My friends, once again, our Scriptures today speak about “the bread of life.” As in past weeks, as we have looked at this theme, realizing that Jesus is speaking about more than, “eating his actual flesh and drinking his actual blood; we might question why he doesn’t just speak in plain terms, this is really important—listen up, I really want you to get this; listen to what I say, watch what I do and do the same!
In all actuality, as you think about it, this is just what Jesus did! He definitely got their attention when he said that they needed to “eat his flesh and drink his blood.” Right away though, comes the grumbling—how can he say this?
So then, for the apostles, the people of Jesus’ time and for us; we need to keep listening, hearing his words, watching his actions. Throughout Jesus’ public ministry there were always those who followed him for the physical food that he gave and this is understandable—it is the human condition—people are hungry—physically, and must be fed. Jesus’ greater mission though, as we know, was to feed their minds, their hearts and their souls.
We know from elsewhere in Scripture, Matthew, chapter 4, that Jesus says, [we] “do not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.” This text clearly states what Jesus’ mission among us was really all about. Yes, we need physical food, but to really live; we need to live out of the emotional and spiritual parts of ourselves that move us to see our separate existence as more than just about ourselves—but about our sisters and brothers sharing our world.
So again, why not just say that? I believe that Jesus wanted his hearers to understand how important this was to him, thus the terminology; you must eat my flesh and drink my blood. Flesh and blood, we might say, is what is deepest, most intricately, ours. It would be like some of our present day sayings—“this is my heart and my soul” when speaking about an idea that is of great importance to us. When considering our morals, those ideas/concepts that are most important to us, for those with children, “I would give my very life to preserve that idea, (that person).” This is the same idea as Jesus is expressing in the Scripture passage from John—my words, my actions are, “my body,” “my blood, take them, eat them,” so to speak, make them your own! And when we do this, we can truly say with Paul, “It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me.” (Galatians 2:26).
We have talked often in the past of how we are called to be “bread for our world”—I offer a few examples out of this past week or so that I am aware of, from others and out of my own life:
- Recently, Pope Francis challenged us all on the issue of inclusivity where issues around life are concerned. He stated basically that we can’t as Catholics, as Christians condone in any way, capital punishment. It is easy enough I think for people to see that we can’t support life in the womb, but be willing to take it later as punishment for another’s sin—that just isn’t ours to decide, to judge, because as we know, many times, in the past, we have got it wrong. Regardless, Francis tells us that this isn’t our call.
- This past week; we learned of over 1,000 children being sexually abused by over 300 priests in Pennsylvania from 1950 onward, and of the systematic cover-up of these crimes, sending abusers onward to other parishes to abuse again and this was done with the knowledge of bishops, cardinals and the pope. Not only this, but the church hierarchy documented their crimes and it was this documentation that finally brought these crimes into the light of day. One has to wonder at the arrogance that allowed for such “foolishness” as spoken of in Proverbs today and downright evil expressed in cruelty to those least able to defend themselves. And in all of this; we have to come back to ourselves, continuing in the words of Proverbs today to “walk the path of understanding” realizing that each of us has a duty, as in our simple safety statement for our parish, to be watchful and have no fear in reporting those actions that we know are wrong even if we must implicate a bishop or a pope. And it is in that light that I wanted you all to know that just yesterday, I signed a letter from the Roman Catholic Women Priests (RCWP) addressed to the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) naming this long-time problem and in no uncertain terms demanding that they live out their calls to leadership and make the necessary changes needed to right this grievous wrong. If you would like to read this letter, I have placed it on our website, allareonechurch.org.
- On a personal level, this past week, Robert and I took the opportunity to visit a friend who recently, along with her family, went into the Hospice program as she has struggled for several years battling cancer, realizing now that palliative care is her best option for herself and her family. You will notice that I included her family here as this is definitely something that involves one’s family as they all go through it together. I was poignantly reminded of this by another friend as we shared about our mutual friend. I said, “She has been struggling with this for over 5 years and my friend said, [her husband] “has been too!” Indeed!
Our visit, as I reflect on it, and told someone later, “really felt like being on holy ground.” When someone is dying, they are at a different place than when that isn’t the case. We held hands, without words—it was really beyond words, we gave hugs and held on, we talked of the goodness of life, of past memories—we call that life review—we talked of our children and grandchildren and just knew that it was good. It was “the bread of life,” the body and blood of Jesus.” I know there are those of you who have experienced the same with family and friends.
So my friends, following our brother Jesus is always going to call us beyond what the crowd may be doing at any particular time. Following a crowd simply because we fear standing alone may be the “foolishness” that the writer of Proverbs is asking us to abandon.
The psalmist in 34 says, “Taste and see that God is good—let the humble hear [the voice of God] and be glad.” It seems that humility may be needed to get beyond ourselves. And finally, in Paul’s words to the Ephesians, we hear, “Don’t act like fools, but as wise and thoughtful people”—make the most of your time and give thanks for everything.
Even in our visit to our friend on Hospice; we came away being thankful for the time spent and the intimacy shared. May we each, friends, pray for the strength to touch our world with as much “body and blood,” as we are able. Amen? Amen!