Homily, 19th Sunday O.T., Year B August 12, 2012
1 Kings 19:4-8; Psalm 34: 1- 8; Ephesians 4:30-5:2; John 6:41-51
Please, keep in mind that, in terms of the Gospel reading, this is the third ‘instalment’ of chapter 6 of St. John’s Gospel, the so-called Bread of Life discourse. It could be described as Jesus’ own reflections on the feeding of the multitude story with which Chapter 6 begins. There are still two more installments to come.
There are few places in the Gospel where Jesus is as argumentative as he is here… He really pours it on; the stakes must be high.
We can detect three interrelated areas that are of great concern for Jesus:
- The identity of Jesus
- Who God is; what we make of God; and
- For us – where we claim to find true life.
A brief word on each of these three themes:
- As for the identity of Jesus: some make Jesus into a great moral teacher; for others he is the most authentic human being that ever walked the earth.All that is nice, but it is not good enough. Jesus is first and foremost of God. He may be the son of Mary and Joseph, but over and above that he is the Son of God. The beauty, but also the mystery that Jesus is, is anchored in the unique relationship he has with God, the One he calls his Father (keep in mind we are in John’s Gospel). He issues forth from God, he is God-given, he is bread from heaven.
- That means that, as no other, Jesus can tell us who God is. Jesus’ version of God is the most authoritative one for us as Christians. Yes, we can see God revealed in a beautiful sunset, in a moving piece of poetry… Yes, they can serve for us as precious traces of God, much to be cherished, not to be despised. But God has become most outspoken about himself in Jesus. Jesus is the face of God. In Jesus God shows himself to be passionately in search of us to give us life; God as a real Father, a real Mother to us all.
- What is there in it for us? Our own true identity, our own true selves. That is the meaning of what are really synonyms of the same reality:
- “raising us up on the last day”
- “having eternal life”
- “not dying”
- “having life in abundance”.
That is what we find, when we believe in this God-given Jesus, when we have our own life-stories grafted onto his life-story; that is what faith sealed in baptism is all about: He is the Vine, we are the branches. We draw life from the Vine. That new life received in baptism is nourished, when we eat the living bread that comes down from heaven in the bread and wine we share in the Eucharist. All that is conveyed in those mysterious last words of today’s Gospel: “The bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.” Jesus has made his being given by the heavenly Father as living bread true in his gift of self for our sake: “I lay down my life so that you may live”.
Heavy stuff for a summer Sunday? Yes, but it deserves to be pondered, chewed on, digested, because it tells us why we bother coming together in this place…