8.12.18. Sun. wk 19 – O.T. – B
Kings 19: 4 – 8
Ephesians 4: 30 – 5: 2
Gospel of John 6: 41 – 51
The Jews murmured about him because he said, “I am the bread that came down from heaven,” and they said, “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’?” Jesus answered and said to them, “Stop murmuring* among yourselves. No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draw him, and I will raise him on the last day. It is written in the prophets:
‘They shall all be taught by God.’ Everyone who listens to my Father and learns from him comes to me. Not that anyone has seen the Father except the one who is from God; he has seen the Father. Amen, amen, I say to you, whoever believes has 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.” The Gospel of the Lord.
Homily: Fr. Mike Murphy: The Bread of Life That Unites Us To The Love Of God
As you know – all four Gospels contain a story about the multiplication of the loaves and fish. Matthew, Mark and Luke simply tell the story and they imply that there is more to the story than what you read their Gospels. John, on the other hand, follows his story with a lengthy discourse – which is all of chapter 6 in his Gospel. He goes into depth about the meaning of this miracle. To share in the “Bread of Life of †Jesus” symbolizes the mystical life – uniting ourselves with the Father and the Son. The symbol of the “Bread of Life” touches three levels of meaning.
The first level is this – “The Bread” that †Jesus speaks of – is the Life He shares with the Father. If you recall – †Jesus said: “The Father and I are One” – that is represented in “The Bread of Life” – in the Eucharist. †Jesus said: “I am the Bread of Life, this is the ‘Bread’ that comes down from heaven” (in unity with the Father). The bond of love with the Father is all †Jesus needed to sustain Him in this life. That was all that He needed. When we live the Commandments of God, we possess the same love †Jesus had for the Father, and we are sustained by the Father’s love. Unfortunately for many of us, our personal anthem is that 1980’s song by Johnny Lee: ‘Looking For Love in All The Wrong Places” – rather than looking to the Lord – for love.
On a second level, the “Bread” is the Body of †Jesus. †Jesus said: “I am the Bread of Life, whoever eats this bread will live forever”. The Eucharist is not just ordinary bread and wine. The priest consecrates the bread and wine. Consecration is a word that means: ‘to set apart for something special’. This bread is different, it is not ordinary – it is something special. St. Ignatius of Antioch, a 1st century Church Father and martyr wrote: “(It is the) bread that provides the medicine for immortality – the antidote for death – and the food that makes us – forever – live in Christ †Jesus”. (Ad Eph. 20.2)
And finally – the ‘Bread’ †Jesus gives us – is His continuing presence in the Eucharist – which we celebrate today. It is not a symbol of †Jesus – it is the Body of Christ!
When I was walking on the Camino last month there is a small town named: O Cebreiro. There is a Church in that town that dates from the 9th century. And at some time in the 1300’s or 1400s – the priest was celebrating mass in that church and after the consecration the host on the paten turned to human flesh – the wine in the chalice turned to blood. But there is more than just that – in the sanctuary there was a statue of the Blessed Mother on the wall and at the moment the flesh and blood appeared – the statue of Mary turned and bowed in veneration before the altar. That chalice and paten has been preserved in a reliquary in that Church since that time. Why did the Lord allow that to happen – maybe the priest doubted the real presence of Christ? We find these Eucharistic miracles happening often.
‘The Bread of Life’ is the Father’s love in †Jesus, and it is given to us today – and this morning we receive that ‘Bread of Life’ – we who believe in Christ – we who receive Him in the Sacrament – we who choose to live what He taught us.
St. Mark was a disciple of Peter, and remember what †Jesus said to Peter as they were walking along the Sea of Galilee – when †Jesus told Peter: “Some day someone is going to take you and bind you and take you where you do not want to be”; indicating the kind of death he was going to experience. And Peter said: “What about John over there”? †Jesus said: “Don’t worry about John – what if I want him to stick around until I come again – that’s up to me – you don’t worry about that”.
So Peter told that story to Mark who wrote the Gospel and so, Mark expected †Jesus to come back pretty soon. The Gospel message in Mark is: “Get ready – †Jesus is coming”. Well, Matthew and Luke wrote their Gospels 10 or 15 years after Mark did – and they began to sense that – ‘maybe it’s going to be a little longer than we thought before †Jesus returns’. And so the message in Matthew and Luke’s Gospel is: ”Stay ready – because †Jesus will be coming”.
But John, who wrote a generation later, goes even further than the other evangelists in pointing to the presence †Jesus. He changed the message entirely and all of John’s Gospel teaches this message: “He’s already here!” The Kingdom of God is in your midst. He is here! †Jesus is present among us. †Jesus is present in the Bread and in the Wine that we share in the Eucharist. But Christ is present in more ways than just the Eucharist. When we live His word – He lives through us. When we follow His example of sacrificial love – that is the love of Christ in us. When we continue His ministry to the World in our own flesh and our own lives – †Jesus is present in us. Let me ask you – do people around you get a glimpse of †Jesus when they see you? Do they see †Jesus in you?
The Blessed Mother – as she stood beneath the cross watching her Son die – could honestly repeat the words †Jesus said at the Last Supper. She could stand beneath that cross and say: “This is my Body – this is my Blood” – because she gave birth to †Jesus. Let me ask you: “If Mary were to come here and look at you – would she say: “This is my Body – this is my Blood” – because †Jesus truly lives in you? Or are we a distant relative rather than one with †Jesus? Can Mary say this to us: “You are my Body – you are my Blood” – because we are so closely united with her Son, †Jesus?
St. Paul teaches us how we unite ourselves to the Body of Christ. He writes: “All bitterness, fury, anger, shouting and reviling must be removed from you, along with malice. And be kind to one another, compassionate, forgiving one another as God has forgiven you in Christ”. (Eph.4:31f) We must be imitators of Christ. This is what it means to unite ourselves to the Love of the Father as †Jesus was united to the Love of the Father. And we unite ourselves through the Eucharist and become what we receive – the Body and the Blood of Christ. We are called to the fullness of love. We are called to be holy as God is Holy.
Pseudo-Dionysius the Areopagite was a fifth century mystical author who wrote: “If we aspire to communion with †Jesus – we must fix our lives on the most holy life He lived in the flesh…Unite ourselves to His most divine life by imitating it to the best of our ability.” But – what if we don’t do it perfectly? What if we just fail – and often? We can find forgiveness from the Lord through the grace of the Sacrament of Reconciliation and the grace of the Sacrament of the Eucharist. What do we find in the Eucharist? This Sacrament strengthens us in charity – it enables us to break with those disordered attachments – those thorns in the flesh – those habitual sins we just can’t seem to get rid of. The more we receive the sacraments – the more grace we receive to fight against those and to unite ourselves to the love of the Father in Christ †Jesus. We become more firmly rooted in the love of Christ and we become the presence of Christ in the world.
†Jesus is offering us a personal, intimate relationship with Him. And this will lead us to the very life and divine love of the Father. It unites us to the Father; nourishing us in His life. We will enjoy that intimate friendship with the Father – a friendship lived in humility and love.
Jean Vanier is the founder of L’Arche – the community for adult individuals with intellectual disabilities and he wrote something very important. He talks about the people he works with – and how he sees them as friends of †Jesus. “How can they become a friend of the Messiah? Friendship implies a certain equality and mutual vulnerability? †Jesus no longer appears as the powerful one – but as the powerless one – offering His loving person. ‘I am the living Bread come down from heaven – the person who eats this Bread will live forever…The Bread that I will give is my flesh for the life of the world”. (Jean Vanier, Drawn Into The Mystery of Jesus Through The Gospel of John; 2004, Novalis Publishing, Inc.) When Jean Vanier saw those individuals – adults with disabilities – he saw the powerless †Jesus – the same powerless †Jesus that allowed Himself to be nailed to a cross – and he united himself with those people.
Holiness is not about being an enraptured mystic – that’s not what holiness is about. St. John Paul II wrote: “If we start out anew – from the contemplation of Christ – we must learn to see Him especially in the faces of those with whom He wished to be identified.” (Novo Millenio Ineunte, #49; 6 Jan. 2001) And who did †Jesus hang around with? The poor, the marginalized, the sinners – that’s who we must identify with. We are called to recognize †Jesus in the poor and the suffering. Here we will see the very heart of †Jesus and here the heart of †Jesus will be seen in us. Are we weak enough – are we powerless enough to be the presence of †Jesus in the world? In the Father’s love – †Jesus found everything – even in His powerlessness. In the Father’s love – through the ‘Bread of Life’ – we find everything we need to sustain us in our powerlessness. In our weakness we find the strength to be †Jesus in the world.
As 21st century disciples of †Jesus we find in this teaching ‘The Bread’. That ‘Bread’ keeps us going daily through our struggles. We find in His flesh a continuation of His life – in ours. And when we eat the ‘Bread of Life’ we become the Flesh and Blood of †Jesus that brings life to others. Then †Jesus will be able to look upon you and He will say: “This is my body – this is my blood”.
In the Name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.