Readings: 1 Kings 19: 4-89; Psalm 34, R. Taste and see the goodness of the Lord.
Ephesians 4: 30—5: 2; Gospel—John 6: 41-51
As Jesus continues His discourse on the Bread of Life, we not only hear the concrete implications of the paradigm shift that He invites us to.
Let us bear in mind that the people Jesus was talking to were the ones who experienced the multiplication of the loaves and fish. Furthermore, they sought Him after this miracle, wanting more of Jesus’ “power.”
There are three points to ponder from this episode of the discourse, to see how many of these points are present in our own faith life.
The first paradigm shift in today’s Gospel is from familiarity to intimacy. The second is from human categories to the divine presence and movement. The third is from the manna in the desert to the Bread of Life.
The experience of the multiplication of loaves and fish clearly had an impact on the crowd Jesus was talking to, but as Jesus explained the deeper significance of what happened, biases, even prejudices, got into the way.
“I am the bread that came down from heaven” was the claim that triggered the prejudices, the familiarity that bred contempt—“Is this not Jesus, the son of Joseph? Do we not know His father and mother? Then how can He say, ‘I have come down from heaven?’” (John 6:42)
This prevented them from entering a deeper relationship of intimacy with Jesus. This too is at times the “tragedy” of our relationship with Jesus. We, most often unconsciously, limit God to our categories.
One vivid example of this is what our novice, Fr. Mat Sanchez, SJ, constantly reminded us of in spiritual conferences: “Do you seek consolation or the God of consolation?”
Or another way of reflecting on this is using the popular quote of unknown origin that was the title of the very first book of Fr. Thomas Green, SJ, “Let go and let God.”
The second shift brings us to a deeper reality, the divine presence in our life—a presence that is both providential and loving at the same time. This, I think and feel, cannot be done unless the first shift above is made.
Sense of purpose
It is this shift that draws us into a deeper friendship, a deeper companionship in mission with Jesus. It is ordained by the Father: “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draw him.” (John 6: 44)
This intimacy with Jesus leads to the core of our relationship with Him, which is sharing in the pattern of the Cross and Resurrection: “I will raise Him on the last day … whoever believes has eternal life. I am the bread of life.” (John 6: 44, 47)
Recall that in last Sunday’s Gospel Jesus said, “This is the work of God, that you believe in the one he sent.” (John 6:29) It is faith in Jesus leading to this intimacy of companionship in mission, the living out of the pattern of his Cross and Resurrection.
It is a shift from what we referred to last Sunday from Fr. Hans Kung, from “something to live for,” a sense of purpose, to “something to die for,” a mission. The latter is a deeper spiritual reality that is marked by a deeper relationship with the Lord.
Again, one will need this shift in order to live out the third and final shift in today’s Gospel: the shift from life in the here and now to eternal life.
“I am the bread of life. Your ancestors ate the manna in the desert, but they died; this is the bread that comes down from heaven so that one may eat it and not die. I am the living bread that came down from heaven; whoever eats this bread will live forever, and the bread that I will give is my flesh for the life of the world.” (John 6:48-51)
This shift is to live this grace in the day to day: “whoever eats this bread will live forever … My flesh for the life of the world.”
This goes back to our reflection on eternity. Eternity is the good, the kindness and the love we share with others in our life here and now.
The shift is from seeking grand and “big-time” miracles to finding the extraordinary love and grace of God in ordinary, day-to-day blessings.
It is to find God in all things, and in finding Him be an instrument to proclaim this life-giving grace of His presence, which is always lovingly providential.
To be Jesus’ presence to others and to the world is the greatest shift and the greatest grace of our union with Jesus the Bread of Life.
As we will see in the last and final section of the Discourse on the Bread of Life two Sundays from now, many will not be able to take the message of Jesus because of the radical reorientation, the complete paradigm shift.
Often, I have come to realize, the challenging shifts or reorientations are not the dramatic ones, but the ones that ask us to live them out in the day to day, in the ordinary things—to do the ordinary things with and for the extraordinary love of God.
This is the “challenge” and the greatest blessing of the Bread of Life, of the Eucharist in our day-to-day life.
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