FOOD FOR THE JOURNEY.
In the Gospel reading today, Jesus takes off the gloves, as it were, and he confronts his listeners with the stark truth of why he has come, and what they must do to benefit from what he offers them. Most of today’s gospel has Jesus speaking, as if he has listened to their debating and rationalising long enough. However, it is very important to remember that the fourth Gospel was written at least some sixty years after the Resurrection of Jesus, hence it would seem that today’s Gospel is a pretty good reflection on how ‘the Way’ ( the first name given to followers of Christ) were understanding the Christ of Faith by the time that this was written.
A couple of weeks ago we saw the miracle of the loaves and fish, which paved the way for an understanding of the Eucharist. It would appear that Jesus had got their attention and their interest. They asked him in last week’s gospel, ‘What does God want us to do?’ and they seemed interested enough to listen to the answer. But in today’s story, once again Jesus began to speak about a personal God, a God among them, a God who was no longer in the Holy of Holies within the Temple or in the burning bush; but the people closed their ears, and became inflexible once more. Again we hear the echoes of Ps 95 Verse 8 ‘If, today you hear God’s voice, harden not your hearts.’ This Psalm was well known by the people of Israel. We in modern times pray that Invitatory Psalm most mornings.
Jesus got straight to the point when he said that he was speaking about pure gift. Even the desire to come to him, to listen to him, to respond to him was a gift from the Father. It had nothing whatsoever to do with religious practice of the time, it was a whole New Covenant, and compared to the inflexibility of the Old Covenant they had inherited, this was a radical change! Jesus had come in person to teach them, to lead them, to nourish and save them. They had a decision to make. They were either for him or against him.
Before we move on, we must pay attention to the implications of what Jesus said in the opening part of today’s reading, because it gives us a deeper understanding of another underpinning statement made by Jesus which really got their shackles up. Jesus said, “I am the bread that came down from Heaven.” We can easily miss the direct import of the words, ‘I am’. In the Greek text we would know exactly what the implications are, so not to hold you in suspense any longer….’I am’ is the Divine Name. In other words…YHWH. The Bread; what does that imply? Manna for sure, but what is the translation of the word MANNA? God’s Mercy and Goodness. Jesus, the human face of the Father! Wow! Now look at the claim of Jesus and why this caused such a response among His critics? But we must not forget that this Gospel was written about 100AD; therefore plenty of time had been given to the question, who was Jesus Christ?
As we look back through history and explore the varied responses to the all-powerful Word of Jesus, we can easily say that the faces have changed but the message remains the same. We see here in this teaching from Jesus that by and large it was falling on deaf ears. What caused this? Was it the humanity of Jesus, ‘the son of Joseph’ which automatically closed off the creative options in their minds, because it was too good to be true? It would seem that fixed minds have been the stumbling blocks for many people throughout the ages, and they still are today! So fixed, that even the greatest miracles do not enable a flexible response, and in this case, it was directly to Jesus the Word made flesh. Together with fixed minds goes blindness; the inability to see God’s power to save, linked with judgements based on helplessness. The end result; many walked away from Jesus! As John’s Gospel later tells us, many of them rejected it, walked away, and no longer followed him.’ John 6:60-61.
We probably do not walk away from Jesus, but we can easily be so comfortable within inflexible mindsets that we can run the risk of not being fully open to the Lord through prayer, in response to His Word, and the consequences of receiving Holy Communion. Sometimes my mind quivers somewhat when I hear and see instances where some Leaders in the Church are so black and white, with a touch of arrogance when dealing with greyish human problems. It can be comfortable and tidy to think that one has the whole truth, rather than listening to the truth in humility as manifested in ‘the poor of the Lord’.
Within this deep Gospel, there is something else which the First Reading from the Old Testament reminds us…..namely the need for food and nourishment for the journey. As we saw in the First Book of Kings……Elijah while on his journey was famished! He said……’Lord, I have had enough and he wished he were dead’. Oh my goodness, I bet that we have all felt like that in our Christian Journey………..however, fortified by the bread and water, Elijah woke up to a new day and kept going.
There is another speed hump in believing that Jesus is The Word made flesh, dwelling in His Spirit among us…….and that is Lethargy! Many people could not really care less about God, or God’s Word of the presence of God in our world. Our commercial, high tech’ living can rob us of the time to ‘be still and know God.’ Over the many years of Ministry in and among God’s people, Death and the Funeral can be the stopping point! It can be so terribly uncomfortable for many, because Death involves and will involve all of us. The ‘be still and know God’ moment often happens prior to a loved one dying, at death, and then in the Funeral. These days we can easily take death for granted; we see in nearly every night on the Television News. Death, killing and horrible suffering sell ratings. However, when the sting of death, enters us, it has the power to make us STOP, LOOK AND LISTEN to what is life all about.
Over 45 years I have heard more Eulogies than I have had Baked Lamb Dinners! I have often wondered if the person in the Coffin had in their life time heard one quarter of what had been said about them. Just as it is vitally important to reflect back to people while they are alive of their wholesomeness, so it is also vitally important to ‘be still and know God’. To be open and wanting to listen about Jesus who is not some distant person walking around the district of Palestine. No, it is about tuning it to the frequency of the mystery of God’s presence and influence on us. To know from human experience that ‘in death, life is changed, not ended.’ To be aware that many animals are also aware of the death of their loved ones, and upon reflection knew instinctively that their ‘beloved’ has gone to God’s embrace. Just as we are on the ‘look out’ for the new iPad or iPhone and can’t live without it……..so to if we had that energy for Jesus our Bread of Life and desperately wanting to know everything our high Teck’ gadget can offer us, as we listen meditatively to God’s Word and digest it……we would have more ‘healthy spirituality’ to walk with our sisters and brothers every day.
Hence we can be like the people in today’s Gospel. God is always doing a new deed, hence we are invited to ‘Go and be Jesus, and live what we have heard, seen and partaken at the Eucharistic table.’
Our Prayers of Intercession
Leader: We turn now to our God in heaven who hears all our prayers and grants our needs.
+For all members of the Church to come to know Jesus better through their participation in the Eucharist. We pray to the Lord: Lord, graciously hear us.
+For all peoples of the world that they seek God with all their hearts. We pray to the Lord: Lord, graciously hear us.
+For those whose lives are characterised by grumbling and murmuring, that they might experience joy in coming to know God. We pray to the Lord: Lord, graciously hear us.
+That each of us here may give to others the gift of our self-giving. We pray to the Lord: Lord, graciously hear us.
+For the poor and suffering people on the Indonesian Island of Lombok; grant that neighbouring Nations will come to their help. We pray to the Lord. : Lord, graciously hear us.
+ For our Island nation, Australia, grant that the Drought be broken very soon, and that fellow Australians will continue to support, love and befriend our people in this sun burnt country. We pray to the Lord. Lord, graciously hear us.
+Let’s think back over the past week, and what we have seen on the T.V News, Breaking News on our Mobile Phones and iPads….who are some of the people in our Global village or need our prayers? You might like to share some of these…………., We pray to the Lord: Lord, graciously hear us.
Leader: God in heaven, you draw us to yourself and desire that we have eternal life with you: hear these our prayers and help our unbelief. We ask this through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.