To give and not to count the cost
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
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?
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.
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
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
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.
Sunday, August 19, 2018
Jesus, the bread of life
Let us invoke the presence of God
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.
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.
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:
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.
What return can I make to Yahweh
for his generosity
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.
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,
very heart, Jerusalem.
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.
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.
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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.
Sunday, July 29, 2018
Eating and sharing the bread
1. LET US INVOKE THE HOLY SPIRIT
Our Father in heaven,
You have given us Your beloved Son.
Send Your Spirit
that we may eat and savor Your gift.
us our daily bodily and spiritual bread.
May it provoke in us a hunger and thirst
for You, for Your Word and Your banquet,
You will satisfy us with Your presence,
with Your love and Your shalom,
in the joy of communion with the brothers and sisters that You give us this day, that we may share with them the material and spiritual bread. Amen.
a) The premises and key of biblical and liturgical reading:
passage contains an unusual characteristic: it narrates the only “inflated” episode in the Gospels. In fact, all together it is told six times (once in Luke and John, twice in each of Mark and Matthew). Apart from any historical-critical evaluation
of this unusual repetition, it is clear that early Christian tradition gave this episode great emphasis.
* Much discussion has gone on concerning the literary
connections with the other Gospel stories, but really we cannot tell definitely whether there are any direct or indirect connections among the various Gospel stories. The nearest parallel to John seems to be the first text in Mark (6:30-54), but John would
have had an independent source, which he reworked so that it would fit in well with the discourse that follows.
* As is usual in the fourth Gospel, a discourse
of great theological importance is closely coupled with the “sign,” which in this case is a miracle. Here, the discourse that follows covers almost the whole of the sixth chapter: it is the discourse on the “bread of life" (6:26-59), the
great source of theological reflection on the sacrament of the Eucharist.
* Throughout the text there are several references to actions, words and ideas characteristic
of the Christian liturgy. Thus there seems to be a close relationship between this passage and the liturgical tradition of Eucharistic celebration, especially in view of the fact that the Gospel of John makes no reference to the institution of the Eucharist
* In this year’s liturgical cycle, which is based on the Gospel of Mark, a series of Sunday Gospels taken from John are inserted at this point. The insertion takes
place precisely where one would have expected the readings on the multiplication of the loaves. The choice of the first reading is a classical example of mutual illumination between the Testaments: we have the multiplication of loaves by the prophet Elisha
(2Kings 4:42-44). The parallel between the miracles throws light also on the prophetic aspect of the person of Jesus. Again, the second reading (Eph 4:1-6) emphasizes an aspect of the Eucharistic life of the Church: the communion built around Christ and nourished
by the one Eucharistic bread.
* The main themes of this passage are those that concern the symbolism of the bread and of sharing the meal. It also has an eschatological
dimension. Other important motifs present in the text are those of faith in Jesus and in His way of interpreting messianism, here expressed through the Old Testament figure of Moses.
b) The text:
Jesus went across the Sea of Galilee. A large crowd followed him, because they saw the signs he was performing on the sick.
Jesus went up on the mountain, and there he sat down with his disciples. The Jewish feast of Passover was near. When Jesus raised his eyes and saw that a large crowd was coming to him, he said to Philip, "Where can we buy enough food for them to eat?" He said
this to test him, because he himself knew what he was going to do. Philip answered him, "Two hundred days' wages worth of food would not be enough for each of them to have a little." One of his disciples, Andrew, the brother of Simon Peter, said to him, "There
is a boy here who has five barley loaves and two fish; but what good are these for so many?" Jesus said, "Have the people recline." Now there was a great deal of grass in that place. So the men reclined, about five thousand in number. Then Jesus took the loaves,
gave thanks, and distributed them to those who were reclining, and also as much of the fish as they wanted. When they had had their fill, he said to his disciples, "Gather the fragments left over, so that nothing will be wasted." So they collected them, and
filled twelve wicker baskets with fragments from the five barley loaves that had been more than they could eat. When the people saw the sign he had done, they said, "This is truly the Prophet, the one who is to come into the world." Since Jesus knew that they
were going to come and carry him off to make him king, he withdrew again to the mountain alone.
c) A subdivision of the text for a better understanding:
1-4: Temporal, geographic and liturgical introduction.
5-10: The preparatory dialogue between Jesus and the disciples.
The meal “multiplied” and over-abundant.
14-15: The reactions of the people and of Jesus.
A MOMENT OF INTERIOR AND EXTERIOR SILENCE
to allow the Word of God to impregnate our hearts and minds.
It is spring, and Easter is close. The air is still fresh, and this makes it easier to follow and listen to the now famous, though controversial, rabbi of Nazareth.
As I read and reread, I hear a voice, but still saying rather “strange” things”: how is it possible to feed this great crowd of people?
* A few
loaves and fewer fish…but we must not lose them, while we agree to share them. Look, they increase as we distribute them!
* At the end, we collect everything:
it is very tiring, but bread is always precious, everywhere and at all times, especially this bread.
* I resume my journey with Him, without stopping, with a light
and happy heart because of the great things that I have seen today, but also with a few more questions. I go on looking at Him and listening to Him, I let my heart echo His actions, the expressions of His face, His voice and His words.
4. THE WORD GIVEN TO US
* The “Book of
Signs” of the fourth Gospel: Our passage comes from a part of the Gospel known as the “book of signs” (from 1:19 to 12:50), where we find descriptions of, and comments on, seven great “signs” of self-revelation (semeion, a
symbolic miracle or action) worked by Jesus in this Gospel. Discourses and “signs” are closely correlated: theological discourses explain the “signs,” and in the “signs” we find a concrete presentation of the contents of
the discourses in a progressive deepening of the divine revelation and the consequent growing hostility towards Jesus.
* Chapter 6 of John: In
an attempt to clarify the chronology and geographical details of chapter 6, some propose that we change the places of chapters 5 and 6. This, however, would not resolve all the problems. It is better, then, to keep and respect what tradition has passed on
to us, keeping in mind the historical-editorial problems involved, so as not to “unduly stress something which does not seem to have had great importance for the Evangelist" (Raymond Brown).
* Jesus went to the other side of the Sea of Galilee, which is the Sea of Tiberias: The lake is identified as having two names; the first is the traditional one, the second is adopted by John in the New
Testament (also in 21:1), perhaps because it had appeared recently in the life of Jesus and was, therefore, in common use after His death and widespread especially among the Greeks.
* And a multitude followed Him, because they saw the signs which He did on those who were diseased: Before this (2:23-25), we come across a similar situation of many believers in Jesus who had seen the “signs” He had worked.
In both situations, Jesus shows clearly that He disapproves of the motivation (2:24-25; 6:5, 26).
The “signs” on those who were diseased, namely the
healings that Jesus worked in Galilee, are told by John, except for the healing of the son of the regional official (4:46-54). However, with these words, this Evangelist lets it be understood that he had not told all the events and that he had chosen a few
among many that he could have communicated to the readers (cf. 21:25).
* Jesus went up on the mountain, and there sat down with His disciples: There
is no way of knowing which mountain.
The scene of Jesus, like Moses, sitting surrounded by His disciples, is a recurring theme also found in the other Gospels
(cf. Mk 4:1; Mt 5:1; Lk 4:20). The action of sitting in order to teach was normal for rabbis, but John – contrary to Mk 5:34 – does not mention that Jesus taught on this occasion.
* Now the Passover, the feast of the Jews, was at hand: The fourth Gospel makes three references to the celebration of the Passover by Jesus during His public life. This was the second (the first: 2:13; the third:
11:55) and we are told the religious and theological circumstances of everything said and done in chapter 6: the “bread given” by God like the manna, the going up the mountain by Jesus, like Moses, the crossing of the water as during the exodus
(in the following episode: 6:16-21), the discourse on the theme of the bread that comes from God. Concerning the relationship between the manna given to Israel in the desert and the multiplication of the loaves, there are also several parallels recalling Numbers
11 (vv. 1, 7-9, 13, 22).
Some of Jesus’ actions (for instance, the breaking of the bread), as well as the many theological themes touched upon in the
following discourse, are clear references to the liturgical actions of the seder at Passover and to the liturgical readings in the synagogue for the feast.
The Passover is a springtime feast, and in fact, John notes that “there was much grass in the place” (6:10; cf. Mt 14:19; Mk 6:39).
that a multitude was coming to Him: At the beginning of the narrative, it seemed that the people had been following Him before, whereas here John seems to say that the crowd was arriving. Perhaps this is a reference to one of John’s favorite
themes and one greatly emphasized in this chapter: the coming to Jesus, an expression synonymous with complete adhesion to the faith (3:21; 5:40; 6:35, 37, 45; 7:37 and elsewhere).
* Jesus said to Philip… Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother: These are two of the Twelve who in this Gospel seem to have a special role (cf. 1:44 and 12:21-22), whereas in the other Gospels they remain
in the shadows. It seems that they were particularly venerated in Asia Minor, where the Gospel of John was written.
* “How are we to buy bread,
so that these people may eat?” The question addressed to Philip may possibly be justified because he came from that geographical region.
interpret this question in the light of similar questions in the whole Gospel (1:48; 2:9; 4:11; 7:27-28; 8:14; 9:29-30; 19:9), we discover its Christological importance: asking from where the gift comes is also to seek to understand the origin of the giver,
in this case, Jesus. Thus the question leads to seeking the divine origin of Jesus.
* This He said to test Him, for He himself knew what He would do: The
“testing” of the reaction of the disciple is indicated by a verb (peirazein) which usually has a negative meaning, of temptation, checking or deceit. The role of this sentence, however, is to protect the reader
against any doubt that Jesus’ question may be interpreted as ignorance. This is an example of the issues encountered in translation, and the nuances that can be lost.
* “Two hundred denarii would not buy enough bread for each of them to get a little”: The amount is equivalent to a laborer’s salary for two hundred days of work (cf. Mt 20:13; 22:2).
Mark (6:37) puts it in such a way that we may think that such a quantity of bread would be sufficient for the present need, but John wants to emphasize the greatness of the divine intervention and
the disproportion of human resources. Andrew’s words, which follow, have the same purpose: "… but what are they among so many?"
is a lad here who has five barley loaves and two fish”: Judging by the double diminutive of the Greek text (paidarion), the lad is really a small child: someone with no social standing. The same term is used in 2Kings (4:12,
14, 25; 5:20) for Elisha’s servant, Giezi.
Barley loaves, unlike loaves made from wheat, were particularly simple food and cheap, used by poor people. This
may be an allusion to the story of Elisha multiplying the barley bread (2Kings 4:42-44). It would seem (cf. Lk 11:5) that the meal for one person was made up of three loaves. The dried fish (opsarion, again the use of a double diminutive)
was the common food to go with the bread.
* “Make the people sit down…in number about five thousand”: In reality, according to
the custom of the times, Jesus commands that they “lie down” or to “stretch out”: the meal has to be eaten in comfort, just as it is prescribed for the ritual meal of the Passover and as of obligation in banquets. All the Gospel reports
of this episode only refer to the number of men present.
* “Jesus then took the loaves, and when He had given thanks, He distributed them…so also the fish”: These actions and
words of Jesus are very close to those of the Eucharistic rite, although we cannot say that the one derives from the other.
* "When He had given thanks" is
a translation of eucharistein,which was commonly used as distinct from eulogein, to bless, the verb used by the synoptic Gospels here; the first verb is characteristic of the Greek milieu, whereas the second comes directly
from the milieu of Hebrew culture. If we take into account the language in use at the time of writing of the Gospels, then we cannot say that there are any significant differences of content between the expressions, even though John’s expression is,
for us who are used to the Christian liturgical language, a much more direct reminder of the Eucharistic sacrament. This is so true that the fourth Evangelist uses the same verb also in 11:41, where we find some reminders of the sacrament.
As presider at the ritual Passover table, Jesus personally breaks the bread and gives it directly to the people. In the same way He will do this at the Last Supper. Most probably,
however, things proceeded the way the synoptic Gospels describe them: Jesus gave the broken bread to the disciples so that they might distribute it. In fact, the crowd was too large for Him to be able to do it all alone. John, then, wishes to concentrate the
whole attention of his readers on the person of Jesus, true and only giver of “the bread from heaven”. Thus, the disciples join in His role at the meal, prefiguring their role in the Eucharistic celebration and in the Church.
Let us follow closely the sequence of events: the multiplication takes place only after the breaking and the breaking of the bread takes place only after a “small lad”
courageously gives up all of his trivial resources. Those poor, small loaves are multiplied as they are broken! Jesus multiplies what we accept, a little blindly, to share with Him and with others.
much as they wanted … they had eaten their fill: It is the abundance promised by the prophets when the time of šalom and of the festive eschatological banquet comes (cf. e.g. Isa 25:6; 30:23; 49:9; 56:7-9; Hos 11:4; Ps 37:19; 81:17;
Thus, the crowd is not wrong when it says of Jesus, "This is indeed the prophet who is to come into the world": a prophet who fulfills
the divine promise of sending a prophet “equal to Moses” (Deut 18:15-18) and who ushers in the messianic era preparing a free and abundant banquet, as promised by the ancient prophets.
* “Gather up the fragments left over, that nothing may be lost": The disciples appear on the scene with the task of not letting any of the precious bread go to waste. In fact, this too is a “bread
that perishes” and cannot be compared with the true “bread from heaven” (cf. 6:24). The command to gather (synagein) the fragments recalls the prescription regarding the manna (cf. Ex 16:16 ff.).
* So they gathered them up and filled twelve baskets with fragments from the five barley loaves: We cannot tell for certain whether the number of baskets is connected with the number
of disciples. What is certain is that these words want to emphasize again the great abundance of food from those small barley loaves blessed by Jesus. John seems to pay scant attention to the two fishes offered with the bread, perhaps because the discourse
that follows is all about bread.
* When the people saw the sign: The motive that John gives for the miracle just worked is not compassion for
the crowd. This would have been well understood by the disciples present, who, according to Mark (6:52 and 8:14-21), did not understand the meaning of what had taken place.
The fourth Gospel then shows the “sign”
significance of the miracle.
* Perceiving then that they were about to come and take Him by force to make Him king, Jesus withdrew again to the mountain
by Himself: Contrary to the other Evangelists, John gives the reason for Jesus’ sudden disappearance after the miracle. He wanted to prevent His role as Messiah from being “fouled” by any political manifestations of the crowd. Jesus
once more makes clear His choice (cf. Mt 4:1-10), which He will repeat right to the end before Pilate (19:33-37).
5. A FEW QUESTIONS TO DIRECT OUR REFLECTION AND ITS PRACTICE
a) The bread is multiplied because someone “very small” has the courage to renounce hanging on to his security risking failure or being shamefaced. The
“young lad” of the Gospel story believes in Jesus, even though Jesus had promised nothing on this occasion. Would I, would we, do the same?
b) The lad is an insignificant person, the loaves
are few and the fish even fewer. In the hands of Jesus everything becomes great and beautiful. There is a huge disproportion between what we are and what God can make of us, if we place ourselves in His hands. "Nothing is impossible for God": not converting
the hardest of hearts, not transforming evil into an instrument for good… God fills in every disproportion between us and Him. Do I really believe this, in the bottom of my heart, even when everything seems to contradict it?
c) The material bread offered by God refers us to the bread we ought to share with so many men and women who, on this same earth we live on and whose resources we waste so
thoughtlessly, struggle desperately for a slice of bread. When we pray “give us this day our daily bread” do we at least think of those who have no bread and how we can help them?
d) Physical hunger and material bread remind us also of the “hunger for God” and the eschatological banquet. These are truths that we often put out of our thoughts because we prefer to think that they are far and
distant from us. And yet, if we keep them present, they would help us to see the relative value of so many events and problems that seem to us greater than ourselves, and to live a more serene life busying ourselves only with what is essential. When,
during the Eucharistic celebration we say "…as we wait in joyful hope" are we really fervently waiting for the glorious return of the One who loves us and who even now takes care of us?
6. LET US PRAY (PSALM 147)
Praising God in a hymn with a Passover flavor to Him who provides food and every kind of subsistence to the “little ones”
of His people and to every living creature:
Praise the Lord! For it is good to sing praises to our God;
is gracious, and a song of praise is seemly.
The Lord builds up Jerusalem;
He gathers the outcasts of Israel.
He heals the broken-hearted,
and binds up their wounds.
He determines the number of the stars,
He gives to
all of them their names.
Great is our Lord, and abundant in power;
His understanding is beyond measure.
Lord lifts up the downtrodden,
He casts the wicked to the ground.
Sing to the Lord with thanksgiving;
melody to our God upon the lyre!
He covers the heavens with clouds,
He prepares rain for the earth,
grass grow upon the hills.
He gives to the beasts their food,
and to the young ravens which cry.
is not in the strength of the horse,
nor His pleasure in the legs of a man;
but the Lord takes pleasure in those who fear Him,
in those who hope in His steadfast love.
7. CLOSING PRAYER
From its earliest days, the Church
has celebrated the Eucharist as the supper of the Passover of the Lord where it echoes the event of the multiplication of the loaves. Thus, our closing prayer today is one inherited from the Christians of the first century:
We thank You, Father, for life and the knowledge You have revealed to us through Jesus Your servant. Glory to You forever.
Just as the broken
bread was scattered here and there over the hills and when gathered became one, so now, may Your Church be gathered in Your Kingdom from the ends of the earth;
for Yours is the glory and the power, through
Jesus Christ forever.
We thank You, holy Father,
for Your holy name that you make present in our hearts,
and for the knowledge, faith and immortality
that You revealed to us through Jesus, Your servant.
To You Glory forever.
You, all powerful Lord, have created all things to the glory of Your name;
You have given humankind food and drink for comfort, so that humankind may give You thanks;
but You have given us a spiritual food and drink and eternal life through Your servant.
Above all, we thank You because You are powerful.
To You be glory forever.
Remember, Lord, Your Church,
preserve her from every evil
make her perfect in Your love;
made holy, gather her from the four corners of the earth into Your kingdom, prepared for her.
For Yours is the power
and the glory forever.
May Your grace come, and may this world pass by.
Hosanna to the house of David.
Sunday, July 22, 2018
Jesus feels compassion for the people
The Banquet of Life –
Jesus invites to sharing
1. OPENING PRAYER
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 on the way to 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 the Father to us and sent us Your Spirit. Amen.
a) A key to the reading:
The text on which we will meditate on this 16th Sunday of Ordinary Time is brief. Only five verses. At first sight a few
lines seem to be only a brief introduction to the miracle of the multiplication of the loaves in the desert (Mk 6:34-44). But if the Liturgy of this Sunday has underlined these five verses, it means that they contain something very important that perhaps we
would not notice if they were only used as an introduction to the miracle of the multiplication of the loaves.
In fact, these five verses reveal a characteristic of Jesus which has always struck and
continues to strike us: His concern for health and the formation of the disciples, His accepting and welcoming humanity toward the poor people of Galilee, His tenderness towards people. If the Church, by means of the Sunday Liturgy, invites us to reflect on
these aspects of the activity of Jesus, it is in order to encourage us to prolong this same attitude of Jesus in the relationship that we have with others. During this reading we will be very attentive to the minute details of Jesus’ attitude toward
b) A division of the text to help in the reading:
Mark 6:30: Revision of the apostolic work
Mark 6:31-32: Concern of Jesus that the disciples get some rest
Mark 6:33: People have other criteria and follow Jesus
Mark 6:34: Moved to compassion, Jesus changes
His plan and receives and welcomes the people.
c) The text:
The apostles gathered together with Jesus and reported all they had done and taught. He said
to them, “Come away by yourselves to a deserted place and rest a while.”People were coming and going in great numbers, and they had no opportunity even to eat. So they went off in the boat by themselves to a deserted place. People saw them leaving
and many came to know about it. They hastened there on foot from all the towns and arrived at the place before them. When he disembarked and saw the vast crowd, his heart was moved with pity for them, for they were like sheep without a shepherd; and he began
to teach them many things.
3. A MOMENT OF PRAYERFUL SILENCE
That the Word of God may penetrate and enlighten our life.
4. SOME QUESTIONS
to help us in our personal reflection.
a) Which characteristic of Jesus’ attitude which has pleased you the most and which
evoked greatest admiration among the people in Jesus’ time?
b) Jesus’ concern for the disciples and His concern to accept and welcome the people well: both of these are important. Which one of these
predominates in Jesus’ attitude?
c) Compare Jesus’ attitude with the attitude of the Good Shepherd of Psalm 23. What strikes you the most?
d) Is the attitude
of our community the same as that of Jesus?
5. FOR THOSE WHO WISH TO REACH MORE DEEPLY INTO THE THEME
a) The context which enlightens the text:
i) Chapter six of Mark shows an enormous contrast! On the one hand, Mark speaks about the banquet of
death, held by Herod with the great of Galilee, in the palace of the capital city, during which John the Baptist was killed (Mk 6:17-29). On the other hand, the banquet of life, held by Jesus for the people of Galilee, hungry in the desert, so that they would
not perish along the way (Mk 6:35-44). The five verses of this Sunday’s reading (Mk 6:30-34) are placed exactly between these two banquets.
ii) These five verses underline two things:
- they offer a picture of Jesus, the formater of the disciples;
- they indicate that the Good News of Jesus is not only a question of doctrine, but above all of acceptance, of goodness, of tenderness, of
availability, of revelation of the love of God.
b) Commentary on the text:
Mark 6:30-32: The
welcoming acceptance given to the disciples
These verses indicate that Jesus formed the new leaders. He involved the disciples in the mission and He took them to a more peaceful place so as to be able to rest
and do a review of their mission (cf. Lk 10:17-20). He was concerned about their nourishment and their rest, because the work of the mission was such that they did not even have the time to eat (cf. Jn 21:9-13).
6:33-34: Moved to compassion, Jesus changes His plans and receives the people
The people perceive that Jesus has gone to the other shore of the lake,
and they follow Him. When Jesus is getting out of the boat, and sees that crowd, He sacrifices His rest and begins to teach them. Here we can see the state of abandonment in which the people were. Jesus was moved to compassion “because they were like
sheep without a shepherd.” The one who reads this parable remembers the Psalm of the Good Shepherd (Ps 23). When Jesus becomes aware that the people have no shepherd, He begins to be their shepherd. He begins to teach. He guides the crowds in the desert
of life, and the multitude could then sing, “The Lord is my shepherd. There is nothing I shall want!”
b) Extending the information:
● A picture of Jesus, the Formater
“To follow” was the term which formed part of the education system
of the time. It was used to indicate the relationship between the disciple and the master. The relationship of master-disciple is different from the relationship of professor-pupil. The pupils attend classes given by the professor on a given subject. The disciples
“follow” the master and live with him. And it is precisely during this “living together” of three years with Jesus that the disciples received their formation.
Jesus, the Master, is the axis, the centre, and the model of formation. In His attitudes is a proof of the Kingdom. He incarnates the love of God and reveals it (Mk 6:31; Mt 10:30-31; Lk 15:11-32). Many small gestures mirror
this witness of life by which Jesus indicated His presence in the life of the disciples, preparing them for life and for the mission. This was His way of giving a human form to the experience which He Himself had with the Father:
- to involve them in the mission (Mk 6:7; Lk 9:1-2, 10:1);
- once, He reviews this mission with them (Lk 10:17-20);
- He corrects them when they make a mistake or when they want to be the first ones (Mk 10:13-15; Lk 9:46-48);
- He waits for the opportune moment to correct them (Mk 9:33-35);
- He helps them to discern (Mk 9:28-29);
- He challenges them when they are slow (Mk 4:13; 8:14-21);
- He prepares them for the time of conflict (Jn 16:33; Mt
- He sends them out to observe and to analyze reality (Mk 8:27-29; Jn 4:35; Mt 16:1-3);
- He reflects together with them on the questions of the present moment
- He places them before the needs of the multitude (Jn 6:5); He corrects the mentality of revenge (Lk 9:54-55);
- He teaches that the needs of
the multitude are over and above the ritual prescriptions (Mt 12:7,12):
- He fights against the mentality which thinks that sickness is a punishment from God (Jn 9:2-3);
He spends time alone with them in order to be able to instruct them (Mk 4:34; 7:17; 9:30-31; 10:10; 13:3);
- He knows how to listen, even when dialogue is difficult (Jn 4:7-42);
- He helps them to accept themselves (Lk 22:32);
- He is demanding and asks them to leave everything for His sake (Mk 10:17-31);
- He is severe with hypocrisy
- He asks more questions than gives responses (Mk 8:17-21);
- He is firm and does not allow Himself to be turned away from the road (Mk 8:33; Lk 9:54-55).
This is a picture of Jesus, the formator. The formation in the “following of Jesus” was not just the transmission of truth to be learned by heart, but rather
a communication of a new experience of God and of life which radiated from Jesus for the disciples. The community which formed around Jesus was the expression of this new experience. Formation led the person to see with other eyes, to have other attitudes.
It planted in them a new awareness concerning the mission and themselves. Yes, it made them place their feet side by side with those who were excluded. In some, it produced “conversion” because they accepted the Good News (Mk 1:15).
● How Jesus announces the Good News to the multitude
The fact that John was in prison impels Jesus to return
and begin the announcement of the Good News. It was an explosive and creative beginning! Jesus goes around and through all of Galilee: the villages, the towns, the city (Mk 1:39). He visits the communities. Finally He changes residence and goes to live in
Capernaum (Mk 1:21; 2:1), a city on the cross roads to several places, and this facilitated proclamation of the message . He practically never stops; He is always on the road. The disciples go with Him everywhere: in the fields, along the streets, on the mountain,
in the desert, in the ship, in the synagogues, in the houses. And they go with great enthusiasm!
Jesus helps the people, serving them in many ways: He drives out
the evil spirits (Mk 1:39), He cures the sick and those who are possessed by the devil (Mk 1:34), He purifies those who are excluded because of some impurity (Mk 1:40-45), He accepts the marginalized and interacts and eats with them (Mk 2:15). He announces,
calls and convokes. He attracts, consoles and helps. This is a passion which is revealed - passion for the Father and for the poor and abandoned people of His land. There He finds people who listen to Him. He speaks and proclaims the Good News everywhere.
In Jesus, everything is revelation which fascinates or captivates Him from within! He Himself is the proof, the living witness of the Kingdom. In Him one
sees what happens when a person allows God to reign, allows God to guide or direct his life. In His way of living and acting together with the others, Jesus transforms nostalgia into hope! All of a sudden people understood: This
was what God wanted for His people!
This was the beginning of the announcement of the Good News of the Kingdom which was rapidly absorbed among the villages of
Galilee. In a small way, like a seed which grows until it becomes a big tree, under which people could rest (Mk 4:31-32). And people took care to spread the News.
people of Galilee remained impressed with the way Jesus taught. “A new teaching! Given with authority! Different from that of the scribes!” (Mk 1:22, 27). What Jesus did most was to teach (Mk 2:13; 4:1-2; 6:34). And this was what He used to do
(Mk 10:1). More than fifteen times the Gospel of Mark says that Jesus taught. But Mark hardly ever says what He taught. Perhaps he is not interested in the content? It depends on what people understand by content! To teach does not mean
to teach only new truths and thus people learn them by heart. The content which Jesus has to give does not only appear in the words, but also in His gestures and in the way in which He enters into relationship with the people. The content is never separated
from the person who communicates it. Jesus was a welcoming person (Mk 6:34). He loved the people. Goodness and love, which were visible in His words, formed part of the content. They constitute His temperament. Good content without goodness is like spilled
milk. Mark defines the content of the teaching of Jesus as “the Good News of God” (Mk 1:14). The Good News which Jesus proclaimed comes from God and reveals something about God. In everything
which God says and does, the traits of the face of God are visible. The experience which He Himself has of God, the experience of the Father, is visible. To reveal God as Father is the source, the content, and the purpose or end of the Good News of Jesus.
6. PRAY WITH PSALM 23 (22)
Yahweh is my shepherd
Yahweh is my shepherd, I lack nothing.
In grassy meadows He lets me lie.
By tranquil streams He leads me
to restore my spirit.
He guides me in paths of saving justice
as befits His name.
Even were I to walk in a ravine as dark as death
I should fear no danger,
for You are at my side.
Your staff and Your crook are there to soothe me.
You prepare a
table for me under the eyes of my enemies;
You anoint my head with oil;
my cup brims over.
Kindness and faithful
love pursue me every day of my life.
I make my home in the house of Yahweh
for all time to come.
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 what 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.
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