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REFLECTIONS

TWENTY-FIFTH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME

Today we hear Jesus’ second announcement of his Passion and the response.   Three passion predictions, response to each and Jesus’ teaching are central to this section of Mark’s Gospel known as THE WAY.  Jesus asks them in today’s passage:  “What were you arguing about on the way?”

Mark is fond of framing sections of his Gospel.  Mark began the WAY section with the healing of the blind man of Bethsaida. This man was progressively healed of his blindness by Jesus.  Mark closes the section with the story of the Blind Man of Jericho, Bartimaeus.  Jesus was preoccupied with the blindness of the Apostles and along the WAY teaches them and us. 

Along the WAY section Mark deliberately makes reference to geographical place names.  The first blind man is from BETHSAIDA.   Last Sunday’s Gospel began:  “Jesus and his disciples set out for the villages of CAESAREA PHILIPPI.  Along the WAY”  And a few verses later, “He began to teach them” This passage is followed by the experience on the Mount of Transfiguration.  It appears that Jesus then returned to CAPERNAUM. Today’s Gospel  began:  “Jesus and his disciples left from there and began a JOURNEY THROUGH GALILEE. “He was teaching his disciples.  He then makes the second announcement of his Passion.  And later on, “They came to CAPERNAUM” 

The response to the second announcement is:  “But they did not understand the saying, and they were afraid to question him.”  These two motifs, lack of perception and fearful inhibition to ask for an explanation, reinforce each other and strengthen the case of the disciples’ dilemma.  If they do not understand what is being said, but are afraid to find out, they will be locked ever more deeply into ignorance.

Jesus pursues their response with his question:  “What were you arguing about on the WAY?  But they remained silent.  They had been discussing among themselves on the way who was the greatest.”  It is clear that disciples were interested in personal power and prestige.  It would seem Peter and the disciples derive their personal identities from a messianic concept of power and glory. 

We must listen to Jesus’ words carefully:  “And he sat down, called the twelve, and said to them, ‘If anyone wants to be first he must be last of all and servant of all.”  When we hear “first” we usually think power, priority, and authority.  What Jesus is attacking is the concept of authority that the Twelve had.  Jesus is teaching that genuine authority is assumed by serving the people, all the people, not by lording it over them.  Above all, authority means to show concern for the little ones, the children, those who have least power of all.  In ancient culture, children had no status.  They were subject to the authority of their fathers, viewed as little more than property.  Membership within the community of the faithful will involve giving status to those who have none.  Accepting such an unimportant member of society in Jesus’ name is equivalent to accepting Jesus.  Accepting Jesus is equivalent to accepting God.  Hospitality, a major aspect of life in the ancient world, is to be extended to the most unlikely, thus challenging traditional notions of status.  This concept of power in service must now be understood by the Twelve.

What does this mean for us who call ourselves disciples of Jesus today?  Ideal life is depicted so often as the lifestyle of the rich and famous.  We are encouraged to be conspicuous spenders, to exhaust from life all of pleasure that is possible.  Values that bombard us are: comfort, wealth, power to control others.  Why be a “truth seeker” when you can be a “status seeker?”  These values are in contradiction to the value of service.

Jesus gave a one-sentence summary of what importance really means and how to achieve it.  Then he did an unpredictable thing.  He took a little child, stood him in the midst of his disciples, put his arms around him, and said:  “Whoever receives one child such as this in my name, receives me” Jesus tells us to learn from a child. They teach us to be humble.  They don’t care what degrees we have, what kind of car we drive, or where we live, or how much money we have in the bank.   What children want to know is whether we are warm, and real, and loving.  Do we know how to smile with our eyes, as well as our mouths?  Children have a longer period of dependence than any other creatures.  Someone must take care of them for years, or else they will not survive.  Their helplessness requires us to forget ourselves, and look to the needs of others.  They teach us to be servants.

Our Lord knew what he was doing.  He put a child at the center of life, and all of our attempts to feel important look just as silly as they are.  The truth of the matter is that we have no importance, except in the eyes of the God who loves us, and in the lives of the people who need us.  Make room in your life for those who need you.  Then you will not be worried about importance.  That will not even matter anymore.  But to someone, or to several someones, you may well become the most important person in the world.

Source of reflection: Dave Jackson

 

TWENTY-FOURTH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME

This Sunday we hear from the middle section of Mark's Gospel.  Jesus is on the WAY.  He will be journeying from Galilee in the North toward Jerusalem .  But in this middle section there is not only a change of geography, there is a shift from miracle working to teaching.  Three announcements of Jesus' Passion are featured.

In today's reading verse 31, we heard, "He began to teach them."  He had been teaching them all along, but prior to this the emphasis was on Jesus' authority and power.  He casts out demons, heals diseases, commands the waves, etc.  Now the emphasis will be on his suffering and death.  Jesus' teaching also functions as a renewed call to follow.

When Peter takes Jesus aside and "rebukes" him, it is not because Peter misunderstands Jesus' words-but because he does understand them, and he doesn't like them.

To quote that great theologian Mark Twain:  "Many people are bothered by those passages in Scripture which they cannot understand; but as for me, I always noticed that the passages in Scripture which trouble me most are those which I do understand."

There's a whole lot of "rebuking" going on.  This verb is used most often of Jesus commanding evil forces: evil spirits (1:25, 3:12, 9:25) and wind (4:39).  In Luke's Gospel Jesus "rebukes" the fever of Peter's Mother in law (Lk. 4:39).  Jesus "warned" his disciples not to tell anyone about him. (vs.30) 

In this passage Peter rebukes Jesus.  But only Mark tells us, "At this he (Jesus) turned around and, looking at his disciples, rebuked Peter and said, "Get behind me, Satan . . . "  Neither Matthew nor Luke has Jesus "rebuking" Peter.  It would seem that in Mark's Gospel Jesus is extending the rebuke beyond Peter to the other disciples.

Every time someone besides Jesus "rebukes," they are proven to be wrong.  Peter rebuking Jesus (8:32); the disciples "rebuking" those who were bringing little children to Jesus (10:13); the crowd "rebuking: the noisy blind man (10:45).  This verb seems to carry an idea of exerting power over, something Jesus can do with evil forces and what he tries to do with his disciples.  It is not something anyone should do with Jesus or with the beggars or children.

Jesus now is saying things "quite openly" (vs. 32).  Mark has Jesus look at the disciples, rebuke Peter and "summon the crowd with his disciples." (v34)  His public call to discipleship involves, denying yourself, taking up your cross, and following Jesus.  In Mark's Gospel the image of discipleship is:  following Jesus without exactly knowing who he is or precisely where he is going.


The structure of this first Passion announcement will be followed in the two later announcements.  Jesus announces that he must go up to suffer and die.  Each time Jesus announces this, there is a failing response of the Apostles.  After this first announcement it is clear that Peter's response fails (but it seems that Jesus also includes the other apostles in his rebuke).  Each failing response is followed by Jesus teaching the Apostles.  The good news is that though the apostles fail to understand,  Jesus does not become completely exasperated with them.  He continues on his way to Jerusalem never tiring in his efforts to continue teaching.

For Mark, being open, willing to carry out whatever God asks of us, is the first step in dying with Jesus, the first step in becoming another Christ. 

No reading from the Hebrew Scriptures better dovetails with our Gospel than today’s Deutero-Isaiah passage. But for some unknown reason, the first part of verse 4 has been left out: “Yahweh God has given me a well-trained tongue, that I might know how to speak to the weary a word that will rouse them. Morning after morning he opens my ear that I may hear . . . .” 

Carroll Stuhlmueller always mentioned that this verse provides Scripture’s best definition of a disciple of God: someone who hits the floor every morning listening to what new thing--which of the works in the second reading from James--God is calling them to do that day. 

Unfortunately, no one’s ears are ever completely open. It’s a lifelong process.

This Gospel calls us to consider rebuking in our lives.  What do Jesus' words about denying myself mean to me?  What are the crosses in my life?  Are these leading me to a closer following of Jesus?  Do I realize that Jesus does not give up on me in my struggling?  Can I imitate Jesus in this?

Source of reflection: Dave Jackson

 

TWENTY-THIRD SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME

The Gospel last Sunday returned to our reading from Mark's Gospel.  While last Sunday's readings sounded somber warnings, today's readings celebrate the saving deeds of God.

Mark's Gospel is structured in a number of ways.  In broad strokes it has three parts, 1) The Galilee section heavy in miracles and featuring a number of crossings of the Lake of Galilee; 2) the Way section, Jesus journeying from the North (Galilee) toward the South (Jerusalem);  3) and finally Jesus last days in Jerusalem.

Today's Gospel passage is a hinge passage.  It is the last of several miracle stories showing how Jesus wishes to include people, not exclude them.  In our Sunday readings we heard the healing of the woman with the issue of blood (though considered unclean she approached and touched the hem of Jesus' cloak) and the healing of the daughter of Jairus (a Jew).  In the Marcan cycle we don't read the wonderful story of the woman living in the territory of Tyre and Sidon (described clearly as an outsider, Greek--a Syro-Phoenician by birth) who approaches Jesus to have her daughter healed of an unclean spirit.  Today we heard the story of a deaf man with a speech impediment.  This man lived outside Jewish territory in the region of the ten cities. 

But the hinge not only swings back it springs forward.  This story is the first of four healings in the discipleship catechism section which follows. The focus switches to the struggle within the community for faith. It is the first of four healings referring to blindness/deafness (seeing and hearing).  1) The healing of this deaf man with the speech impediment is followed by 2) the healing of the blind man of Bethsaida, 3) the exorcism of the son possessed by a mute spirit who works havoc on him, 4) and finally the healing of Blind Bartimaeus.

Immediately after this healing of the deaf man with the speech impediment Mark presents Jesus feeding four thousand people.  The Pharisees ask for a sign and Jesus "with a sigh from the depths of his spirit" asks "why does this age seek a sign?" He tells them no such sign will be given and abruptly gets into a boat to go to the other side of the lake. (In the healing of the deaf man Mark told us, "Jesus looked up to heaven and emitted a groan".  The same Greek word is used to describe Jesus' frustration.) On the boat trip Jesus expresses his frustration this way:  "Do you still not see or comprehend?  Are your minds completely blinded?  Have you eyes but no sight?  Ears but no hearing?"  

In Mark's Gospel the portrayal of the Apostles is getting progressively worse.  In the first section of the Gospels they "misunderstand."  In this middle section they "do not understand."  In the last section of the Gospel they will "disappear completely."  But Mark offsets this negative picture of the apostles with the positive hope contained in the miracles that those who are deaf and dumb and blind become able to hear and speak and see. 

In today's Gospel "some people brought him a deaf man who had a speech impediment and begged him to lay hands on him."  Previously in Mark’s Gospel, Jairus came seeking help for his daughter.  The woman with the flow of blood approached Jesus directly.    The Syro-Phoenician woman "approached him and crouched at his feet" she begged Jesus to expel the demon from her young daughter.    After this incident, at Bethsaida, "some people brought him a blind man and begged him to touch him."  The man whose son was possessed by a mute spirit first looked for help from the Apostles.  They were not able.  Then he brought him to Jesus.  The middle section of Mark's Gospel is then framed by the story of Blind Bartimaeus. He calls out, "Jesus son of David have pity on me."  After being scolded he shouted out all the louder.

These miracle stories present us people with different needs.  Some come to Jesus directly, others are brought by other people. 

Picture yourself encountering Jesus, perhaps face to face, perhaps being brought by someone else.  What are you looking for from Jesus?  In what way does Jesus touch you?  Do you receive a gentle pat on the back to encourage you?  Does Jesus perhaps with his hands directly on your shoulders, look you directly in the eyes in order to get your attention?  Does he perhaps cradle your face in his hands with compassion because you have been left out or rejected?  How does Jesus approach you?  Stay with this image for a time.  Ask Jesus to show you someone who needs to be touched in some way or another.

Ephphatha! (that is, "Be opened!") "Jesus took him off by himself away from the crowd.  He put his fingers into the man's ears and spitting touched his tongue; then he looked up to heaven and emitted a groan.  He said to him Ephphatha!  that is, "Be opened!.  It would seem to me that Jesus took him off by himself away from the crowd because of Jesus’ sensitivity to the actions he would perform.  These would much better be done in private.  Perhaps this is also a continuation of the “Messianic Secret.”

Let us each be taken aside by Jesus.  He treats each person as they need. How would Jesus touch me now?   To what is Jesus saying to me, "BE OPENED"?  Is there something in my life that Jesus wants to be an eye opening and ear opening reality in my life.

Source of Reflection: Dave Jackson

 

TWENTY-SECOND SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME

This Sunday's readings show how law or rules can work for us or against us.  The first reading is an example of how law is to work for the people of Israel.  In the Gospel Jesus confronts laws that are working against people. The challenging newness of Jesus is certainly on display in these readings.  The combination of "does" and "don'ts" presents us with much to reflect on. A good examination for us. 

The first reading from Deuteronomy comes just before Moses' giving of the Ten Commandments to Israel.  It is an exhortation to hear and observe carefully all the statutes and decrees of God, neither adding to nor taking away anything from them.  Israel's reward will be possession of the land and a reputation before other nations for wisdom and closeness to God. 

However over time the religious leaders added various traditions.  In today's Gospel these religious leaders are questioning Jesus about his disciples violation of the law.  The religious leaders were trying to impose laws about purification upon all the people.  Jesus attacks these leaders with harsh words:  "Well did Isaiah prophesy about you hypocrites, as it is written: 'This people honors me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me; in vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines human precepts.  You disregard God's commandment but cling to human tradition.'" External practices, merely human precepts, can diminish our spirituality and lead to a certain legalism.  St. Paul spoke about the "letter of the law" and the "spirit of the law."  To follow the way of the letter, you have more control;  everything is defined;  people easily fall into the background.  The way of the Spirit says that, to God, people matter most.  Biblical commands never take precedence over what is compassionate and caring. 

In the second reading St. James reminded the people of his day and us:  "Be doers of the word and not hearers only, deluding yourselves."  "Religion that is pure and undefiled before God and the Father is this: to care for orphans and widows in their affliction and to keep oneself unstained by the world."  In the scriptures "orphans and widows" are images for the defenseless and needy.  The U.S. bishops in the Pastoral letter on the economy wrote:  "As a community of believers, we know that our faith is tested by the quality of justice among us, that we can best measure our life together by how the poor and the vulnerable are treated." (#8)  In the Vatican Council's decree on the Modern World we read (#43) "one of the gravest errors of our times is the split between faith which many profess and the practice of their daily lives."  
    
The reality is we can be hypocrites, we can be hearers only. We can delude ourselves and be the object of James' criticism.  We can split between the faith we profess and the practice in our daily lives.  We can be content with exercises of piety and not work for justice.

We are called to ask the Holy Spirit to give us a clear discernment about our religious practices and the signs of our times.  We must pray to have the courage to leave what does not lead us into real love and adopt new ways of genuinely responding to God's commandment of love as the Spirit inspires us. 

Jesus insists that from within, from the heart, come evil thoughts, unchastity, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, licentiousness, envy, blasphemy, arrogance and folly."  We need the power of the Holy Spirit and the nourishment of the Eucharist to fulfill Jesus' commandment to love.  The Spirit and the Eucharist help us to transcend ourselves to become more what we are called to be: fully human and fully loving people.  Sin distorts us but God can restore us.


1) The teachers speak reverently of the "tradition of the elders" and attribute to it divine authority, but Jesus regards it as human tradition. One must never confuse the will of God with what is the product of human invention.
  

2) Mark here in this passage and later on 12:38-44 is trying to show how "piety" can pre-empt justice.

Source of reflection: Dave Jackson



TWENTIETH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME

Much advertising today has to do with the health of our bodies.  Bookstores are full of cookbooks; newspapers feature cooking pages.  Together with these books is the abundance of books dealing with overeating and dieting. Cooking shows are many on television.

We must be concerned about our physical health, yet today’s scripture readings invite us to be similarly, but even more, concerned as to our spiritual health and well being.  To that end, the praying community is reminded of the two types of food that are necessary for maintaining the life of faith and service to which we are called as Jesus’ disciples.

In today’s first reading, the author of Proverbs describes the spiritual food of wisdom.  The psalmist reiterates her words of welcome by inviting all present to taste and see the goodness of the lord. 

In the lengthy Bread of Life discourse of the fourth Gospel, the Johannine Jesus invites those whom he fed with loaves and fish to feed also upon his teaching, a sapiential food.

Besides the food of the Word of God, the wisdom teaching of Jesus, we are to be nourished by our celebration of the sacrament of Holy Communion which feeds and strengthens us.  

Verse 31 of chapter six is very important to understand the long discourse that follows.  That verse reads, “He gave them bread from the heavens to eat.”  Some scripture scholars have seen this discourse as a long sermon explaining verse 31.  

In the course of the sermon, Jesus makes several significant claims and these are followed by a variety of responses:

1) In verse 35 Jesus makes the claim:  “I am the bread of life.” And in verse 38 he claims that he has come down from heaven.   The response:  We heard last Sunday that the “people began to complain about Jesus.” v. 41. 

2) In verse 48 Jesus says clearly again, “I am the bread of life.”  And in verse 51, “I am the living bread that came down from heaven.”  The response:  “The people then disputed among themselves, saying, ‘How can this man give us his flesh to eat?” 


3) In verse 53 (which we will read next Sunday)  “So Jesus said to them, ‘Very truly, I tell you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you.” The response:  Many of Jesus’ disciples who were listening said, ‘This saying is hard; who can accept it? And in verse 66:  “Because of this many of his disciples turned back, and no longer went about with him. “  

But the sermon ends on the GOOD NEWS note: Next Sunday we will hear:  Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom can we go?  You have the words of eternal life.  We have come to believe and know that you are the Holy One of God.” The number of people who do not know the joy of life is increasing.  Pope Francis gave his major teaching the title, THE JOY OF THE GOSPEL.  On the first page of this teaching he states: "I invite all Christians, everywhere, at this very moment, to a renewed personal encounter with Jesus Christ, or at least an openness to letting him encounter them; I ask all of you to do this unfailingly each day. . . . the Lord does not disappoint those who take this risk."  

In verse 51, Jesus states the “bread I will give is my flesh, for the life of the world.”  Usually we understand this to mean it is a clear reference to Jesus’ redemptive death on the cross.  But increasingly I believe we need to understand it as a reference to the "life of Jesus." In the Anglican Church's adaptation of the the Our Father we pray "May we find the bread that we need for today.." The sacramental eating and drinking are, therefore, the participation in and acknowledgment and confession of the fact that the life of Jesus, remembered, and celebrated at each Eucharist, is “for the life of the world.”

Lest he be misunderstood, the Johannine Jesus affirms his point; verses 55-56 leave no doubt that he offers himself as food and drink in order that he and believers will forever thereafter abide together: “He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me and I in him.”  This is not a-once-and-for-all act, to eat the flesh and drink the blood, but is an act reiterated throughout the life of the believer who by hearing the bread of Jesus’ word and eating the bread of his body is empowered to live out of this participation daily. Our deeds are to follow the example of Jesus.  

In today’s first Reading Wisdom is giving an invitation.  Her invitation is to “come eat of her food, forsake foolishness that you may live.” The meat and wine that she offers is insight and understanding  It is hard to trust that the true Wisdom, God’s wisdom, is really life giving.  We tend to prefer our own kind of wisdom that is generally concerned with conquest more than with sharing.  We have a hard time conceiving of salvation other than in categories of victory.  We must never forget that we owe our existence as Church not to a conqueror but to one who was vanquished, not to one who overcame but to one who was overcome. 

In the first reading Wisdom gives the invitation to eat of the meat and wine of insight and understanding.  In the Gospel Jesus too spreads a banquet before us.  He offers us himself, his flesh (his life) for the life of the world.  If we turn down his invitation, we would be more than fools.  We would be rejecting life itself.  Like the people in the Gospel we must decide whether it is riddle or revelation for us.  Jesus never really answers the question of “how can this man give us his flesh to eat?” In some ways this seems to deflect us from facing the fact that Jesus' life is a different way of living than was predominant in the culture of his time and is today different from the predominant culture of our time. Our Sunday ritual celebration invites us to deepen our union with Jesus so as to live in the manner that he did. Just receiving communion will not accomplish this.  We have over emphasized receiving the "body and blood" of Jesus to the neglect of deepening our understanding of the teachings of Jesus as revealed in the Gospels.  

WE (Like Peter) ARE IN PROCESS. WE ARE COMING TO BELIEVE THAT JESUS IS THE HOLY ONE OF GOD, WE ARE ONLY GRADUALLY LEARNING WHAT JESUS TAUGHT, AND HALTINGLY ATTEMPTING TO LIVE OUT WHAT JESUS LIVED.

Source of reflection: Dave Jackson

 

NINETEENTH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME

The first reading and Gospel today speak about nourishment.  In the first reading it is Elijah who needs to be nourished.  In the Gospel, Jesus is trying to move the people beyond simply physical nourishment of bread to spiritual nourishment. 

In our passage today Elijah the prophet has fled in fear from Queen Jezebel and her husband the king.  They are seeking his life to destroy him.  Elijah had won the contest with the 150 false prophets of Baal and slaughtered them.  But Elijah seems to have gotten worn out in his work of calling the people to Conversion.  We meet him in the wilderness.  He wants to die and prays for death, “This is enough Lord.”  He lays down to sleep and it would seem with the hope that he will not arise.

But God has other plans for him.  He sends an angel who touches him and tells him to get up and eat the food that has been provided by the Angel.  Elijah does but then goes back to sleep.  Again the prophet is told to get up and eat the food the Angel has provided.  This time he is ready for the long journey of 40 days and 40 nights to Mt. Horeb.

We can say that Elijah was depressed.  Depression is an illness that can affect a wide range of people.  Some of the symptoms are fear and tiredness.  But depression takes on many different forms in different people.  Some people when they are depressed can’t sleep at all.  Some people only want to sleep.  Some are anxious and paralyzed at the same time.  There may be a free floating anxiety.  The person doesn’t know why they are so anxious.  Some people eat too much; other people can hardly eat at all.  When you are depressed it is very difficult to face people and things.  Often times we avoid things, put them off, deny that a certain situation exists.  Depression is usually characterized by a lack of energy. We have to live with disappointment and loss and failure, and not give up on other people or on God.  But some times this is a real struggle.

In our day, thanks be to God, there are very many different types of help available to depressed people through therapy and drugs.

But perhaps some of us are called to be messengers or angels of God in assisting persons experiencing depression.  In some ways it is a very simple thing that the angel does, he touches Elijah and provide him with food and invites him to get up and eat.  We might ask ourselves what simple gestures of other people have touched us in our life and perhaps in our dark moments.

In the Gospel, the people are murmuring against Jesus.  This was the behavior of the Jewish people in the desert, they murmured against Moses and Aaron.  Some of those who had just witnessed Jesus’ ability to supply them with food, turned away when he explained the source of his mysterious power.  They had had enough.  Their response:  I doubt it.

But Jesus in the Gospels often times does what the Angel did in the first reading.  He invites people to “get up and eat”.  After he cured the daughter of Jairus he lifted her up and told them to give her something to eat.  “Get up and eat.” After calling Zacheus, Jesus invited himself to eat with him. “Get up and eat.”   Jesus was criticized for eating with tax collectors and sinners.  “Get up and eat.”  When Jesus saw people hungry he provided food. “Get up and eat.” 

But to the people in today’s Gospel Jesus is trying to move them beyond their need for physical bread, to an understanding that he was Spiritual Food.  He was to be nourishment for their souls and selves. The angel God sent to Elijah never told him that the way would be easy or the journey brief.  In fact, the angel is pretty blunt in saying that the journey would be long!  What the angel tells Elijah—and all of us, is that we don’t need to be hungry along the way.  “I am the bread of life, whoever comes to me will never hunger; and whoever believes in me will never thirst.” (Jn. 6:35)  Now get up, and eat!

Jesus is offering himself to us too as Food for the Journey.  We must ask ourselves what part of my life needs the nourishment of Jesus?  He is our bread of life our living bread.  We are called to share by believing in Jesus and receiving Him.  When we leave Mass we are invited to examine our relating to others and where we might be called to perform simple but important gestures.  We might just be the angel God is sending to assist someone.

Source of reflection: Dave Jackson

EIGHTEENTH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME

At the end of last Sunday’s Gospel the people wanted to make Jesus King.  They had seen the loaves sign but they had not seen it in a believing but in a self-interested way.

The faith-response of the crowd is deficient as they “look” for him for the wrong reasons.  (V. 26) Fascinated by what he had done for them , they were caught up by the thrill of unexpected wonders and failed to “see” the deeper meaning of his miracle.

Vs 27 “Do not labor for the food which perishes, but for the food which endures to eternal life, which the Son of man will give to you; for on him has God the Father set his seal.”  Jesus now asks them to look beyond the bread which man can eat and earn by the work of his hands to the mystery and meaning of his person and to seek him in the true sense.  “Looking” for Jesus means turning towards him in faith as the transcendent one, approved by God and endowed with the power of God for he brings the ever-sustaining life of the Father to those who believe in him. (V. 27)

V. 28 Literally, “What must we do to work the works of God?”  Such faith in Jesus is not something they can achieve or work for because it is the work of God in the heart of the believer (vv. 28-29) But their faith still remains limited to a longing for signs and wonders (v. 30). “What sign do you do, that we may see, and believe you?  What work do you perform?”

Vs. 32 Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, it was not Moses who gave you the bread from heaven; my Father gives you the true bread from heaven. Vs. 33 For the bread of God is that which comes down from heaven, and gives life to the world.”  Jesus not only gives them himself through his life giving word of revelation, but he is also the Fathers gift to them since he is sent by the Father on a life-giving mission to those who believe in him (v. 33) Jesus makes it clear that the true giver of both the ancient manna and the true bread from heaven, that is himself, is the Father and not Moses.

Like the Samaritan woman, the crowd responds  by asking (vs. 34) for this gift without understanding what they are really asking for (4: 15).  The crowd misunderstands, thinking (as the Samaritan woman did about not having to go for water anymore), that this bread would save them the trouble of baking their daily bread.

V. 35 Jesus now spells out the need of faith in himself, a faith which is a “coming” to him and an active movement of attachment to him.  He is a source of life (“the bread of life”) for those who believe in him, accept his message or “come” to him (v. 35); but his listeners refuse to do so.

Jose Pagola asks:  "After twenty centuries of Christianity do we not need to discover once more that the whole strength and originality of the church lies in believing in Jesus Christ and in following him?  Do we not need to move away from the attitude of being followers of a religion of beliefs and practices, and instead to focus on living as disciples of Jesus?  The Christian faith does not consist primarily in faithfully complying with a list of practices and new observances superior to those of the Old Testament.  Definitely not, Christian identity lies in learning to live a way of life that is born of a living and trustful relationship with Jesus Christ. We become Christians in the measure by which we learn to think, feel, love, work, suffer and live like Jesus."

In the following passages Jesus will continue to try to move the people beyond their need for physical bread, to an understanding that he was Spiritual Food.

Source of reflection: Dave Jackson

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 
 
 
 


 
   

 

 

 
 
 
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