Through Shadows and Images...

A Blog by Tom Gourlay

Month: August 2018

19 August – Twentieth Sunday of Ordinary Time (Year B)

Gospel Jn 6:51-58

“For my flesh is real food and my blood is real drink.”

Reading the early chapters of John’s Gospel, we witness the growing popularity of Jesus. The people, including his disciples, were enthusiastic when he performed miracles, but teachings like that unfolding in chapter 6 begin to put people’s noses out of joint. Whereas after his multiplication of the loaves and fishes they wanted to carry him away and make him a king, now, in the midst of what is a deeply troubling teaching they begin to raise objections and his teaching invokes serious dissent causing many to cease following him.

This is perhaps an exemplar of the experience of believers today, who enjoy a certain amount of popularity when they engage in social justice activities, but experience a great deal of rejection, even persecution when they share elements of the faith that are personally challenging.

Pope Benedict, commenting on this passage wrote that, ‘In explaining the image of the bread, [Jesus] affirms that he has been sent to offer his own life and he who wants to follow him must join him in a deep and personal way, participating in his sacrifice of love.’ (BXVI)

This is where the teachings of Jesus are too much for a lot of us. We are happy to know that he can work miracles, and we are excited at the prospect of enacting justice on his behalf, but these teachings are an uncomfortable fact of our faith and can be difficult to accept and even seen as a source of embarrassment.

Let us pray for perseverance in the faith. That we would be wholly given over to the fullness of the faith as it is gifted to us.

Point to Ponder

Dear friends, let us once again be filled with wonder by Christ’s words. He, a grain of wheat scattered in the furrows of history, is the first fruits of the new humanity, freed from the corruption of sin and death. And let us rediscover the beauty of the Sacrament of the Eucharist which expresses all God’s humility and holiness. His making himself small, God makes himself small, a fragment of the universe to reconcile all in his love. May the Virgin Mary, who gave the world the Bread of Life, teach us to live in ever deeper union with him.

Pope Benedict XVI, Angelus Message, 19 August 2012

12 August – Nineteenth Sunday of Easter (Year B)

Gospel Jn 6:41-51

“This bread is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world.”
This is truly astounding. It is, perhaps, too much.
Jesus, a man known to those with whom he spoke, was saying the most preposterous things.
How is it that he could claim to have come down from heaven? Surely not! They knew Joseph and Mary, his parents.
These words spoken by Jesus have a mystical and mysterious quality. Not only is he ‘come down from heaven’, but he is ‘living bread’? His flesh is this bread?
What on earth can he mean?
Chapter six of John’s Gospel, from where this reading is taken, is among the most perplexing and unpopular teachings that Jesus gave.
Not only does he claim to be bread, he claims that this bread is far greater than the bread that God had given to Moses and the Israelites as they wandered through the desert because those who eat this bread will not die.
We might be inclined to think that the people of Jesus’ day were more inclined to believe in miracles than we are today in our own scientifically disenchanted era. Yet we are perhaps not so different from those who first witnessed this miracle. Despite the fact that the people in this story had just witnessed his feeding of the 5000 even they are still trapped in unbelief, failing to full recognise and give intellectual assent to what it is that he is saying.
We will read in the coming weeks Jesus’ continued teaching on this matter and the reaction that the majority of people had to him, but for now, let us reflect on our own openness to these words of Jesus.
Jesus elicits our freedom. He gives all the opportunities for those first hearing this message to receive it, and he gives us that same opportunity.
What does it mean for Jesus to say that his flesh is the bread come down from heaven, given for the life of the world? Is he crazy? Is he a liar? Or is he telling the truth?

Let us pray…
Lord, I believe. Help my unbelief. [Mk 9:24]

5 August – Eighteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year B)

Gospel Jn 6:24-35

“I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry”
Today’s reading begins a series of readings from John’s Gospel that build upon last week’s story of the feeding of the 5000. Here Jesus makes some incredible claims – claims that are worth scrutinising for, if they are true, they change everything.
Jesus points to a significant truth, namely that the human appetite is infinite, despite our attempts to satiate it with all manner of things.
In the fourth century St Augustine of Hippo would emphasise this reality in the opening pages of his autobiography ‘The Confessions’, where he writes “You have made us for yourself O Lord, and our hearts are restless until they rest in you.” Describing the reality that the human person is fuelled by an eternal desire that cannot be quenched by natural means. Man is created for eternal union with the Triune God, and nothing but this union will suffice.
Jesus provides the means for this union will be achieved – and it is a way which causes scandal for those who first heard his words. Indeed, it continues to cause scandal to this day.
Jesus clearly makes the claim, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.”
He is the very thing that we yearn for, that we hunger and thirst for. It is he, and he alone who can satiate our deepest desires. He is that bread that comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.
For us today, the most difficult thing to do is to follow our desires all the way down – to really foster that desire within us, and cultivate it in faith and hope that it can indeed be fulfilled.

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