Year B: 19th Sunday in Ordinary Time
The Gospel: John 6: 41-51
One of the first hurdles for people to overcome as Jesus developed the theme of being the Bread come down from Heaven was that some of the people in the crowd knew his family. They asked - quite reasonably - how he could say he came from Heaven when they knew that he came from Nazareth?
As in the other Sign stories in John’s Gospel, the invitation is to go beyond what people think they know and enter into something that transcends that. Jesus uses the story of their ancestors who ate manna in the desert as an example. God sent them food from heaven which sustained them during years of wandering in the desert - but, eventually, as is the course of human life, they died. What God is doing now is a fulfilment of that glimpse of his power - He is to provide a food which will feed people and give them eternal life.
To take such a step - to enter into such a mystery is not easy. It requires laying aside things that have made sense all one’s life. Is Jesus simply like a “quack doctor” offering an elixir of life? How can anyone promise that someone will live for ever? How can a human being be living bread?
For some, Jesus’ statements are too far from what they have always thought they understood about God. Jesus responds by addressing the complaints - as Moses had to address the complaints and murmurings in the desert. He does not try to cajole or persuade but implies that not everyone is going to believe in him - only those who are drawn to him by the Father.
This is not a phrase likely to win many friends but is part of John’s theological reflection on who Jesus is. The fact is that not everyone does believe in him - they did not when he walked the earth and many do not now. The question being addressed is why? Especially in this part of the Gospel when he is offering eternal life to those who do.
John’s Gospel can be difficult at such points - when there is confrontation, Jesus does not always address the issues in ways that are easy to understand... he tries always to lift people’s minds and hearts to something transcendent. This generally can be glimpsed in simple phrases - but which come loaded with dynamite when they are reflected upon.
What does it mean for me?
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