Thursday, August 2, 2012

"I am the bread of life"

Last Sunday we began five weeks of Gospels from the sixth chapter of John. This Sunday, Aug. 5, 2012, Jesus is the Bread of Life. This long chapter of 69 verses is the basis for much of what we believe about the Eucharist. I would suggest reading the entire chapter and letting it speak to you. Our Discussion Questions will guide your Sunday Bible Study with family, friends and church groups.

Food that Perishes

Today’s Gospel takes place the day after the events were heard about last Sunday. Last Sunday we heard about the multiplication of loaves. In today’s Gospel the people who had been fed search for Jesus. They really don’t want Him. They want free food. The heart of apostasy, explains, Fr. Orly Sapuay, MS, is that the real God is replaced by an illusion concocted by people to suit themselves. They have virtually become gods in themselves before whom the real God must authenticate Himself to win their allegiance. God, as it were, must submit to a miracle test to meet popular expectations. Jesus confronts their unbelief step by step.

So we come before the Lord this and every Sunday, or perhaps for some of us, every day, and we say to the Lord, “Feed me.” But, Fr. Joseph Pellegrino asks us, do we really want to be fed? Do we believe that Jesus is the Bread of Life more than anything else that we could aspire to experience or possess? Fr. Richard Lifrak, SSCC tells us that this Gospel clearly teaches that our houses, our cars, our jobs, our land, our investments, our positions of power, in fact, even our children are much less a source of life than Jesus is.

Jesus uses this Gospel event as an opportunity to speak about the food that really matters, the Bread of Life that God provides.

The Bread of Life

It is important to note that, though Jesus identifies himself as "the bread of life" (v. 35), he is not yet speaking about the sacramental Eucharist. The emphasis in this segment of the Bread of Life Discourse is placed on the faith-acceptance of the teaching of Jesus. It is for this reason that Jesus states that he is the bread of life for the one who "comes" to him and "believes" in him (v. 35). There is no reference yet to eating or drinking. That will come later.

If we come to Jesus, we will never hunger and thirst for anything else. He is the Bread of Life. That is Jesus' identity, as Fr. Phil Bloom explains. To put the matter another way, we are being challenged by Jesus to avoid a magical or mechanical understanding of the power of this supreme sacrament. In John's Gospel, water becomes wine and wine becomes blood and blood and water both eventually flow out of the pierced side of Jesus. Fr. Ron Rolheiser says that happens too in the Eucharist and it happens in our lives. The task is to hold them both in our hands, as happens at Eucharist, and then offer them up to God.

It does not nourish us spiritually simply by the action of receiving it. Fr. Demetrius R. Dumm, O.S.B. adds that there must be a firm intention to change one’s life in a way that is in harmony with this supreme Sacrament of Jesus' giving of himself for us. It is very important to understand this point because it reminds us that only a believing reception of the Body and Blood of Jesus will bring us true life.

Do We Want His Bread?

Every day, the world over, the Holy Mass is offered countless times and in varied places. In many places this awesome event is greeted with indifference. So many empty pews bespeak a lack of faith that God is truly present in the world in each Mass. Father Cusick bemoans the fact that many people are indifferent to Christ today just as they were when he walked the earth and shared our lives almost two thousand years ago.

But the Eucharist, the Mass, is an extraordinary thing. It may appear so simple and so routine at times. But, Fr. Alex McAllister SDS tells us, it contains everything there is because it contains the Lord Jesus himself in the most accessible way of all. If you are distracted from such thoughts on Sunday, let it be. Fr. John Foley, S. J. says maybe something is being born that is so much bigger than you that all you can do is take it in. He says be distracted this Sunday and let something lovely be born.

So, Fr. Joseph Pellegrino asks, what makes a person a member of a parish? What makes a person a Christian, a Catholic? Does baptism do it? Perhaps theologically it does. But if the person does not reaffirm his or her faith with his or her life, then baptism is an act lost in the forgotten past. Theologically something took place, but it's a life that no longer exists due to the person’s refusal to live this life.

The Sign of Peace at Mass

Fr. Phil Bloom also uses this Sunday as an opportunity to address the 'Sign of Peace' at Mass. He says there has been a misunderstanding. We've gotten the idea that we create community. But no, it is Jesus who creates community. He does it by making us part of His people. We express community by affection, care, support - and above all, by forgiveness and reconciliation. The Sign of Peace expresses our desire to allow God to make us into a community. We cannot do it on our own power.

He explains then that the sign of peace should be a simple, reverent gesture: "The peace of Christ be with you." Or, "the peace of Christ." Or simply, "Peace." Then offer a handshake - or a kiss if you are on more intimate terms. The Sign of Peace is not a time for chatter. Some guys act like they are running for mayor. They want to shake every hand in the church! The Sign of Peace is not a conversation starter. It is a symbolic gesture to prepare our hearts for Communion. It is possible to be friendly, but also reverent. Then focus on the Lord as we sing, "Lamb of God."

Partisanship, Family Values & Chic-Fil-A

Two weeks ago, we told you about the statements made by the CEO of Chic-Fil-A stand on biblical & family values. He said, "We operate as a family business. We want to do anything we possibly can to strengthen families." Protests from the supporters of gender-free marriages -- including Chicago's mayor -- clamored for the expulsion of the franchise from their cities for espousing contrarian values. Chicago's Cardinal George offered his response to Mayor Rahm Emanuel on what true “Chicago values” really are. Social media fanned a call for this past Wednesday to be Chic-Fil-A Appreciation Day. And America responded with long lines at Chick-fil-A's across the country fueling unprecedented sales for the company.

And then we bring you the staggering story of a heroic woman who saved the lives of babies abandoned at roadsides. Lou Xiaoying, now 88 and suffering from kidney failure, found and raised more than 30 abandoned Chinese babies from the streets of China where she managed to make a living by recycling rubbish. Talk about true commitment to family values.

Complaints that Washington-is-broken often go hand-in-hand with laments about “partisanship” in politics. So what is the Church's role in partisanship? George Weigel explains. He points to the present, sad condition of much of Europe, where a breakdown of (Christian) democratic culture seems to be leading inexorably to a breakdown of democratic politics and the substitution of government by technocratic elites (currently being previewed in Italy). He said it should be a cautionary tale for Americans.

Hell, Eternal Life. & Freedom

Msgr. Charles Pope laments how we haven’t done a very good job in setting forth the doctrine of Eternal Life. For most people the concept seems a rather flat one, namely, that we shall live for ever and ever and ever. It is reduced to a rather egocentric notion of a place where I will be happy. But most moderns in their description never get around to mentioning God. This is sad for the heart of heaven is to be with God!

Which brings us to the concept of Hell. If God is Love, why is there Hell? And why is it eternal? In a word, the good monsighnor explains, there is Hell because of respect. God has made us free and respects that freedom. Our freedom is absolutely necessary if we are to love.

And for good measure we thought we should share this light-hearted story by Cheryl Dickow she calls "Garbage Cans and Purgatory."

Prayer, Cain, NCBs & GCMs

The great saints and masters of the mystical life in the Catholic tradition often speak of the three ages of the spiritual life. Dr. Taylor Marshall broket this down in three stages that correspond to the three areas of Solomon's Temple: 1) Purgative (outer court); 2) Illuminative (holy place); 3) Unitive (holy of holies). His article "Three Ages of the Interior Life in Relation to the Jewish Temple" is recommended reading.

Paul Dion, STL reflects on "The Mark of Cain" and how for many it can be the Mark of contradiction. The Mark that indicates that God still loves you and still is punishing you every day of your life. The Mark turns out to be a burden and a relief at the same time. It signals that here is someone who is accompanied by God at every step of the way.

And here's one filled with acronyms you may or not be familiar with. Yes, the Church is full of NCBs (Nice Catholic Boys). Not so full as she might be, unfortunately, but they are there. And yes, they are nice, and they are Catholic, but they are boys. What the NCGs (Nice Catholic Girls) are waiting for is for these NCB’s to stand up and turn into GCMs. (That’s Good Catholic Men.) Interesting and insightful.

Olympic Fire

The Olympic Games is an exciting time for the world. Countless people from all across the globe are rooting for their nation’s respective teams and glued to their TV sets. But beside the spotlight on athletic ability, a focus on faith has been present in London. For athletes gathering in London, a priest is not a good luck charm but a friendly presence. The world of sport is fertile ground for evangelization, because it is a metaphor of existence itself.

In fact you will see many athletes make the Sign of the Cross before beginning their events. In general, they don't do it for good luck but as a testimony of their faith, and this becomes a public witness. So it is acceptable. The Diocese of Westminster recently held a Mass at the start of the games with a particular focus on unity among nations. The diocese has also created a special ministry, "More than Gold," that serves as a welcome to the families of participating athletes who want to see their sons and daughters, but cannot pay for a hotel.

Athletes have also spoken in various interviews, noting how faith has transformed their lives. U.S. swimmer Missy Franklin, who won her first gold medal Monday in the 100 meter backstroke, spoke in an interview with on how faith has helped her achieve her goals. Former Olympic Gymnast Shawn Johnson talks about God and her determination to do her best as she travels down whatever road God puts her on next. The athletes in this year’s Olympics should keep their examples and wisdom in mind. And amny of them do. Tom Hoopes put together this list of Catholic Olympians and other Catholics of note participating in London this summer.

Another eventful week in our Catholic World. Have a great and blessed new week.

Keep the Faith. Peace.

Wally Arida
Publisher & Editor in chief
BURNING QUESTION: Is the Mass a Banquet or a Sacrifice?
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1 comment:

  1. Isn't the story targeting Atheist who've lost their beliefs? No matter what religion you believe in, i respect everyone but people use so called "religion" to create differences and i hate such shitheads.