Exodus 16: 2-4, 12-15; Psalm 78 (Response: The Lord gave them bread from heaven.); Ephesians 4: 17, 20-24; John 6: 24-35
Set one’s life within the horizon of a dream larger than life.” This was how Fr. Catalino G. Arevalo, SJ, described what it entails to live out Ignatian spirituality. This, likewise, is one core message in this Sunday’s Gospel.
“Amen, amen, I say to you, you are looking for me not because you saw signs, but because you ate the loaves and were filled. Do not work for food that perishes but for the food that endures for eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. For on him the Father, God, has set his seal.”
These words of Christ in today’s Gospel deliver the same message: Set our life within the horizon of a dream larger than life. After these words and the ensuing dialogue come the Discourse on the Bread of Life, one of the most important passages in the New Testament.
This whole month of August, our Gospel reading will be this discourse. Let it be for us, a month of reflection on the Bread of Life, the Eucharist, the Mass.
A few years before Father Arevalo talked about Ignatian spirituality as setting “one’s life within the horizon of a dream larger than life,” he talked about the Eucharist in one of our theology classes as the “Bread of the Dream,” God’s dream for us.
This Sunday, we see the initial dialogue between Christ and the people. They are asking Christ for bread, manna, the bread of God, just like what Moses did to the Chosen People. Part of the belief is when the Messiah comes, he will give manna, and one greater than what Moses gave.
We must bear in mind, too, that this episode came right after the feeding of thousands in the multiplication of the loaves and fish. Thus, it is not surprising that the people had these expectations of Christ giving them manna, and manna that is greater than what Moses gave.
Invitation of Christ
It is in this context that Christ begins the Discourse on the Bread of Life. He starts to juxtapose God’s dream for us, and our human expectations and needs. Here lies the invitation of Christ, on his and his Father’s behalf, for us to “set our life within the horizon of a dream larger than life.”
This is the point for reflection. We must have an alternative worldview—a horizon of a dream larger than life, a dream which is God’s dream. And given current contexts, it is a new horizon of a dream.
We thus need to “protect” our ability to dream, for we cannot become jaded because of our day-to-day concerns. There is always this danger. Take for example this simple reflection exercise: List five things in the day-to-day that we now consider the “new normal,” e.g. traffic; a one-hour drive can now be a two- to three-hour drive. Think of your own real examples.
Then ask yourself if these “new normal” items have somehow desensitized you to what used to be better norms in the day-to-day. Then shift yourself to this question: “Para kanino ka bumabangon (What gets you out of bed in the morning)?”
This is the constant challenge and invitation for all of us. On the one hand, we must not let the “mundane” blunt our ability to dream, and yet, on the other hand, our dreams larger than life must be grounded in life itself, and not fall into the “pie-in-the-sky” syndrome. It is “balancing heaven and earth.”
“…‘my Father gives you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is that which comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.’ So they said to him, ‘Sir, give us this bread always.’
“Jesus said to them, ‘I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me will never hunger, and whoever believes in me will never thirst.’” This opens the Discourse on the Bread of Life, our reflections on this for the whole month of August.
Ask yourself or go back to it, and remember: What is the horizon of my dream that is larger than life? —CONTRIBUTED