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Monday, 30 April 2012

Do you believe that God always wants what is best for you? How will you respond if things do not go the way you wish them to go today? Acts 11:19-26; Jn 10:22-30


The verses that begin today’s reading inform us that Jesus is in Jerusalem at the Feast of Dedication which was celebrated in December each year. This feast is the Jewish festival of Hanukkah. It celebrated the liberation of Jerusalem from the reign of the Syrian (Seleucid) king Antiochus Epiphanes. Antiochus had defiled the Jerusalem Temple in 167 BCE by building an altar to his own gods within the Temple sanctuary.  In 165 BCE, Judas Maccabeus and his brothers regained control of the Temple and rededicated it to the God of Israel. The eight-day feast took place in the month December and was marked by the lighting of lamps and rejoicing.

The Jewish religious authorities begin the dialogue by asking Jesus whether he is the Messiah. They are annoyed that Jesus is not being explicit. This is the only place in the Gospel of John where Jesus is asked explicitly whether he is the Messiah. Jesus responds that he has been explicit and that he has told them, in no uncertain terms, the truth about himself and yet, they do not believe. Jesus then points to his ‘works” as indicators of this claim. “Works” here does not refer to miracles alone, but to the broader scope of Jesus’ ministry and includes the revelation of himself as having been sent by God.

Belief in Jesus determines whether one belongs to the fold of Jesus. Since the Jewish leaders do not believe, they cannot and do not belong to the fold. Those who belong to the fold hear the voice of the Shepherd and follow trustingly. Following Jesus leads to eternal life which he alone can give. The reason why Jesus can do this is because he has received this gift directly from the Father. What is more is that Jesus and the Father are one. This means that Jesus and God are united in their work of salvation and Jesus shares completely in God’s work.

We are privileged, as Christians, to have as our God one who is Good Shepherd, one whose primary interest and concern is to care for the good of the sheep. Our God is a God who wants to lead us to safety and to places where there is abundance. He wants what is best for us at all times and will do anything to protect us from any kind of harm. Though this is the case, we do not always listen to his voice and we prefer to go our own way. The only result that we can expect, after such a choice, is destruction and death.

Sunday, 29 April 2012

What is the shepherd calling you to do today? Will you listen to his voice? Acts 11:1-18; Jn 10:1-10


These verses contain part of the Discourse on Jesus, the Good Shepherd. This Discourse appears in the Gospel of John after Jesus has healed a blind man on the Sabbath, because of which, the Jews are upset (9:1-41). It is the last full discourse of the public ministry of Jesus. The Farewell Discourse from 14:1-16:33 is exclusively given to the disciples and not to the public. 

The focus in the first part of the Discourse (10:1-5) is on the shepherd and his relation to the flock. A contrast is made between the authorized shepherd and the bandit. The authorized shepherd enters by the gate, but the bandit climbs in another way. The reason for this is because the gate keeper opens the gate for the authorized shepherd but not for the bandit. Since he is the authorized shepherd, the sheep hear and recognize his voice. When he calls, they answer. There is an intimate bond between the shepherd and his sheep. They recognize and know each other. The shepherd walks ahead of the sheep and leads them out. The sheep are confident in his leadership and thus, follow him trustingly. They will not follow a stranger but will rather run away from him. The comment of the evangelist serves two purposes. The first is that the reader must understand that Jesus is using a “figure of speech” and thus, not take the metaphor literally. The reader must realize that many meanings are possible and therefore, must go below the surface, to the deeper meaning. The second point is that the listeners did not understand this figure of speech. If seen in the context of the miracle, and the healing of the blind man on the Sabbath, and the Pharisees objection because the healing took place on the Sabbath, then it seems clear that the authorized shepherd is Jesus and the bandits are the objectors.  Jesus has the good of the sheep at heart and the bandits do not.

In the second part (10:7-16), while pastoral imagery is still used, the Discourse moves in a new direction. Jesus is also the “Gate” for the sheep. The gate has two functions: one is to give access to those who are legitimate and have a right to enter, and the other is to prevent those whose intention is to cause destruction. Rightful entry into the fold is only through Jesus, who is the gate.

The text of today concludes with one of the most beautiful and comprehensive statements of the mission of Jesus. Jesus is the Good Shepherd and Gate. He has come to give life and give it to the full. All who listen to his voice will receive this life in abundance.

As the gate, Jesus is the way to life, but he is not merely that.  He also leads the way and so, is the Good Shepherd. Jesus is the way to life because he is himself life and he leads the way to life because he lays down his own life. These are non-transferable attributes; they derive from the heart of Jesus’ identity as one sent by God.

Saturday, 28 April 2012

Good Shepherd Sunday


The Fourth Sunday of Easter is traditionally known as Good Shepherd Sunday and it is easy to see why. In the eight verses of today’s Gospel, Jesus twice describes himself as the Good Shepherd. This clearly indicates that the thrust of these verses is on meaning of this term and also on the relationship of the shepherd and his sheep. Even as he describes himself as the Good Shepherd, he contrasts himself with the hired hand and through this emphasizes the qualities of the Good Shepherd.
Those of us who live in cities or towns may not be able to fully appreciate this allegory. Our experience of sheep leads us to se them as dumb creatures who are good only for their wool and as food on our tables. However, if we go beyond this superficial understanding and attempt to understand instead the deeper meaning then we will be able to appreciate more fully what Jesus means.
The adjective good used here can also be read as “model” or “true” and so Jesus is saying that he is the model or true shepherd. This is a reference to the image of God as the good shepherd in the prophet Ezekiel. There God is described as the shepherd who cares for the sheep, rescuing them from danger, feeding them, tending to the weak sheep, healing the wounds of those who are injured and going after those who are lost. Jesus as the model or true shepherd does all this and more. He even willingly, and of his own accord, lays down his life for his sheep. He does this not to earn a reward, but as an expression of the love that he has for the sheep which is an expression of love for the Father. This is why he is control of even his own death. No one can take his life, because he gives it up freely and without reserve. However, his death is lined inextricably with his resurrection and ascension, and it is through all three events that he completes his work as good and true shepherd.
In contrast, the hired hand is the bad shepherd or untrue shepherd. This one is concerned only about his own welfare and not the welfare of the sheep. When such a one takes charge, the sheep are scattered and neglected, and go astray.
The good shepherd on the other hand gathers the sheep and keeps them together. He is concerned not only with the sheep that belong to his fold and so is not exclusive. There are other sheep also, who though not of the fold will listen to the shepherd’s voice because they will recognize it as a voice of unconditional love. They will know that their salvation lies in listening to this voice.
Some may find being compared with sheep derogatory. However, if we understand the metaphor for what it is and capture its essence, we will find that this need not be so. The challenge to the sheep is to listen to the voice of the true shepherd and not the hired hand. This means that living as we do in a world in which we hear so many voices, to discern the voice of the true shepherd is not easy. The voice of the shepherd calls first to unity. This unity is manifested in communal living, in which each is concerned about the other much like the shepherd is concerned about each and all. It is also manifested in imitating the true shepherd’s qualities of self giving and self sacrificing love. This manifestation on the part of the sheep in imitation of the shepherd will draw all sheep into one fold, in which differences in individuals will not be points of contention, but will be celebrated instead. In the fold of the true shepherd there will be a unity even in diversity, because the mission of the true shepherd is an inclusive one.
This is why Peter can invite the rulers of the people and elders whom he addresses in the first reading of today to join this community of love. It is a community that has one head, one true shepherd, Jesus Christ in whose name and through whose power wholeness occurs. Though he was rejected, crucified, died and was buried, he continues to draw all peoples to him through his resurrection and ascension and being present always.
This gift of being drawn to him is, however, only a foretaste of what is to come. In the second reading John tells his community that they are to receive much more than this. They are to receive because of Jesus’ generosity the grace to see God as he is and will always be: unconditional love.
The readings of today therefore call each one of us as Church, to live out our lives according to the model of community envisioned here by Jesus. It is a model of mutual self giving, of self sacrifice and of communal living. It is a model where the needs of the other take precedence over my own. It is a model in which differences are not frowned upon but celebrated. It is a model in which there is a profound unity even in diversity. It is a model grounded in the mutuality of love embodied in the relationship of Jesus and God.

Friday, 27 April 2012

Will you opt for Jesus today? How will you show this in your actions? Acts 9:31-42; Jn 6:60-69


The text of today begins with the disciples grumbling after hearing what Jesus has said. The sayings are too difficult for them to accept. Jesus responds to their grumbling by issuing a challenge to them. If this affects them, they will be even more affected when they experience the death, resurrection, and ascension of the Son of Man. Jesus takes the disciples beyond the specific event of becoming and giving bread.  He takes them to the whole of the Christ event and its mystery.  Jesus, as Bread of Life, must be seen in the larger context of God’s plan of salvation through his Son.

The flesh, as flesh, and without the Spirit, is nothing. It cannot give live, nor does it have life. It is the Spirit that gives life and makes the flesh what it is. This means that simply eating the flesh of Jesus, without the right disposition, will not lead to life. Thus, those who eat and drink are not merely eating Jesus’ flesh and blood but the Spirit filled flesh and blood of Jesus. Even as Jesus offers the gift of life, through becoming bread, the gift is rejected because most prefer death. There are still those who will not believe. They have made their choice. God offers the gift of his Son to all, but not all will accept him. This is why many disciples drew back and no longer went with Jesus. This rejection leads Jesus to turn to the Twelve and ask them about their stand. They must choose whether they will accept or reject the offer of life that God makes in Jesus.

Simon Peter responds on behalf of the Twelve and at least verbally accepts that offer of life. He acknowledges that Jesus has the words of eternal life and that he is the Holy One of God, the one set aside by God.

Life always offers us choices. The choices that we are sometimes faced with might not always be what we desire, but the fact remains that we are free to choose. We can choose to be miserable or to be happy, we can choose to fear or to love, and we can choose to say No or to say Yes. Every choice that we make has its own consequences and we must be prepared to face them since it is we who have made the choice. 

Thursday, 26 April 2012

When someone places a new idea in front of you, is your first reaction one of rejection? Acts 9:1-20; Jn 6:52-59


The first verse of today’s text, which contains the question that the “Jews” ask, is occasioned by the statement that Jesus makes in the previous verse. The agitation in their hearts is because Jesus has identified himself with the bread of life. Jesus replaces the manna that their ancestors ate.

Jesus addresses this protest in the verses that follow. The bread that is to be eaten is the flesh and blood of the Son of Man. Refusal to do this means death or non-life. Eating the flesh and drinking the blood results in life and resurrection on the last day. By not mentioning bread and wine and thus, not equating them with the flesh and blood of Jesus, John focuses on the corporeal and not only on the sacramental representations. He also wants to stress that Jesus gives his whole life to all who are willing to receive him. The flesh that Jesus gives is life giving and so is his blood. It is real food and drink that will end all hunger and thirst.

Eating of the flesh and blood of Jesus leads to a mutual indwelling. The one who eats and drinks abides in Jesus and Jesus abides in that person. This relationship is an extension of the relationship between Jesus and the Father. Just as Jesus lives the Father’s life, so all who eat and drink will live Jesus’ life. The penultimate verse concludes the Bread of Life Discourse and repeats a theme that has been prevalent throughout. The bread which Jesus gives has indeed come from heaven and will give life forever and give it permanently, unlike the manna which could offer only temporary life.

The reference to the synagogue in Capernaum is to highlight the difference between Jesus’ teaching and that of the Jewish teachers and the difference between the manna eaten by their forefathers and the Bread of Life that Jesus gives.

It is not always easy to accept ideas which challenge our old way of thinking. Often our first reaction is rejection of that idea. We refuse to think outside the box, and are content with stereotypes with which we are comfortable. We are comfortable with them because they do not threaten us or call on us to change. We prefer that our boats not be rocked. However, Jesus continues to rock the boat and challenge our ways of thinking and being. He continues to wake us from our stupor and keeps inviting us to see more and be more.

Wednesday, 25 April 2012

How will you show that you have accepted the gift that God gives in Jesus? Acts 8:26-40; Jn 6:41-51


The symbol of “bread” is misunderstood by the people. They respond with unbelief. They grumble at Jesus’ claim that he is the bread of life and has come down from heaven. They protest that they “know” where Jesus comes from, they are aware of his antecedents. Even as they make such a statement, they are unaware of its error. They “think” they know, but in reality do not know.

Jesus addresses the crowd and asks them to stop their grumbling and then repeats the promise made earlier of resurrection on the last day for the ones who will believe. To reiterate the point that he makes, Jesus appeals to scripture and specifically to the prophets. “And they shall all be taught by God” refers to the initiative that God takes. The emphasis is on God who does the teaching. This means that Jesus’ commission is divinely ordained and not from humans. If the ones who hear realize this, then they will come to Jesus and they will have learnt correctly. This means that, while God does take the initiative, humans are responsible for responding accurately.

Jesus shares a unique relationship with the Father and is the only one who has seen Him. Those who learn have to learn to see the Father in Jesus. They have to learn that it is in Jesus that they have eternal life and that he is indeed the Bread of Life.
By using the distancing “your ancestors”, Jesus makes a contrast between the manna that they ate and the bread of life that he gives. The manna their ancestors consumed could not result in saving them from death, but the bread that Jesus gives results in a person living forever. This is because the bread that Jesus gives is living bread, a life giving bread. The bread that he gives for the life of the world is his flesh. This can mean, on one hand, the incarnation, where the Word became flesh, but on the other, can refer to his death on the cross, when he will give his life for the life of the world.

The purpose of Jesus’ coming into the world was to reveal the Father as God who wanted to save all people. This results in God taking the initiative in the tangible way of sending his son to become flesh for all. Even as God takes the initiative, he leaves humans free to respond to his act of love. Humans always have a choice when it comes to the gifts that God gives. They can accept them or reject them. Acceptance means life, rejection means death. There is no middle way.

Tuesday, 24 April 2012

What is preventing you from receiving the gifts that Jesus gives? Acts 8:1-8; Jn 6:35-40


Today’s text begins with the last verse that was read yesterday in order to place what follows in context. Jesus has stated that he is the Bread of Life and he invites all who are willing to come to him to be fully satisfied. The words “seeing’ and “believing”, which appear at 6:36 and again at 6:40 form an inclusion. The crowd has seen and yet has not perceived. They have not seen rightly and thus, cannot come to faith. This lack of proper vision is surprising when one realizes that Jesus’ primary purpose is not to hide but to reveal. He will welcome all who come to him. They will not be driven away. The purpose of his coming down from heaven is for the sake of revelation. This is the Father’s will and Jesus will do only what the Father commissions him to do. The Father’s will is inclusive and no one is to be excluded unless they want to exclude themselves. If one sees rightly and thus believes, what is gained is eternal life and resurrection on the last day. This promise combines both the present and the future.

These verses bring out powerfully the balance between divine initiative and human response. God takes the first step and remains open to anyone who is willing to come and receive the gifts that he wants to pour out. However, there will not be any coercion or pressure on the part of God. Those who come to receive from him must come freely and without reservation. The gift is ever available and free.  It is not for a select few but for all.

Will you dare to become bread for at least one person today? Acts 7:51-8:1; Jn 6:30-35


The invitation that Jesus issues to the crowd, to believe in him who was sent by God, results in the crowd asking for a sign. This demand is a clear indication that they have not grasped the meaning of Jesus’ words. They have been fed at the miraculous feeding but were not able to see it for the sign that it was meant to be. The crowd goes further in this demand by looking back at what happened in the desert during the Exodus and how their ancestors were fed. This seems strange, and even absurd, because they have been fed even more abundantly than their ancestors. This also points to how ignorant and even closed the crowd is to the revelation that Jesus continues to make.

Jesus does not remind them that he had already given them bread, but first corrects their misunderstanding. It was not Moses who gave their ancestors bread but his Father. This bread is not merely bread that was given in the past but it continues to be given in the present. It, and not the manna, is the true bread from heaven. It is true bread because it gives life to all who eat it.

Like Nicodemus and the Samaritan woman before them, the crowd does not fully understand what Jesus is really offering and so, make a request for this bread. They are convinced that this bread is better than the bread their ancestors ate, but do not understand how or why. Jesus is available to them and yet, they cannot see. He gives the bread once for all and, in doing so, gives the bread always. This is why Jesus can assert that He is the bread of life. This is the first time in the Gospel of John that the “I am’ saying is followed by a predicate nominative “the bread of life”. John’s Gospel often uses this distinctive way of revealing who Jesus is. The symbols that are used by Jesus in these sayings come from human and Near Eastern religious experience. The use of these common, everyday symbols results in conveying to all who will hear that Jesus can satisfy both the base and higher needs of people everywhere. These symbols indicate that the mystery of Jesus cannot be captured by any one symbol and that Jesus cannot be put into a well defined category.

The saying also contains an invitation to come to him and be sated. Though, on the one hand, the invitation refers to a physical eating and drinking and so satisfying human hunger and thirst, on a deeper level, the invitation is to listen to Jesus’ teaching and see in him the revelation of God and so, the fulfillment of all human needs.

Bread is the staple of many people all over the world and is used to represent the basic needs of people. By use of this symbol, Jesus reveals that his mission is to be available to all and for all. He does not belong exclusively to any one group and no group can ever capture him fully. He is available to all who are open to the revelation that he continues to make. The primary form that this revelation will always take is the form of love.

Sunday, 22 April 2012

Will you express your faith in Jesus through one loving action today? Acts 6:8-15; Jn 6:22-29


The first three verses of today’s text, which appear immediately after the miracle of walking on the water, serve as transition verses for the dialogue with the people and the discourse on the bread of life that follow. They also serve to bring the crowd, which had eaten at the miraculous feeding of the five thousand, back into the story and so, link Jesus’ words that follow with the feeding miracle and the miracle of walking on the water.

Since the crowd has not been privy to the miracle of Jesus walking on the water, they wonder how he got to the other side. Jesus does not answer their question but draws attention to their reason for seeking him. Though they have seen the sign that Jesus gave at the miraculous feeding, they were not able to perceive it because their attention was directed to the earthly and temporary, not to the heavenly and permanent. Even as they seek him for temporary food, Jesus invites them to a higher seeking. He asks them to seek for the food that only he can give, the food that endures forever. Jesus is competent to give this food because the Father himself has approved and set his seal on Jesus. In response to Jesus’ statement to not work for food that perishes, the crowd interprets the word “work” to mean certain actions that they must perform to acquire this food. Jesus corrects this misunderstanding by explaining what is meant by “work”. They must believe in Jesus who has been sent by God.

Believing in Jesus does not only mean a verbal profession of faith. In the Gospel of John, the term believing is, most often, used to describe faith that shows itself in action. This is why believing is akin to work. Jesus does not provide merely physical nourishment, but also nourishment of the mind, heart, and spirit. To know and believe in Jesus is to be sated in every aspect of life. It is to never lack or want anything, because all things are provided in him.

Saturday, 21 April 2012

Forgiveness is good for your health. Acts 3:13-15,17-19; 1 Jn 2:1-5; Lk 24:35-48


The last verse of today’s Gospel “You are witnesses of these things”, sets not only the theme for the readings of today, but also summarizes both the privilege and responsibility of being witnesses.
The question, however, is to what are the disciples’ to witness? To whom must they witness? The witness is very clearly to the person of Christ. Even as they witness to Christ, they are called to specifically witness to his death, resurrection and also to the fact that in his name forgiveness of sins is to be proclaimed to all.
Jesus shows this to them in two ways. The first is in the manifestation of himself. Even as he stands in their midst, he greets them with the greeting of peace. This greeting coming from the risen Lord is more than merely a greeting. It is a gift, a surety, a tangible thing. It refers to wholeness and embraces every aspect of life. It is a gift that will sustain them in all their endeavours and encourage them in Mission. After the gift of peace, Jesus responds to their shock and amazement by convincing them that he is not a spirit, but flesh and blood. He is the same Jesus who died and was buried who is now raised. The second way in which Jesus reveals the content of their witness is in the instructions he gives them concerning Mission. Their Mission is not different from his. It is at one with and continues the Mission that Jesus himself inaugurated. The disciples are called to proclaim the Christ event. This means that they are called not merely to proclaim that Jesus who was sent by God as the promised Messiah and the fulfillment of the expectations of all people was crucified, died, was buried and was raised, but also that precisely because of this event all people everywhere have been forgiven, accepted and loved. The disciples are called to proclaim that the name Jesus means that God saves from sin.
Peter understood this message clearly as is evident in his address to the people gathered in the Temple. Though Jesus was rejected and handed over to be crucified, though he was despised and counted of no consequence and though he was killed for no fault of his, yet, the God who raised him forgives all those involved in this heinous act. Because they have received this unconditional forgiveness in Jesus’ name, they are called to a “metanoia”, a change of mind, heart and vision. The acceptance of God’s forgiveness must result in a transformation.
This idea is reiterated by John in the second reading of today in which he exhorts the community to realize that because Jesus died for the sins of the whole world, the response to such a death must be a life well lived. This is shown by obedience to the command that Jesus taught, that all love one another as brothers and sisters. This is how love for God and Jesus is shown.
“You are witnesses of these things”, is a declaration that Jesus continues to make even today. We who have experienced God’s unconditional love in Jesus are called to proclaim like the first disciples both the Christ event and that in Jesus’ name, God continues to forgive, accept and love. However, this forgiveness cannot be proclaimed if we have not first experienced it ourselves. It is strange but true that the only way we can experience forgiveness is, if we first forgive. The Lord’s Prayer which is one of the most common and well known prayers makes the same point. We ask the Lord to forgive us only as we forgive. In other words, we will not be in a position to receive God’s forgiveness if our hearts are filled with unforgiveness. In the creed of the Catholic Church, belief in the forgiveness of sins stands besides belief in the Holy Catholic Church and the communion of saints which indicates how central this aspect is to being Christian.
Psychologists and doctors today tell us that the larger majority of our illnesses today are psychosomatic. This means that when the “inside” (psuchē) of a person is affected then the “outside” (sōma) will also be affected. One of the main reasons why the “inside” gets affected is because of lack of forgiveness and holding on to hurts and resentments.
Not only are individuals all over the world realizing this fact, but heads of nations and religions are also becoming more and more aware that forgiveness is at the root of freedom and the starting point of dialogue. Heads of corporate houses are also becoming conscious that the freer a person is internally, the more productive he/she can be. They thus conduct seminars and sessions to enable employees come to terms with resentments and bitterness and anger and focus on forgiveness and letting go.
The hands and feet that Jesus showed his disciples are visible today in each of us who claim to be his disciples. These are to be shown to the world as “proof” not only of the fact that Jesus is alive, but that in his name, forgiveness is even now being preached. It is significant that the content of the preaching, even after the resurrection of Jesus, is to be forgiveness, because that is why Jesus came into the world; to save people from their sins. This forgiveness can be preached and made real only if we bear witness to it through our lives.
“Forgive’ I am fond of saying, “it is good for your health”.

Friday, 20 April 2012

Will you opt for Jesus today? How will you show this in your actions? Acts 9:31-42; Jn 6:60-69


The text of today begins with the disciples grumbling after hearing what Jesus has said. The sayings are too difficult for them to accept. Jesus responds to their grumbling by issuing a challenge to them. If this affects them, they will be even more affected when they experience the death, resurrection, and ascension of the Son of Man. Jesus takes the disciples beyond the specific event of becoming and giving bread.  He takes them to the whole of the Christ event and its mystery.  Jesus, as Bread of Life, must be seen in the larger context of God’s plan of salvation through his Son.

The flesh, as flesh, and without the Spirit, is nothing. It cannot give live, nor does it have life. It is the Spirit that gives life and makes the flesh what it is. This means that simply eating the flesh of Jesus, without the right disposition, will not lead to life. Thus, those who eat and drink are not merely eating Jesus’ flesh and blood but the Spirit filled flesh and blood of Jesus. Even as Jesus offers the gift of life, through becoming bread, the gift is rejected because most prefer death. There are still those who will not believe. They have made their choice. God offers the gift of his Son to all, but not all will accept him. This is why many disciples drew back and no longer went with Jesus. This rejection leads Jesus to turn to the Twelve and ask them about their stand. They must choose whether they will accept or reject the offer of life that God makes in Jesus.

Simon Peter responds on behalf of the Twelve and at least verbally accepts that offer of life. He acknowledges that Jesus has the words of eternal life and that he is the Holy One of God, the one set aside by God.

Life always offers us choices. The choices that we are sometimes faced with might not always be what we desire, but the fact remains that we are free to choose. We can choose to be miserable or to be happy, we can choose to fear or to love, and we can choose to say No or to say Yes. Every choice that we make has its own consequences and we must be prepared to face them since it is we who have made the choice. 

Thursday, 19 April 2012

When someone places a new idea in front of you, is your first reaction one of rejection? Acts 9:1-20; Jn 6:52-59


The first verse of today’s text, which contains the question that the “Jews” ask, is occasioned by the statement that Jesus makes in the previous verse. The agitation in their hearts is because Jesus has identified himself with the bread of life. Jesus replaces the manna that their ancestors ate.

Jesus addresses this protest in the verses that follow. The bread that is to be eaten is the flesh and blood of the Son of Man. Refusal to do this means death or non-life. Eating the flesh and drinking the blood results in life and resurrection on the last day. By not mentioning bread and wine and thus, not equating them with the flesh and blood of Jesus, John focuses on the corporeal and not only on the sacramental representations. He also wants to stress that Jesus gives his whole life to all who are willing to receive him. The flesh that Jesus gives is life giving and so is his blood. It is real food and drink that will end all hunger and thirst.

Eating of the flesh and blood of Jesus leads to a mutual indwelling. The one who eats and drinks abides in Jesus and Jesus abides in that person. This relationship is an extension of the relationship between Jesus and the Father. Just as Jesus lives the Father’s life, so all who eat and drink will live Jesus’ life. The penultimate verse concludes the Bread of Life Discourse and repeats a theme that has been prevalent throughout. The bread which Jesus gives has indeed come from heaven and will give life forever and give it permanently, unlike the manna which could offer only temporary life.

The reference to the synagogue in Capernaum is to highlight the difference between Jesus’ teaching and that of the Jewish teachers and the difference between the manna eaten by their forefathers and the Bread of Life that Jesus gives.

It is not always easy to accept ideas which challenge our old way of thinking. Often our first reaction is rejection of that idea. We refuse to think outside the box, and are content with stereotypes with which we are comfortable. We are comfortable with them because they do not threaten us or call on us to change. We prefer that our boats not be rocked. However, Jesus continues to rock the boat and challenge our ways of thinking and being. He continues to wake us from our stupor and keeps inviting us to see more and be more.

Wednesday, 18 April 2012

How will you show that you have accepted the gift that God gives in Jesus? Acts 8:26-40; Jn 6:41-51


The symbol of “bread” is misunderstood by the people. They respond with unbelief. They grumble at Jesus’ claim that he is the bread of life and has come down from heaven. They protest that they “know” where Jesus comes from, they are aware of his antecedents. Even as they make such a statement, they are unaware of its error. They “think” they know, but in reality do not know.

Jesus addresses the crowd and asks them to stop their grumbling and then repeats the promise made earlier of resurrection on the last day for the ones who will believe. To reiterate the point that he makes, Jesus appeals to scripture and specifically to the prophets. “And they shall all be taught by God” refers to the initiative that God takes. The emphasis is on God who does the teaching. This means that Jesus’ commission is divinely ordained and not from humans. If the ones who hear realize this, then they will come to Jesus and they will have learnt correctly. This means that, while God does take the initiative, humans are responsible for responding accurately.

Jesus shares a unique relationship with the Father and is the only one who has seen Him. Those who learn have to learn to see the Father in Jesus. They have to learn that it is in Jesus that they have eternal life and that he is indeed the Bread of Life.
By using the distancing “your ancestors”, Jesus makes a contrast between the manna that they ate and the bread of life that he gives. The manna their ancestors consumed could not result in saving them from death, but the bread that Jesus gives results in a person living forever. This is because the bread that Jesus gives is living bread, a life giving bread. The bread that he gives for the life of the world is his flesh. This can mean, on one hand, the incarnation, where the Word became flesh, but on the other, can refer to his death on the cross, when he will give his life for the life of the world.

The purpose of Jesus’ coming into the world was to reveal the Father as God who wanted to save all people. This results in God taking the initiative in the tangible way of sending his son to become flesh for all. Even as God takes the initiative, he leaves humans free to respond to his act of love. Humans always have a choice when it comes to the gifts that God gives. They can accept them or reject them. Acceptance means life, rejection means death. There is no middle way.