18th Sunday B – Jesus Here and Now
St. John’s Gospel, from which the current Sunday gospel readings are taken, was the result of some sixty or seventy years of prayerful reflection. It is the product of the group that followed and formed around John the Beloved Disciple, the one whose head rested on Jesus’ breast during the Last Supper. It is a deeply spiritual presentation of the person of Jesus, his mission and his message -“I came that they might have life, and have it abundantly” (1o:10). The sixth chapter offers us a prayerful reflection on the Eucharist as the bread of life. Scripture scholar Kieran O’Mahoney reminds us that the historical framework of the chapter was the ongoing dispute between Jewish scribes and John’s community of believers as to the real message and identity of Jesus. To the Jews of the time he was “the prophet who was to come into the world”, a title that seemingly alarmed Jesus – John 6:14-15.
Several years ago a young couple, Agnes and Jim, adopted in their thirties two children, each with downs syndrome. That was an heroic thing to do, and they had thought and prayed long and deeply about it and sought counselling before taking the first step. This was a couple, and a family, whose company I loved. Their glass was always half full, their energy and good humour infectious, and their love for the two children a thing to behold. I think they had what Jesus often calls “eternal life.” Some take that to mean the next life – and it includes that, but it means more. Over the time they grew into really spiritual people who reached out to others who were overburdened in life. Surely God had “set his seal” on that family, as he had on Jesus, working within them to be an inspiration to everyone.
“I am the bread of life” said Jesus. To be nourished by the bread of life involves heartfelt belief in who Jesus says he is. John’s Gospel breathes mystery and presence. It is not easy to grasp who the Son of Man is or the kind of life that he offers. We tend to read the gospels unthinkingly, often settling for platitudes which leave us feeling comfortable and demanding very little. In a religion marked by hackneyed language it’s possible to receive the Eucharist without ever truly encountering the Lamb of God, without looking in the eye the One who shed his blood and died. Prayer, the prayer of being mindful of the here and now, is a practice that can help us grasp and celebrate what’s happening at Mass. I am here, as Jesus would say, and now I’m offering you my flesh as food so you can be one with me on my journey through death and resurrection to life in abundance – cf. John 10:10, also cf. 4:10
The Second Vatican Council referred to the Mass as the source and summit of the whole Christian life because it celebrates the personal desire of Jesus to meet and become one with us, and our desire to meet and become one with him. To go to Mass and receive communion can be a routine formality, something we do on Sunday for various reasons. When the two desires meet, a heartfelt and personal encounter with Christ takes place as he enters his death and resurrection, the “now” of the Mystery. The outcome can be an experience of personal transformation into the Body of Christ. “I live now not with my own life but with the life of Christ who lives in me” – Galatians 2:20. Personal transformation is why we celebrate. “Eat, drink and become that which you eat and drink” said St. Augustine.
Fr. QQ – 07/28/2021
Life is the destiny you are bound to refuse
until you have consented to die – W.H. Auden