Daily Reflection
August 13th, 2000
Larry Gillick, S.J.
The Deglman Center for Ignatian Spirituality
Click here for a photo of and information on this writer.

The Nineteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time 
First Kings 19:4-8
Psalms 34:2-9
Ephesians 4:30--5:2
John 6:41-51

The chapter of John’s gospel, from which the readings come for the rest of this month, concerns Jesus presenting Himself as the Bread of Life.  In today’s section there is a contrast made between the manna given to the people of Israel in the desert and Jesus as the Bread of Life.  The polemic way in which the gospel is written could compel us to judge the manna as being of little value.

It is important to put John’s gospel in context lest, in reading it, we fall again into patterns of anti-Judaism that have painfully marked our Church’s history.  This gospel was written within a complicated religious and social context.  There was a painful search to find a way to reconstruct Judaism after the destruction of the Temple in 70AD.  Conflicts existed within Judaism and emotion was high.  The Jewish Christian community from which John’s gospel arose, was convinced that the Christian way was the most authentic way to live Judaism.  The gospel lumps together as “the Jews,” those who believed in other ways.  They are portrayed as blind, recalcitrant and vengeful opponents of Jesus.  In doing this, the gospel writer was not separating himself or his community from Judaism or the Covenant of God with the Jews.  He was writing always as a Jew.  When taken out of this intra-Jewish setting, the gospel can be read as anti-Jewish and has been done so.

So, back to today’s gospel.  In raising the image of manna, Jesus evokes a powerful moment in the spiritual story and experience of his people and he carries it further.  He calls his community to a new moment in the journey through the image of living bread.  For the next few weeks, we will be listening to this on-going discussion.  We miss the whole message and grace of these readings if we don’t enter into the shoes or sandals of our Jewish foreparents.  Stand close to them in full awareness of the traditions and memories of God’s relationships with them.  They have told about and prayed with the great event of God’s having given them “bread from heaven.”  This event was such an identifying experience by which God embraced them and showed loving kindness towards them.  They watched the event of Jesus’ multiplying the loaves and the fish; perhaps they themselves have partaken.  If Jesus had stopped there, that wouldn’t be so bad, but He goes on and tells them that by listening to Him, God is teaching them.  This is all so new, different and frightening that they don’t want to hear any more.  In the weeks to come we will hear more.

We who have grown familiar with these words and with the belief in “the bread from heaven,” might find all this arguing and discussion boring and a bit trivial.  For that very reason it is good for all of us to listen even more deeply to what Jesus is calling us.  We have certain phrases in which we express a spirit of distaste such as, “I can’t swallow that,” or “I just couldn’t stomach that.”  These mean that there is something that we cannot interiorise.  Jesus is asking us not merely to physically consume, but even more deeply, take within our spirits His totality of spirit and person.  It is said that we are what we eat.  Jesus asks us to become what we believe.  Now we have something about which to argue and discuss with Him.

As Elijah was provoked to make a long and difficult journey, so are we invited to become pilgrims whose journeys are equally dangerous.  We are provoked by God’s grace, more and more, to become “outward signs, instituted by Christ, to be and give grace.”  We have something about which to debate concerning just what He is saying.  Each one of us is invited to let go of certain attitudes and self-images, which are contrary to whom He says we are.  We swallow our pride and humbly begin again and again, to make the journey of becoming His body.  “Taste and see the goodness of the Lord.”

Click on the link below to send an e-mail response
to the writer of this reflection.
Online Ministries
Home Page
for Sunday
Online Retreat
Daily Readings Texts
from the
New American Bible
Daily Readings Texts
from the
RSV Bible
Spirituality Links
Saint of the Day
Collaborative Ministry Office 
Home Page
University Ministry
Home Page
Collaborative Ministry Office Guestbook