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18TH SUNDAY OF ORD TIME B 2003/2018
BREAD FOR THE LIFE OF THE WORLD (JN 6:24-35)
Jesus saw the Jews as restricting the meaning of life to bread alone. Yet the Jewish Law had been likened to bread that should be devoured. It was life-giving. The nation existed to bring the Law to the world. If a man had to choose between his natural father and his rabbi he should choose the rabbi who would teach him the meaning of the Law and thus give him everlasting life. Saint John presents Christ as taking. He is bread for the life of the world..
Jesus as the life-giving Word
What is the bread of life for us believers? Where does true happiness lie? And how can one talk about it not using the metaphor of ‘bread for the life of the world’? The answer has to be through the experience of 'love and goodness'. We should rehearse a list of the things we need always. We need the constant loving friendship of people whom we respect and admire. We need silence and peace. We need the security of values that will not fade away. In Ephesians Saint Paul exhorts Christians to model themselves on Jesus as well as they can. Bear with one another charitably, in complete selflessness, gentleness and patience. Do all you can to preserve the unity of the Spirit by the peace that binds you together- the apostle is describing the Church as lived out in small communities. It is always under pressure, in every age, very often from external forces but especially today internally with its disarray because of moral failures, not least among its leading members. We should be consoled by what the Anglican historian Lord Macaulay wrote in the turbulence of the nineteenth century when the Church was struggling to make its way into what we call 'the modern world': "There is not and there never was on this earth, a work of human policy so deserving of examination as the Roman Catholic Church.. She saw the commencement of all the governments and all the ecclesiastical establishments that now exist in the world; and we feel no assurance that she is not destined to see the end of them all. She was great and respected before the Saxon had set foot in Britain, before the Frank had passed the Rhine, when Grecian eloquence still flourished in Antioch, when idols were still worshipped in the temple of Mecca. And she may still exist in undiminished vigour when some traveller from New Zealand shall, in the midst of a vast solitude, take his stand on a broken arch of London Bridge to sketch the ruins of St. Paul's" (Cf. E.E.Y.Hales, The Church in the Modern World, London,1958, frontespiece).
The Church to which we belong is vibrant still. But nobody can do our believing for us. Nobody can do our loving for us. Nobody can exercise our liberty for us. We must decide every day and with every prayer for the values of Christ which the Church puts before us. For instance we see how very differently Christians are thinking about migrants. There are many marvellous examples of those who just go on helping them, working to house and feed them, representing them in court, teaching them the language, and trying to integrate them. Of this aspect we are often poorly informed. Much greater publicity is given to those who express the real dangers that such mass migration poses. The Church in the world is right at the heart of these problems. Of course there is no easy solution. And that is why Christians are divided on the issue. But great praise is surely due to those selfless people who are trying to help out with their gifts material and spiritual. Every epoch of history is faced with different problems. In Jn 6 the generosity of Jesus was misinterpreted when its recipients wanted to make him king. The woman of Samaria had wanted to have a continuous source of water, reducing the offer of Jesus to a material, however essential, a reality (Jn 4:15). They would have kept him entirely for themselves, for their own national interests, so he had to escape to remain faithful in order to be bread for the life for the world. St.Paul writing to the Ephesians insists: “You must give up your old way of life, you must put aside your old self. Never have grudges against each other, or lose your temper, or raise your voice to anybody, or call each other names...be friends, kind and forgiving. (Eph 4:30-5:2). These are the ideals Christ gives us through the Church.
The Church is my motherly home, said Yves Congar, one of the greatest theologians of the Church in recent times. He said he really discovered this when cut off from his human roots. He was a prisoner of war in Germany, in exile in England, in a climate of suspicion, then hospitalized, deprived of family affection, yet still expressing his love for the Church despite his unjust suffering at the hands of Vatican authorities as he was trying to promote the reforms that came with The Seond Vatican Council (Au milieu des orages, Cerf, 1969, pp. 119-20). After the Council he regretted the acts of those who were taking the Council to be a complete break with the past, a sort of revolution and not and updating and reform. The accent was falling on social action, political transformation, human promotion and self fulfilment to the detriment of many great treasures coming from the long tradition. Congar was worried at some of these trends. People need more than such trends allow for. The Bread of Life is Jesus himself, experienced as a way of life of faith and love in the Church, despite all its warts and pimples. Centuries before, when
St. Augustine became a Christian, he said: ‘Too late have I loved thee, O Beauty, so ancient and so new, too late have I loved you’ (Confessions, Bk 10, 26ff.). The saintly St. Ambrose had brought him to Christ, introducing him to a religious experience in the church that intensified for him for the rest of his life, giving him the meaning of life. That is what the church is for and it clearly involves a whole lot of things! A happy Sunday to you all.
Rev Richard J. Taylor. Spiritual Advisor Boarbank, Hall Cumbria, UK