (Acts 2:4), Peter (Acts 4: 8) and so many others. I feel and meet the Spirit who teaches me what to say (Lk 12:10); who really gives new birth to me so that I may never die (Jn 3:5); who teaches me all things and reminds me of all that Jesus said (Jn 14:26); who guides me towards truth (Jn 16:13); who gives me strength to witness to the Lord Jesus (Acts 1:8), to His love for me and for everyone. 

• The struggle of faith: in the Father or in the evil one?

This passage of John's Gospel challenges us to a great struggle, a hand-to-hand fight between the spirit and the flesh, between the wisdom of God and human reason, between Jesus and the world. I can see that Job was right when he said that human life on earth is a time of temptation and a struggle (Job 7:1), because I too experience the Evil One who tries to discourage me by creating doubts concerning the divine promises and urging me to turn away from Jesus. He would like to send me away, tries by every means to harden my heart, to close me, to break my faith, my love. I hear him roaming around like a roaring lion seeking whom to devour (1 Pt 5:8), like a tempter, a creator of divisions, an accuser, like a scoffer mocking and repeating all the time: "Where is the promise of His coming?" (2 Pt 3:3f). I know that it is only with the arms of faith that I can win (Eph 6:10-20; 2 Cor 10:3-5), only in the strength that comes to me from the words of my Father; hence I choose them, love them, study them, scrutinize them, learn them by heart, repeat them and say, "Even if a whole army surrounds me, I will not be afraid; even if enemies attack me, I will still trust in God!" (Ps 26:3).



• Profession of faith in Jesus, Son of God

The appearance of Simon Peter at the end of this passage is like a pearl set on a precious jewel, because it is he who proclaims truth, light and salvation through his profession of faith. I gather other passages from the Gospels, other professions of faith that help my incredulity, because I too wish to believe and then know. I too wish to believe and be firm (Isa 7:9): Mt 16:16; Mk 8:29; Lk 9:20; Jn 11:27).

 

6. A MOMENT OF SILENT PRAYER: PSALM 18

 

A hymn of praise to the Word of the Lord, 
who gives wisdom and joy to the heart

The law of the Lord is perfect, 
reviving the soul; the testimony of the Lord is sure, 
making wise the simple; 
the precepts of the Lord are right, 
rejoicing the heart; the commandment of the Lord is pure, 
enlightening the eyes. 

Ref. Lord, You have the words of eternal life! 

The fear of the Lord is clean, enduring for ever; 
the ordinances of the Lord are true 
and righteous altogether. 
More to be desired are they than gold, 
even much fine gold; 
sweeter also than honey and drippings of the honeycomb. 
Moreover by them is thy servant warned; 
in keeping them there is great reward. 

Ref. Lord, You have the words of eternal life! 

But who can discern his errors? 
Cleanse me from hidden faults. 
Keep back Thy servant also from presumptuous sins; 
let them not have dominion over me! 
Then I shall be blameless, 
and innocent of great transgression. 
Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart 
be acceptable in thy sight, O Lord, 
my Rock and my Redeemer. 

Ref. Lord, You have the words of eternal life!

 

7. CLOSING PRAYER

Lord, thank You for Your words that have re-awakened in me spirit and life; thank You because You speak and creation goes on. You overwhelm me. You still print Your image in me, Your unique likeness. Thank You because, lovingly and patiently, You wait for me even when I murmur, when I allow myself to be scandalized, when I fall into incredulity or when I turn my back to You. Forgive me, Lord, for all these faults and continue to heal me, to make me strong and happy in following You, You alone! Lord, You ascended to where You were before, but You are still with us and do not cease to draw each one of us to You. Draw me, Lord, and I shall run, because I have truly believed and known that You are the Holy One of God! But, please Lord, when I run to You, let me not run alone, let me be always open to the companionship of my brothers and sisters; and together with them I shall find You and shall be Your disciple all the days of my life. Amen.

 

Lectio Divina: 

 Sunday, August 19, 2018

Jesus, the bread of life
John 6:51-58

Let us invoke the presence of God

 

Shaddai, God of the mountain,
You who make of our fragile life
the rock of your dwelling place, 
lead our mind 
to strike the rock of the desert, 
so that water may gush to quench our thirst. 
May the poverty of our feelings
cover us as with a mantle in the darkness of the night 
and may it open our heart to hear the echo of silence 
until the dawn, wrapping us with the light of the new morning, 
may bring us, with the spent embers of the fire of the

shepherds of the Absolute who have kept vigil for us

close to the divine Master, the flavour of the holy memory.

 

  1. LECTIO

 

a) The text:

51 I am the living bread which has come down from heaven. Anyone who eats this bread will live for ever; and the bread that I shall give is my flesh, for the life of the world.' 52 Then the Jews started arguing among themselves, 'How can this man give us his flesh to eat?' 53 Jesus replied to them: In all truth I tell you, if you do not eat the flesh of the Son of man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. 54 Anyone who does eat my flesh and drink my blood has eternal life, and I shall raise that person up on the last day. 55 For my flesh is real food and my blood is real drink. 56 Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood lives in me and I live in that person. 57 As the living Father sent me and I draw life from the Father, so whoever eats me will also draw life from me. 58 This is the bread which has come down from heaven; it is not like the bread our ancestors ate: they are dead, but anyone who eats this bread will live for ever.

b) A moment of silence:

Let us allow the voice of the Word to resonate within us. 


2. MEDITATIO

 

a) Some questions:

- I am the bread of life… Jesus, flesh and blood, bread and wine. These words work a change on the altar, as Augustine says: «If you take away the words, all you have is bread and wine; add the words and it becomes something else. This something else is the body and blood of Christ. Take the words away, all you have is bread and wine; add the words and they become sacrament». How important is the word of God for me? If the word is pronounced over my flesh can it make me become bread for the world?

 

b) Let us enter into the text:

 

v. 51. ”I am the living bread which has come down from heaven. Anyone who eats this bread will live for ever and the bread that I shall give is my flesh, for the life of the world”.John’s Gospel does not recount the institution of the Eucharist, but rather the meaning it assumes in the life of the Christian community. The symbolism of the washing of the feet and the new commandment (Jn 13:1-35) point to the bread broken and the wine poured. The theological content is the same as that in the synoptic Gospels. John’s ritual tradition can, however, be found in the “eucharistic discourse” that follows the miracle of the multiplication of the loaves (Jn 6:26-65). This text brings to light the deep meaning of Christ’s existence given for the world, a gift that is the source of life and that leads to a deep communion in the new commandment of membership. The reference to the ancient miracle of the manna explains the paschal symbolism where the idea of death is taken up and overcome by life: «Your fathers ate manna in the desert and they are dead; but this is the bread which comes down from heaven, so that a person may eat it and not die» (Jn 6:49-50). The bread of heaven (cfr Es 16; Jn 6:31-32) figuratively or in reality is not meant so much for the individual as for the community of believers, even though everyone is called to partake personally of the food given for all. Anyone who eats the living bread will not die: the food of the revelation is the place where life never ends. From the bread, John goes on to use another expression to point to the body: sarx. In the Bible this word denotes a human person in his or her fragile and weak reality before God, and in John it denotes the human reality of the divine Word made man (Jn 1:14a): the bread is identified with the very flesh of Jesus. Here it is not a question of metaphorical bread, that is of the revelation of Christ in the world, but of the eucharistic bread. While revelation, that is the bread of life identified with the person of Jesus (Jn 6:35), is the gift of the Father (the verb to give is used in the present, v. 32), the eucharistic bread, that is the body of Jesus will be offered by him through his death on the cross prefigured in the consecration of the bread and wine at the supper: «and the bread that I shall give is my flesh, for the life of the world» (Jn 6:51).

v. 52. Then the Jews started arguing among themselves, ‘How can this man give us his flesh to eat?’. Here begins the drama of a way of thinking that stops at the threshold of the visible and material and dares not cross the veil of the mystery. This is the scandal of those who believe without believing… of those who pretend to know but do not know. Flesh to eat: the celebration of the Passover, the perennial rite that will go on from generation to generation, a feast for the Lord and a memorial (cfr Es 12:14), whose meaning is Christ. Jesus’ invitation to do what he has done “in memory” of him, is paralleled in the words of Moses when he prescribes the paschal anamnesis: “This day must be commemorated by you, and you must keep it as a feast ” (Ex 12,14). Now, we know that for the Jews the celebration of the Passover was not just a remembrance of a past event, but also its ritualisation, in the sense that God was ready to offer again to his people the salvation needed in new and different circumstances. Thus the past intruded into the present, leavening by its saving power. In the same way the eucharistic sacrifice “will be able” to give to the centuries “flesh to eat”.

 

vv. 53. Jesus said: “In all truth I tell you, if you do not eat the flesh of the Son of man and drink his blood, you have no life in you”. 

 

John, like the synoptic Gospels, uses various expressions when speaking of Christ’s giving of himself in death, not wishing thus to convey a separation of parts, but the totality of the person given: the spiritualised corporeity of the risen Christ, fully permeated by the Holy Spirit in the Paschal event, will become source of life for all believers, especially through the Eucharist, that unites closely each on of them with the glorified Christ seated at the right hand of the Father, and making each one partake of his own divine life. John does not mention bread and wine, but directly what is signified by them: flesh to eat because Christ is presence that nourishes and blood to drink – a sacrilegious act for the Jews – because Christ is the sacrificed lamb. The sacramental liturgical character is here evident: Jesus insists on the reality of the flesh and of the blood referring to his death, because in the act of sacrificing the sacrificial victims the flesh became separated from the blood.

 

54. Anyone who does eat my flesh and drink my blood has eternal life, and I shall raise that person up on the last day. 

 

The Passover celebrated by Jesus, the Jew, and by the early Christians acquires a new soul: that of the resurrection of Christ, the final exodus of perfect and full freedom (Jn 19: 31-37), which in the Eucharist finds the new memorial, symbol of the Bread of life that sustains during the journey in the desert, sacrifice and presence that sustains the people of God, the Church, that, having crossed the waters of regeneration, will not tire of making memory, as he said, (Lk 22:19; 1Cor 11:24) until the eternal Passover.Attracted and penetrated by the presence of the Word made flesh, Christians will live their Pesach throughout history, the passage from the slavery of sin to the freedom of children of God. In conforming themselves to Christ, they will be able to proclaim the wonderful works of his admirable light, offering the eucharist of his corporeity: living sacrifice, holy and pleasing in a spiritual cult (Rom 12:1) that befits the people of his victory, a chosen race, a royal priesthood (cfr 1Pt 2:9).

 

vv. 55-56. For my flesh is real food and my blood is real drink. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood lives in me and I live in that person. This promise of the life of Christ influences greatly the life of believers: «Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood lives in me and I live in that person» (Jn 6:56). The communion of life that Jesus has with the Father is offered to all who eat the sacrificed body of Christ. This is not to be understood as the magic concession of a sacramental food that automatically confers eternal life to those who eat it. This giving of the flesh and blood needs explanation to make it intelligible and to provide the necessary understanding of God’s action, it needs faith on the part of those who take part in the eucharistic banquet, and it needs first God’s action, that of his Spirit, without which there can be no listening or faith.

 

v. 57. As the living Father sent me and I draw life from the Father, so whoever eats me will also draw life from me. The stress is not placed on the cult as the peak and foundation of love, but on the unity of the body of Christ living and working within the community. There is no liturgy without life. «A Eucharist without fraternal love is equal to self condemnation, because the body of Christ, that is the community, is despised». Indeed, in the eucharistic liturgy the past, present and future of the history of salvation find an efficient symbol for the Christian community, which expresses but never substitutes for the experience of faith that must always be present in history. Through the inseparable Supper and Cross, the people of God have come into the ancient promises, the true land across the sea, across the desert, across the river, a land of the milk and honey, of freedom capable of obedience. All the great ancient plans find in this hour (cfr Jn 17:1) their fulfilment; from the promise made to Abraham (Gn 17:1-8) to the Passover of the Exodus (Ex 12:1-51). This is a decisive moment that gathers the whole past of the people (cfr DV 4) and the first most noble Eucharist ever celebrated of the new covenant is offered to the Father: the fruitful fulfilment of all expectations on the altar of the cross.

 

v. 58. “This is the bread which has come down from heaven; it is not like the bread our ancestors ate: they are dead, but anyone who eats this bread will live for ever”. When Jesus pronounces the words: «This is my body», and, «This is my blood», he establishes a real and objective relationship between those material elements and the mystery of his death, which finds its crowning glory in the resurrection. These are creative words of a new situation with common elements in human experience, words that will always and truly realise the mysterious presence of the living Christ. The elements chosen were meant to be and are symbol and instrument at the same time. The element of bread, which because of its relationship to life has by itself an eschatological significance (cfr Lk 14:15), is easily seen as an indispensable food and a universal means of sharing. The element of wine, because of its natural symbolism, connotes the fullness of life and the expansion of the joy of a person (cfr Ps 103:15). In the existential Semite view, the effectiveness of the system of signs is taken for granted. It makes distinctions that make it possible to comprehend mysteries by faith where the senses fail. By referring and going back to the desert and the manna, this different “Pasch”, the material object and the sign come together, but concupiscence, which is from the flesh, transforms the sign into matter, while the desire, which is from the spirit, transforms the matter into sign» (P. Beauchamp, L’uno e l’altro testamento, Paideia Ed., Brescia 1985, p. 54). In fact, the manna from heaven comes from God in an invisible form and thus lacks identity. This lack of evidence is seen clearly in the etymology of the word “manna”: «What is it?» (Ex 16:15). This says what it is, a name given to almost nothing, a sign and not a thing, a signed sign. It is proven in the moment it disappears, because one is tempted to remedy that which disappears, to make provision of manna so as not to run short. This is the price of what disappears to the senses. The alternation is the time of the desert. The manna is bread that obeys the laws of him who gives it. The law, that the manna signifies, is to expect everything from him: what is required is belief. Because of its lack of substance, manna creates the desire for more solid support; but in the place called “sepulchres of greed” the thing, deprived of sign, brings death (Nm 11:34). In the desert that which urges people to go ahead with confidence is this seeing the manna either as a sign or as a thing in itself and thus either believe or die.

 

c) Let us meditate:

Jesus fulfils the true Pesach of human history: «Before the festival of the Passover, Jesus, knowing that his hour had come to pass from this world to the Father, having loved those who were his in the world, loved them to the end. While they were at supper…» (Jn 13;,1). To pass over: the new Pasch is precisely this passing over of Christ from this world to the Father through the blood of his sacrifice. The Eucharist is the memorial, bread of the desert and saving presence, covenant of fidelity and communion written in the person of the Word. The history of salvation that for Israel is made up of events, names and places, leads to a reflection of faith over an experience of life that makes the name of Yahweh not just one name among many but the only Name. Everything begins from an encounter, a dialogical event between God and humanity that translates into a covenant of alliance, old and new. The sea of rushes is the last frontier of slavery and beyond it lies the spacious territory of freedom. In this watery sepulchre the old body of Israel is laid to rest and the new and free Israel rises. This is where Israel’s identity is born. Every time that this passage through the waters of birth is evoked more than just as a historical event to be remembered, the eschatological event will arise, capable of a divine fullness that becomes present, sacramental sign of God’s faithful initiative today for the new generations, in expectation of the final liberation that the Lord will provide. It is the gasp of a people that on the eve of the Pesach finds its deep identity individually and as a people, the eve when the son of the living God gives himself wholly in the form of food and drink.

 

3. ORATIO

Psalm 116

What return can I make to Yahweh 
for his generosity to me?
I shall take up the cup of salvation 
and call on the name of Yahweh.

I shall fulfil my vows to Yahweh, 
witnessed by all his people.
Costly in Yahweh's sight 
is the death of his faithful.

I beg you, Yahweh! 
I am your servant, 
I am your servant 
and my mother was your servant; 
you have undone my fetters.
I shall offer you a sacrifice of thanksgiving 
and call on the name of Yahweh.

I shall fulfil my vows to Yahweh, 
witnessed by all his people,
in the courts of the house of Yahweh, 
in your very heart, Jerusalem.

 

4. CONTEMPLATIO

 

When we think of you, Lord, we do not recall events that took place and were fulfilled long ago, but we come into contact with your reality ever present and alive, we see your constant passage among us. You intervene in our life to restore our likeness to you, so that we may not be disfigured by the stones of the law, but may find our fullest expression in your face as Father, revealed in the face of a man, Jesus, the promise of fidelity and love even unto death. It is not necessary at all to go out of ordinary existence so as to meet you because the care you take of your creatures unfolds over our human affairs like a scroll in the proximity of an experience. You, Creator of heaven and earth, indeed do hide in the folds of history and, even though at first obscurely and implicitly, you allow us to meet you in your transcendence, which is never absent from ordinary events. When our reflection on life brings us to an acknowledgement of your liberating presence, this meeting can only be celebrated, sung, expressed by sacred symbols, relived festively in great joy. Thus we do not come to you alone, but as a people of the covenant. The wonder of your presence is always purely gratuitous: in the members of the Church, where two or three are gathered in the name of Jesus (Mt 18:20), in the pages of Sacred Scripture, in evangelical preaching, in the poor and suffering (Mt 25:40), in the sacramental actions of ordained ministers. But it is in the eucharistic sacrifice that your presence becomes real; in the Body and Blood there is the whole of the humanity and divinity of the risen Lord, present substantially.

 

Lectio Divina:

 

Sunday, August 5, 2018

 

Jesus the bread of life.

 

1. Opening prayer

 

Lord Jesus, send your Spirit to help us to read the Scriptures with the same mind that you read them to the disciples on the way to Emmaus. In the light of the Word, written in the Bible, you helped them to discover the presence of God in the disturbing events of your sentence and death. Thus, the cross that seemed to be the end of all hope became for them the source of life and of resurrection. 


Create in us silence so that we may listen to your voice in Creation and in the Scriptures, in events and in people, above all in the poor and suffering. May your word guide us so that we too, like the two disciples from Emmaus, may experience the force of your resurrection and witness to others that you are alive in our midst as source of fraternity, justice and peace. We ask this of you, Jesus, son of Mary, who revealed to us the Father and sent us your Spirit. Amen. 
 
2. Reading
 
a) A key to the reading: 
 

The Discourse of the Bread of Life is not a text to be discussed and dissected, but rather it should be meditated and pondered. This is why, even if it is not fully understood, we should not be concerned. This text of the Bread of Life demands a whole life to meditate on it and deepen it. Such a text, people have to read it, meditate it, pray it, think about it, read it again, repeat it and ponder it, as one does with a good sweet in the mouth. We turn it and turn it in the mouth until it is finished. The one, who reads the Fourth Gospel superficially, may have the impression that John always repeats the same thing. Reading it more attentively, one becomes aware that it is not a question of repetition. The author of the fourth Gospel has his own way of repeating the same theme, but always at a higher and more profound level. It seems to be like a winding staircase. By turning one reaches the same place, but always at a higher level or a more profound one.


 
b) A division of chapter six:
 

It is good to keep in mind the division of the chapter in order to understand better its significance:
John 6,1-15: the great multiplication of the loaves
John 6,16-21: the crossing of the lake, and Jesus who walks on the water
John 6,22-71: the dialogue of Jesus with the people, with the Jews and with the disciples
1st dialogue: 6, 22-27 with the people: the people seek Jesus and find him in Capernaum
2nd dialogue: 6, 28-34 with the people: faith as the work of God and the manna of the desert
3rd dialogue: 6, 35-40 with the people: the true bread is to do God’s will.
4th dialogue: 6, 41-51 with the Jews: the complaining of the Jews
5th dialogue: 6, 52-58 with the Jews: Jesus and the Jews.
6th dialogue: 6, 59-66 with the disciples: reaction of the disciples
7th dialogue: 6, 67-71 with the disciples: confession of Peter


c) The text: John 6,24-35

 

When the people saw that neither Jesus nor his disciples were there, they got into those boats and crossed to Capernaum to look for Jesus. When they found him on the other side, they said to him, 'Rabbi, when did you come here?'


Jesus answered: In all truth I tell you, you are looking for me not because you have seen the signs but because you had all the bread you wanted to eat. Do not work for food that goes bad, but work for food that endures for eternal life, which the Son of man will give you, for on him the Father, God himself, has set his seal.


Then they said to him, 'What must we do if we are to carry out God's work?' Jesus gave them this answer, 'This is carrying out God's work: you must believe in the one he has sent.'


So they said, 'What sign will you yourself do, the sight of which will make us believe in you? What work will you do? Our fathers ate manna in the desert; as scripture says: He gave them bread from heaven to eat.'


Jesus answered them: In all truth I tell you, it was not Moses who gave you the bread from heaven, it is my Father who gives you the bread from heaven, the true bread; for the bread of God is the bread which comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.


'Sir,' they said, 'give us that bread always.' Jesus answered them: I am the bread of life. No one who comes to me will ever hunger; no one who believes in me will ever thirst.
 
3. A moment of prayerful silence 
 

so that the Word of God may penetrate and enlighten our life.
 
4. Some questions 
 

to help us in our personal reflection.
a) The people were hungry, they eat the bread and they look for more bread. They seek the miracle and do not seek the sign of God who was hidden in that. What do I seek more in my life: the miracle or the sign?
b) Hungry for bread, hungry for God. Which of these two predominates in me?
c) Jesus says: “I am the bread of life”. He takes away hunger and thirst. Which of these experiences do I have in my life?
d) Keep silence within you for a moment and ask yourself: “To believe in Jesus: What does this mean for me concretely in my daily life?”
 
5. For those who wish to deepen more into the theme
 
a) Context:
 

In today’s Gospel we begin the Discourse on the Bread of Life (Jn 6, 22-71). After the multiplication of the loaves, the people follow Jesus. They had seen the miracle; they had eaten and were satiated and wanted more! They were not concerned about looking for the sign or the call of God that was contained in all of this. When the people found Jesus in the Synagogue of Capernaum, he had a long conversation with them, called the Discourse of the Bread of Life. It is not really a Discourse, but it treats of a series of seven brief dialogues which explain the meaning of the multiplication of the bread, symbol of the new Exodus and of the Eucharistic Supper.


The conversation of Jesus with the people, with the Jews and with the disciples is a beautiful dialogue, but a demanding one. Jesus tries to open the eyes of the people in a way that they will learn to read the events and discover in them the turning point that life should take. Because it is not enough to follow behind miraculous signs which multiply the bread for the body. Man does not live by bread alone. The struggle for life without mysticism does not reach the roots. The people, while speaking with Jesus, always remain more annoyed or upset by his words. But Jesus does not give in, neither does he change the exigencies. The discourse seems to be a funnel. In the measure in which the conversation advances, less people remain with Jesus. At the end only the twelve remain there, but Jesus cannot trust them either! Today the same thing happens. When the Gospel beings to demand commitment, many people withdraw, go away.

 

b) Commentary on the text

 

John 6, 24-27: People look for Jesus because they want more bread. The people follow Jesus. They see that he did not go into the boat with the disciples and, because of this, they do not understand what he had done to reach Capernaum. They did not even understand the miracle of the multiplication of the loaves. People see what has happened, but they cannot understand all this as a sign of something more profound. They stop only on the surface; in being satisfied with the food. They look for bread and life, but only for the body. According to the people, Jesus does what Moses had done in the past: to feed all the people in the desert. According to Jesus, they wanted the past to be repeated. But Jesus asks the people to take a step more and advance. Besides working for the bread that perishes, they should work for the imperishable food. This new food will be given by the Son of Man, indicated by God himself. He brings life which lasts forever. He opens for us a new horizon on the sense of life and on God.

 

John 6, 28-29: “Which is God’s work?” The people ask: what should we do to carry out this work of God? Jesus answers that the great work of God asks us to “believe in the one sent by God”. That is, to believe in Jesus!

 

John 6, 30-33: “What sign will you yourself do, the sign which will make us believe in you?” People had asked: What should we do to carry out the work of God? Jesus responds: “The work of God is to believe in the one who has sent”, that is to believe in Jesus. This is why people formulate the new question: “Which sign do you do so that we can see and can believe? Which work do you do?” This means that they did not understand the multiplication of the loaves as a sign from God to legitimize Jesus before the people, as the one sent by God! They continue to argue: In the past our fathers ate the manna which Moses gave them! They called it “bread from Heaven” (Ws 16,20), that is, “bread of God”. Moses continues to be the great leader in whom to believe. If Jesus wants the people to believe in him, he should work a greater sign than Moses. “What work do you do?”


Jesus responds that the bread given by Moses was not the true bread from heaven. Coming from on high, yes, but it was not the bread of God, because it did not guarantee life to anyone. All of them died in the desert (Jn 6, 49). The true bread of heaven, the bread of God, is the one which conquers death and gives life! It is the one which descends from Heaven and gives life to the world. It is Jesus himself! Jesus tries to help the people to liberate themselves from the way of thinking of the past. For him, fidelity to the past does not mean to close up oneself in the ancient things and not accept renewal. Fidelity to the past means to accept the novelty which comes as the fruit of the seed which was planted in the past.

 

John 6, 34-35: “Lord, gives us always of that bread!” Jesus answers clearly: “I am the bread of life!” To eat the bread of heaven is the same as to believe in Jesus and accept to follow the road that he teaches us, that is: “My food is to do the will of the one who has sent me and to complete his work!” (Jn 4, 34). This is the true food which nourishes the person, which transforms life and gives new life. 
 
6. Prayer of Psalm 111
 

Alleluia! I give thanks to Yahweh with all my heart, 
in the meeting-place of honest people, in the assembly.
Great are the deeds of Yahweh, 
to be pondered by all who delight in them.

 

Full of splendour and majesty his work, 
his saving justice stands firm for ever.
He gives us a memorial of his great deeds; 
Yahweh is mercy and tenderness.
He gives food to those who fear him, 
he keeps his covenant ever in mind.

 

His works show his people his power 
in giving them the birthright of the nations.
The works of his hands are fidelity and justice, 
all his precepts are trustworthy,
established for ever and ever, 
accomplished in fidelity and honesty.

 

Deliverance he sends to his people, 
his covenant he imposes for ever; 
holy and awesome his name.
The root of wisdom is fear of Yahweh; 
those who attain it are wise. 
His praise will continue for ever.
 
7. Final Prayer 
 

Lord Jesus, we thank for the word that has enabled us to understand better the will of the Father. May your Spirit enlighten our actions and grant us the strength to practice that which your Word has revealed to us. May we, like Mary, your mother, not only listen to but also practice the Word. You who live and reign with the Father in the unity of the Holy Spirit forever and ever. Amen.


 


 

Latest comments

26.03 | 17:36

Have a Blessed Holy Week!
Holy Week is the most important week in the Church year! It is a time when we celebrate in a special way the life, death and resurrection of Jesus. We remember his actions, reflect on his messages, and recommit to living as his d

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01.09 | 02:56

I enjoy these prayers, and resort to them whenever I want to pray but don't know how!

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15.08 | 13:01

Thank you for your valuable comments much appreciated.

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14.08 | 13:57

My daily devotion and yearly novena.

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