We continue this Sunday with “The Bread of life” themes common to this time of the liturgical year, which, by the way, will continue right through the 21st Sunday in Ordinary Time. It is a prolonged meditation on both our faith in the Most Holy Eucharist and our particular faith in The True Presence of Christ in that Eucharist. This series of gospel passages began on the 17th Sunday with an account of the multiplication of loaves and fishes and ends with the 21st Sunday, in which the disciples declare “This saying is hard to hear; who can accept it?” As it was a challenge to the first disciples, so it is for every generation since their first hearing of Jesus’ words “My flesh is real food and my blood is real drink.” No wonder our Church includes these selections from the Gospels of Mark and John in series, so that our “AMEN” to “The Body of Christ” / “The Blood of Christ” is true and certain.
Last Sunday we zeroed in not on “the manna” of the Old Testament, but rather on the real bread that comes down from heaven, Jesus himself, our sustenance unto everlasting life. We also dwelt upon the fact that our Holy Communion with Jesus, then,empowers us to be heavenly bread for others. Any of Jesus’ commandments or beatitudes that we livewhether of mercy, peacemaking, justice working, or cleanliness of heartconstitute heavenly bread for those whom we love and serve.
Today in the gospel passage from John, the folks are having a hard time grasping Jesus’ claim to be “the bread that came down from heaven.” “Isn’t he just one of usjust like us?” Jesus responds with an even greater and more fantastic claim, that whoever comes to him “I will raise him on the last day.” As to their difficulty to understand his words, Jesus quotes the prophets: “They shall all be taught by God.” Well, you might say, “Easy for Jesus to make that claim.” But think about it. Throughout our whole lives has God not been instructing our hearts? Whenever we have been taught to do the right thing or decided to do the right thing, or whenever we have been inspired by the goodness and graciousness of others to be like them, because we feel they are close to God or “Christ like,” God has been instructing our hearts. AND, just like Jesus predicts, those hearts will be led to him: “Everyone who listens to my Father and learns from him comes to me.” This is the stuff of evangelization!
Fair question: Why doesn’t God teach and instruct everyone with the same lesson plan? [Back-to-School teacher recognition intended.] This question has no easy answer. After all, all roads don’t really lead to Sears anymore and you really can’t find everything at Wal-Mart. The fact is that we are created so uniquely by God that everyone’s lesson plan and path to Jesus is going to be as unique as our creation. At the same time a Christian must believe in Jesus as the Way, the Truth, and the Life; just so, then, we also believe that no matter what the individual starting point may have been, heaven will be attained “Through Him, With Him, and In Him.” And if God chooses us to be instruments of that teaching, leave the clubs and “thumping” bibles at home and let us rather attract others to Jesus and teach them by our Christian living and by the obvious joy and confidence that our faith gives us. When another says to us, “I want to be like you” or “I want to belong where you belong,” then, and only then, are we helping someone to experience true conversion.