Thursday, August 16, 2018

The Bread of Life

Dear Friends,

Remember that in John’s gospel, there is no narrative of the institution of the Eucharist at the last supper. Instead, John tells how Jesus washed the feet of his disciples after the meal. John’s point Service of others is indispensable to partaking in the Eucharistic meal. But earlier in his gospel, John devotes the whole of Chapter Six to a dialogue about Jesus self-giving as the Bread of Life. Jesus, his opponents and his disciples all weigh in. For a whole month of Sundays this summer, our Gospel is the continuous reading of this discourse, ending next Sunday.

The claims and promises of Jesus had aroused cynicism, ridicule and contempt among Jesus’ opponents. “This sort of talk is hard to endure,” the people said. Many of them left, some of them sad. They must have wished that Jesus had not said what he did. Now they had to make a choice – and some could not accept the reality of what Jesus was offering.

The close followers of Jesus had perhaps had their share of drifting, being complacent or self-assured about Jesus and his self-giving. Now they had to choose. “Do you want to leave me, too?” Jesus asked them.

It’s a wonderful thing about Jesus that he is not insecure. He permits his disciples to make choices about staying or going. But even though he left people free to choose, Jesus himself did not back down from what his critics called his “hard sayings.” He didn’t say: “You misunderstand me. I was only speaking in symbols. Let me say it another way.”

Jesus meant what he said and said what he meant. And then he waited for his disciples to respond.

He waits for us, too.

Over the years, some of us have indeed gone away…gone away from Christ or at least from the Church as we have known it or believe it to be. Perhaps at some point, the fragile bud of faith, the enthusiasm of our service, our sense of belonging to the church was crushed. Maybe we found the church forbidding, unyielding, unloving and have walked out the door. Or maybe one Sunday we got up to go to church and we just didn’t go. After that it became easy not to go. Others of us may have been drifting in our church without really making a commitment. Maybe our minds and hearts have gone away, but our feet still bring us here.

Today, God calls us to take a second look – not at what we think the church is, but at who Jesus is and what he calls us to be. Some of us can claim that we have never gone away. We are, nonetheless, not exempt from Jesus’ question, but are called to change, deepen, grow stronger in our faith convictions.

No matter where we are vis-a-vis God and church, when we can’t find words to respond to the God who asks us, "Will you stay or will you go away?” we can at least borrow the words of Peter to make our own and say over and over again: “Lord, to whom shall we go? Your words are the words of eternal life. We have come to believe and are convinced that you are the Holy One of God.”

~Sister Joan Sobala