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Turning Point - Eight Encounters with Jesus in the Gospel of John




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19th Sunday in Ordinary Time - August 12, 2018

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By Deacon Jeff Mevissen

A little background on the Gospel of John will help bring the meaning of the Bread of Life Discourse to light.  The first point is that John likes to present contrasts between what is from above and what is from below, what is in light and what is in darkness, and what is of God and what is of the Evil One. This is why John calls the Bread of Life the bread from heaven.  The second point is that there is tension in the Gospel of John between Jesus and the Jews.  This is strange because Jesus was a Jew and so were the Apostles.  This tension comes from the conflict between the community for which John was writing, and the Jewish community who were expelling followers of Christ from synagogues.  The third point is that the Gospel of John has a sacramental background.  When Jesus tells Nicodemus that one must be born again of water and the Spirit,  John is writing about baptism.  When Jesus says, “I am the bread of Life,” John is writing about Eucharist.  The fourth point about the Gospel of John is that Jesus reveals himself as savior in “I AM” statements.  When Jesus restores sight to the man born blind, he says, “I am the light of the world.”  When Jesus raises Lazarus from the dead he says, “I am the resurrection and the life.”  And when Jesus multiplies the loaves and fishes he says, “I am the Bread of Life.”


When John points to what is above, what is light, and what is of God, John invites us to rise above the mundane and sensual to what is transcendent.  We live in a secular and materialistic world that has lost a sense of reverence and respect.  When Susan and I visited Maryland a few weeks ago, there was a little girl in the pew ahead of us chatting away as if she were at the mall – she had no clue she was in the presence of God and had no respect for the sanctuary and those trying to pray.  I have been to two weddings in a month where the brother of the bride conducted the wedding.  Where is the sacred in that?  Our society has lost touch with what is from above, what is in the light, what is of God.


The conflict between Jesus and the Jewish authorities reminds us of the line from the prologue to the Gospel of John: “To his own he came but his own did not receive him.”  Jesus comes to us in Holy Communion but how well do we receive him?  Adoration prolongs the moment we receive the Bread of Life in communion; we receive Jesus saying, “I believe, I adore, I love, I trust.”

The sacramental background to the Gospel of John points out that Jesus in the sacraments grants us eternal life.  How does that work?  Is it like Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade when water from the chalice of Jesus heals the gunshot wound in Jones’ father?  Miracles happen, but sacraments normally work to form us into the likeness of Christ which leads to everlasting life.  When Jesus died on the cross and said to his Father, “Into your hands I commend my spirit,” Jesus made a gift of himself to the Father.  In return, the Father raised Jesus from the dead.  According to Philippians Chapter 2, because Jesus poured out his life on the cross, God exalted Jesus forever and gave him a name above every other name.  The sacraments unite us to Jesus and transform us to become a gift and live forever because we left our selfish life behind.


When Jesus says, “I am the Bread of Life,” Jesus invites us to look beyond the bread to see the one who feeds us with his body.  We pray for all people to have the faith to see their savior in the Eucharist – not to see a mere symbol.  When Jesus in the Gospel of John says, “My flesh is true food and by blood is true drink, John is challenging people who lack conviction in the Real Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist.


When we partake of the Body and Blood of Jesus we are drawn to follow him on the way of the cross.  We chafe under the weight of the cross but we know it is the way to Life Eternal.  The following is an excerpt from Joseph Veneroso, a Maryknoll Missionary; he expresses how we grow to appreciate being chosen by God to be his divine instrument:


See how the Master Craftsman chooses a wooden reed and hollows it out and punctures holes to make a flute.  Surely the reed does not appreciate being so chosen, cruelly cut and hollowed out.  Vainly the reed protests its suffering and sacrifice until the magic moment when lifted by gentle hands and held to gifted lips the very breath of life rushes in to fill the instrument with sublime melody.


My dear brothers and sisters, the Divine Craftsman wishes to make us His instrument, if only we are transformed by the Bread of Life.  Amen