Sunday, August 12, 2012
Readings: 1 Kings 19:4-8 Ephesians 4:30-5:2 Gospel: John 6:41-51
I can remember when eating any place other than at the family dinner table, a sit-down restaurant on special occasions, at a lake on a picnic or popcorn in a theater, was pretty much unheard of. Today, people eat just about anything everywhere. The majority of people who drive eat in their cars. Sometimes this is just to pass the time away. We call it snacking or having treats; sometimes we do this to keep from stopping for food or drink and, thus, arriving at our destination sooner; sometimes eating in the car literally sustains us on our journey.
In the first reading, the angel is persistent about nourishing Elijah. He wakes him up to this miraculous provision of bread to sustain him on his journey in the wilderness en route to Horeb.
In the gospel, Jesus is just as persistent about nourishing us, but Jesus’ nourishment is more than mere food. Jesus offers to his disciples the food of his teaching as well as his own flesh for the journey to eternal life.
The people’s murmuring in the gospel and their practical objection to Jesus’ claim to be from heaven (they “know his father and mother”) shows they have completely misunderstood the purpose of Jesus’ miracles and haven’t listened very well to all that Jesus has taught. Jesus answers their misunderstanding and unbelief with a monologue during which he teaches that when we seek the “desert manna,” we die. The true bread that comes down from heaven gives life, but does so only when we surrender ourselves to “listen to the Father.” The way to the Father and to eternal life is through Jesus. This is why he is the bread of life. In this gospel, word, belief and life all converge in the person of Jesus.
When the demands of our daily work pile up on us, the following of Jesus by our dying to self can lead us like Elijah, to say “Enough, take my life!” It’s no easy task to be faithful disciples, to live the gospel message. It’s an even more difficult task for ourselves to teach as Jesus did. If we are to be true to what we are to live and teach, we need a bread that revives us and keeps us from despair. Jesus’ words of life bring us such hope and strength.
This gospel assures us that we have all we need to come to eternal life. The one stipulation given is that we have belief. This doesn’t mean simply an intellectual assent to the reality and truth of Jesus’ word and bread; it means that we need to declare in deed that we listen to Jesus and accept the strength he offers. In us word, belief, bread and life all converge when we listen and do. Will we take the time and do so?
Perhaps carrying a small copy of the Word of God and reading a few verses during coffee break could give us more sustenance than just caffeine!
Rev. Joseph Manship