Deacon Raymond’s Reflection

19th Sunday in Ordinary Time, B

August 12, 2018           

This Sunday’s Gospel reading (6:41-51), the third of the five Sundays from the Sixth chapter of the Gospel of John, begins with the Jews complaining: “Then the Jews began to complain about him because he said, “I am the bread that came down from heaven.” They were saying, “Is not this Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How can he now say, ‘I have come down from heaven’?” .  Complaining is — expressing  dissatisfaction or annoyance about a state of affairs or an event.  

Complaining is in-born.  We all have a tendency to complain.  We complain when things don’t turn out our ways.  We complain when facing obstacles for promotions, health, wealth, pride, honour. …..   Holiness is a road to perfection along which many obstacles are overcome. This Sunday’s three sacred Scriptures all show us some of the obstacles faced by those who listened to God and tried to live in his presence.  Elijah, the prophet, was in despair and on the verge of suicide, yet God rescued him and provided him with the nourishment he needed. (1 Kings 19:4-8) “Elijah …  prayed for death saying:  “This is enough, O LORD! Take my life, for I am no better than my fathers.  …. an angel touched him and ordered him to get up and eat. Elijah looked and there at his head was a hearth cake and a jug of water.”   In the letter to the Ephesians (4:30, 5:2) , St. Paul reminded his readers that they should be reconciled with one another, that they should overcome all that divided them and remember that only Christ’s love could sustain them.   In the Gospel (John 6:41-51), Jesus affirms that he is the bread that came down from heaven, especially for those who were complaining about his presence and mission. Each of us, from the moment of our baptism, has also been called to set out on this road to perfection and, despite our weaknesses and sins, despite of obstacles and failures, the strength of God never fails us.

The Hebrews of the Bible were world class complainers, especially those who lived in the times of Moses and the Exodus.  These people complained when they camped next to the Red Sea and heard that Pharaoh’s chariots were approaching.  They complained when they had no bread, or no meat, or no water.  We would have thought that they would have had faith in God who had cared for their every day needs, but they still complained.  They complained about Jesus who had fed them with loaves and fish, yummy and full but they expected “service and free food” every day. Now Jesus said that He was all they needed because he’s the Bread of Life that came down from heaven.  That confused them. They knew his family. He could not be from heaven. They would have been correct if Jesus was simply human, He could not be the Bread from heaven.  He could not give them that which was infinitely greater than the Bread their ancestors ate, the manna.   We too hunger for so many material goods that provide temporary satisfaction only. The hunger of the heart and yearnings of the spirit make us want something that lasts. At the depth of this is our hunger for God. To accept the gift of the Bread of Life, the Israelites and us have to first accept that Jesus was more than human, more than just a prophet.  We must accept his Divinity. 

To understand the miracle and mystery of communion, our starting point must be that Jesus is Divine, the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity.  Jesus gave the Bread of Eternal Life because He is the Bread of Life. He is not just human, a great man.  He is Divine. The Bread of Life is Jesus, our Divine Sustenance.  And we take Him into ourselves.  When we receive the Eucharist, we are united to Him, to each other and to the whole Body of Christ. Every Sunday, and for some of us, every day, we enter into the Mystery of the Eucharist.  We receive the One who is the Bread of Life.  This is Jesus who unites Himself to Us with His Body and Blood.  This is the Eternal Son of the Father, who humbled Himself to become one of us, to die for us, and then gives the gift of His Life and Death to us in the form of the Blessed Sacrament. This is Jesus whom we will take into ourselves when we receive communion.  We don’t complain.  We proclaim.