Today's readings conclude our reflection on the bread of life and include the passage from Ephesians concerning the image of Christ and the church as modeled in the relationship between a husband and wife. Clearly that is enough for any day. The option is given in the second reading to omit the passage about wives being subordinate, and this option should be taken whenever it is likely that the message of the reading, that Christ and the church share a deep and abiding love, might be lost in a strong reaction against the first part of the reading.
The consequences of the bread of life discourse should not be passed over quickly, because what was true in the time of Christ is true today. For many people today, the reality of Christ's gift of his flesh as food is too hard a saying to hear. It is too hard to hear that the presence of Christ in Communion is not some clean, simple matter; it is rather a matter of flesh and blood, of sacrifice in its deepest sense. It is likewise too hart to hear that if we are to imitate the love of Christ it means giving our very lives, our flesh for the sake of another. Too often we would like to avoid sacrifice and skip over the painful parts that are involved in love and just get to the joy. The message today makes it clear that there are no shortcuts to true love.
This Gospel this week sees us complete the actual message on
the bread of life. Next week we will see the fallout from
Christ's words. It is an interesting joining of readings this
week, with the bread of life, the flesh and blood of Jesus,
being seen as true food and the wisdom of God being true food in
the first reading. In both cases, people need to be urged to
partake of food that will give them life of wisdom, it is almost
as if we did not know what was good for us and needed to be told
again and again to eat good foods instead of those which are not
healthy or even are bad for us.
What is different in this case from when Mom used to tell us to
eat our vegetables is found in the psalm; the food Christ offers
and the wisdom of God in the first reading are both taste of
goodness. Psalm 34 makes this clear and urges those who have
tasted how good God is to react with praise and glorify the
The Ephesians reading completes this set of interesting
associations of readings. Here ignorance and the drinking an
excess of earthly wine is seen as contrary to the will of God.
Wisdom is good wine that never gets a person drunk; drinking a
full measure of the Spirit is how we come to know what is right
and good and so can offer praise and thanks - it is at the heart
of what we offer at Mass.
As we continue the season of the bread of life, we are
presented with Elijah praying for death. But the message here,
which is the message of the psalm and the Gospel, is that when
God feeds, it is enough, for God gives us what we need for life.
Elijah, by eating the food the angel provided made the mystical
journey of redemption - 40 days, like 40 years in the desert for
the people of Israel, 40 days and nights of rain for Noah, 40
days in the desert for Jesus - it is a period of completion, and
at the end of all these journeys people are prepared to meet the
Father and to do the will of God.
The Ephesians reading, chosen independently of the other
readings is strangely related, focusing on the fruits of being
in Christ. Anyone who is a follower of Jesus will have unity
with Christ and unity with other disciples as the primary
motivations of their life. This unity will move them to imitate
Christ and to care for those in need. These behaviors are among
the fruits of Communion.
Last week the miracle of the loaves began the preparation for
the bread of life discourse. Today the reading from Exodus about
the Manna together with the passage from Psalm 78 prepares us
for the beginning of the bread of life discourse of John,
chapter 6. The Gospel is interesting because it sets the scene
for the discourse, with Jesus understanding the real reason why
the crowds are being so persistent, that they were in fact
wanting some proof before they believed. Jesus states the theme
of the discourse, that he is the sign; he is the bread of life.
The reading from Paul is a piece unto itself, and calls us to
simply be recreated, to be made new as disciples of Jesus. The
renewal of "the spirit of our minds" is what is called for - an
interesting turn of phrase which means, for Paul, that a whole
new person is to be born by the power of the Spirit.
The readings for the next several weeks will focus on this bread
of life, and the preacher needs to prepare, at least in outline
form, how the next several weeks will unfold.