Reflection for 19th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Readings Year B, August 12, 2012.
Gospel: St. John’s Gospel, Chapter 6, verses 41-51.
‘Get up and eat or the journey will be too long for you!’ (from first reading). And we’re talking about us getting up and eating, -taking Jesus into our very hearts and souls. Because, it’s a very long road without him.
The Jewish members of our family have a saying: ‘There are thirty layers to every story, and a Rabbi can only show you one layer.’ There are a lot more than thirty layers to Chapter 6 of St. John’s Gospel. That’s why you could spend a life-time re-visiting it, and still not have fathomed it. There’s eating and drinking in it, -why? – because there’s eating and drinking in Jesus!
St. John loves to repeat the same phrase or word over and over in a passage, and he loves to use misunderstandings in the conversations that Jesus had, as it was Jesus’ way of leading people beyond the obvious (eg. water and the bucket, in the story of the Samaritan Woman, in Chapter 4). Here, he uses different understandings of ‘bread’,- from the obvious that you hold in your hand and that nourishes the body, to the deeper meaning that you hold in your heart, and that nourishes the spirit of a person.
Those Jews who did not believe in Jesus were complaining: ‘Surely this is the son of Joseph. We know his father and mother! How can he now say “ I have come down from heaven’ ? Here was the misunderstanding. But then Jesus leads them deeper.
Notice the repetitions all through today’s Gospel reading (verses 41 to 51);
- I am the bread that came down from heaven.
- I have come down from heaven.
- ‘the Father (who) sent me’.
- ‘the one who comes from God’
- I am the bread of life.
- This is the bread that has come down from heaven.
- I am the living bread which has come down from heaven.
(Notice again the I AM, repeated several times today. See last week’s reflection on ‘I AM’ and all that it refers to, in St. John’s Gospel)
And then, at the end, what upset them most of all,- and the subject of next Sundays’ Gospel reading- ‘The bread that I shall give is my flesh, for the life of the world.’ Here, he was beginning to speak to the about what we now call the Eucharist,- or ‘The breaking of the bread’. Let’s stay with today’s reading. Go to it again,- there’s eating and drinking in it,- why?- because there’s eating and drinking in Jesus, sent by the Father.
‘Get up and eat, or the journey will be too long for you!’
Seamus Devitt C.Ss.R.