The Nazareth Page - A gospel meditation for your home
August 8, 2021 – 19th Sunday in Ordinary Time - John 6:41-51
Download this simple process to Prepare for Sunday using the Observe, Judge, Act Method.
After hearing Jesus say that he was the bread of life from heaven, the gospel notes that the people murmured, a common biblical comment. That could mean that they didn’t understand what he had said, or that they disagreed with him, or that they thought he was a bit crazy. My guess is that it was all of that and who knows what else.
My own take is that the mind of Jesus saw the deepest reality of what creation, and our personal existence, was all about. It was rooted in the great mystery of God’s presence and care for us. But if you think that this all makes clear and reasonable sense, you probably don’t grasp the full truth of it. Understanding the teaching of Jesus always includes a stretch of our imagination, or as theologians say, “a leap of faith.”
I recall a favorite saying of St. Francis of Assisi that in this life, it is in giving that we receive. I don’t think that those running for public office would use that saying for their campaign. The gospel of today has similar words that on the surface may not make a lot of sense. For instance, when Jesus said that he is the bread that will give life to the world. And that his life is given for us that we may live today, and not just now, but forever.
Many Catholics read this section of John’s Gospel as an explanation of the Holy Eucharist. And it certainly is that, but much more too. It is about Jesus as the one who is the deepest embodiment of God’s love for us and God’s desire that we live in and with abundance, something mentioned later in John’s Gospel.
Bread can be a wonderful image or symbol of our Christian faith. Of course, this is not that easily grasped today since we think that bread is actually produced in grocery stores where it is placed on shelves in colourful cellophane bags. In reality, the making of bread is much more complicated. It starts as a seed of grain that must be planted in good soil. It must be tended to and harvested. It must be ground into flour, blended with other ingredients and then baked in an oven. All resulting in food for human survival.
So, when Jesus said that he is the “bread from heaven,” he wanted us to think not only of nourishment for our lives on earth, but also our lives forever in the presence of our Risen Lord. Such nourishment is being offered to us all the time. Like when whenever we imitate the example of Jesus who gave his life for others. This happens often in families, between friends and neighbors. Every time we help those in need.
©David M. Thomas, PhD