Friday, August 10, 2018

Gospel text for Sunday 12 August 2018

John 6:51-58        Jesus said, “I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats of this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.”

The Jews then disputed among themselves, saying, “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?” So Jesus said to them, “Very truly, I tell you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood have eternal life, and I will raise them up on the last day; for my flesh is true food and my blood is true drink. Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood abide in me, and I in them. Just as the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so whoever eats me will live because of me. This is the bread that came down from heaven, not like that which your ancestors ate, and they died. But the one who eats this bread will live forever.”

Reflection            On Sunday morning we gather not only for our personal sustenance and transformation but also for the sake of the world. Each Sunday morning we participate in the liturgy, leitourgia, the Greek word that actually means “work of the people.” It is our work to come together to manifest the presence of the One God much as single grains of wheat are gathered to manifest one loaf of bread. We are the body of Christ that is revealed in the world as the Church. We are sacraments pointing beyond our small selves to something more.

Preaching to the early fifth century Church in North Africa, St. Augustine of Hippo directs our attention to the bread and wine of Holy Eucharist and says, “Be what you see, receive what you are,” (Sermon 272)  Or in other words, “Behold what you are, become what you eat.”  I believe Augustine was trying to articulate the potent reality of  sacraments.  We live in a sacramental world wherein objects can embody meaning that words are insufficient to convey. For example, think about being in love. The way we embody love is by giving gifts, writing poetry, singing love songs, making love. How often do we say to our lover, “Let’s sit down and have a discourse on the meaning of love and how it is embodied?” Neither can we grasp with our mind the meaning of ingesting the sacramental bread and wine.

I hear the echoes of my seminary advisor, the Rev. Dr. Louis Weil, one of the few outstanding liturgists living today. I can see Louis standing at the chapel altar and hear him proclaiming, “Bread and wine are not just symbols we use to remember the historical facts of Jesus’ death (unlike the Protestant reformers). Bread and wine are means by which we participate here and now. Bread and wine are signs that embody a reality. Holy Eucharist is a meal without which we cannot live.” Pausing for emphasis  Louis continues, “People, where else in this world does everyone receive the same gift?”

I believe the reality embodied in our Eucharistic bread and wine is the reality of our oneness with God and our desire to create the social conditions wherein all people are welcome, respected and have access to the resources necessary to reach their fulfillment. When Jesus says, “I am the living bread that came down from heaven… Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood abide in me, and I in them,” he is inviting us to claim our full inheritance individually and collectively, as sacramental beings imbued with more meaning and value than reason can convey. 

We are bread. We are blessed. We are broken. We are given for the good of all people. See what you are. Become what you eat.

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