The Bread of Life...
There is story about St. John Vianney. Every day one of his parishioner came to the Church and sat there for long time looking at the Tabernacle. Once St. John Vianney went up to him and asked, “what are you doing?” The parishioner replied simply, “I look at Jesus and Jesus looks at me.” The Gospel reading this week is the second of five Sundays on the Sixth Chapter of John, the chapter on the Bread of Life discourse. Last Sunday's Gospel from the beginning of chapter 6 presented the miracle of the loaves and fish.
When the people who had eaten the loaves and fish went looking for Jesus, and they asked, “Rabbi, how did you get here.” He didn’t answer their question. Instead he addressed the reason why they were looking for him: they were looking for another free meal. He tells them to seek Bread that will last forever, the Bread He will give. People told Jesus “Our ancestors ate manna in the desert, as it is written: He gave them bread from heaven to eat.” This we read in our first reading, “Then the Lord said to Moses: I am going to rain down bread from heaven for you (Exodus 16:4).” We read in the Book of Wisdom “Instead of this, you nourished your people with food of angels and furnished them bread from heaven, ready to hand, untoiled for, endowed with all delights and conforming to every taste (Wisdom 16:20).” The wilderness manna was not false bread; it was merely a sign of the imperishable bread, the Eucharist. Manna did not take them to the heavenly reality, but Jesus himself the true bread of life which take us to heaven. The manna, the bread came from heaven, nourished only by the body. Christ gives us his very self as the bread of life that nourishes the soul.
We celebrate the Eucharist and have a deep encounter with Christ at Mass and at the reception of communion. We also have a deep encounter with the Eucharistic Presence of the Lord in our of Eucharistic Adoration. All Catholic Parishes celebrate Eucharistic Adoration in some form or other. All Catholic Churches have times that the Blessed Sacrament is exposed all day for adoration, just as we do here on Fridays.
Eucharist is not just food for our journey, it is also the end of our journey, heaven. How is heaven look like? The heaven, saints, angels, is full communion with God. At every Mass, heaven touches the earth. All saints and angels are present at the Mass. Jesus said to the people, “This is the work of God, that you believe in the one he sent(John 16:29).” We can see only bread, but in the Eucharist Jesus gives himself. Jesus said, "Amen, amen, I say to you, it was not Moses who gave the bread from heaven; my Father gives you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is that which comes down from heaven and gives life to the world."
Eucharist is a meal: participation in His Body and Blood, sacrifice: participation Jesus’ offering of his body on the Cross and Eucharist is thanksgiving: Jesus gives himself and thanks the Father, and we who receive Jesus in Communion, give thanks to God for His Son.
When we gather to celebrate Eucharist, we are a people gathered in faith. Faith brings trust, which gives us the strength to face the challenges of day to day life to live that faith. We celebrate and proclaim our faith in the Eucharist and take with us share with one another.
On January 31, 2021, Pope Francis announced World Day for the Grandparents and the Elderly. The Pope invites us to be celebrated each year on the fourth Sunday of July, coinciding with the feasts of the Blessed Virgin Mary’s parents and Jesus’ grandparents, Sts. Joachim and Anne.
Vittorio Scelzo, who is involved in the pastoral care of the elderly within the dicastery of the laity, family, and life, says, Pope Francis’ announcement to the celebration of the World Day for Grandparents and the Elderly is connected to the Days established for the Word of God and for the Poor. Pope Francis says, “grandparents are often forgotten, and we forget this wealth of preserving roots and passing on.” Vittorio Scelzo said in an interview that Pope Francis wants to remind us, “young people, adults, and our society cannot save themselves without the elderly.”
This weekends reading invites us to become a humble instrument in God’s plan by sharing our gifts with our sisters and brothers. In the first reading the prophet Elisha, by invoking God’s power, fed one hundred men with twenty barley loaves. In the book of Exodus chapter 16, we read Israelite’s had turned against Moses and Aaron and God gave them “bread from heaven.” Elisha shared with hundred men the gift he received and there was food leftover. Apparently, Elisha was more powerful than his predecessors; his works extended beyond the people of Israel. Elisha relied not on what he had but on what God would do with what the Prophet had received as a gift. This miracle foreshadows the Gospel account of Jesus' miraculous feeding of five thousand and ultimately the gift of the Eucharist.
The Gospel reading is from John 6:1-15. This chapter is the foundational theology of the Eucharist. John says, “The Jewish feast of Passover was near.” The timing of this miracle around Passover, and fact that John mentions it here, implies a connection between the feeding of the five thousand, Jewish feast and its ultimate fulfillment and perfection in the institution of the Eucharist, the New Passover. There are two miracles in John involves bread (John 6:1-14) and wine (John 2:1-11). At the last Supper Jesus takes the bread and wine to bless and give thanks and gave to his disciples and said, “This is my Body” and “This is My Blood.”
John mentioned “The Passover’ three times (2:13, 6:4, 11:55). The Passover was celebrated annually in Jerusalem to commemorate the liberation of Israel from slavery (Exodus 12). When the Passover was at hand, Jesus multiplied the loaves and fish to feed the hungy. And during the Passover meal Jesus instituted the Eucharist.
In the first reading Elisha shared with the hundred men the gift he received. In the Gospel a lad shares his five loaves and two fish. What we do when we receive blessings. What is it that I am doing when I receive Holy Communion? Today we pray for deeper appreciation, a deeper reverence for the greater gift, the Eucharist.
We celebrate World Day for Grandparents and the Elderly. They have great gift, gift of faith which they want to share with us all. We have to be open to receive the gift. Again, it is a call for deeper appreciation. Let us us honor our grandparents and elderly and recognize the gift they have shared with us.
A story from the life of Mother Teresa shows her love for lonely and unwanted people, the "sheep without a shepherd," who, while materially well-off, are sometimes "the poorest of the poor." On one occasion, she visited a well-run nursing home where good food, medical care and other facilities were offered to the elderly. As she moved among the old people, she noticed that none of them smiled unless she touched them and smiled at them first. She also noticed that many of them kept glancing expectantly towards the door while listening to her. When she asked one of the nurses why this was so, she was told: “They are looking for a visit from someone related to them. But, except for an occasional visit, birthday gift or a get-well card, this never happens." Jesus invites us, in today’s Gospel, to show concern, mercy and compassion for such sheep without a shepherd.
We may look at the world around and say, what is going on here, isn't it? It was much different in Jesus time. This weekend reading invites us reflect on shepherd. Jesus looked at the people with pity, and he looks at us with same love and compassion. Jeremiah share the same message in the first reading.
Jeremiah lived in Jerusalem where God called him tom be the prophet, during the reign of King Josiah. His main message are about the vital importance of keeping the Law and the covenant. He also talk about the consequences if they don't keep the law and covenant. Those days there were professional prophets and they led people in wrong direction. Jeremiah says woe to the shepherd who destroy God's flock and says in the future God will gather his people and give them a good shepherd who will be raised in the line of David. We read in the book of Ezekiel 34:4, “You did not strengthen the weak nor heal the sick nor bind up the injured. You did not bring back the stray or seek the lost but ruled them harshly and brutally.” Jeremiah’s prophesy of righteous shepherd refers to the future Messiah,Jesus.
In the Gospel Jesus the Good Shepherd shows great compassion for his people, who were “like sheep without shepherd.” In then book of Numbers 27:17, who will be their leader in battle and who will lead them out and bring them in, that the LORD’s community may not be like sheep without a shepherd.” God gave them Joshua. We see in the Gospel the return of the apostles from their mission and the withdrawal of Jesus with them to a desert place to rest. But a great number of people to follow them. Toward this people of the new exodus Jesus is moved with pity; he satisfies their spiritual hunger by teaching them many things, then we following today's reading feeding the five thousand. Jesus shows them gradually himself as the faithful shepherd of a new Israel.
In this reading, Paul celebrates the fulfillment of Jeremiah’s prophecy (first reading) of a future shepherd who would gather the dispersed and the scattered into one people of God. He elaborate imagery here combines pictures of Christ as our peace. We read in the book of Isaiah 9:5, “For a child is born to us, a son is given to us; upon his shoulder dominion rests. They name him Wonder-Counselor, God-Hero, Father-Forever, Prince of Peace.”
We have good shepherd who laid down his life for us. A the same time he asks us to be a shepherd, and do with love and compassion. We have to look at choice we make with our time, gift and treasure. How we use it? Just for example, we enjoy our summer, we have to get most of it. How much time we take to give thanks to God for the gift. How many of us take time to go Church on the weekend during summer camping or vacationing? If you traveling, find a church. How many of us tell our children to go church or make a week to attend a vacation Bible school? We have to be concerned about everything in our life, but we have find time for God. On other hand we have to share our time, talent and treasures with other.
I read a story of a prison chaplain and he challenges us. He went to talk with a man sentenced to die in the electric chair. He urged him to believe in Jesus Christ and be baptized; that forgiveness and eternity with God awaited him if only he would turn towards God. The prisoner said, "Do you really believe that?" "Of course I do," replied the chaplain. "Go on," scoffed the prisoner. "If I believed that I would crawl on hands and knees over broken glass to tell others, but I don't see you Christians making any big thing of it!" He had a point.
Recent years we talked about New Evangelization. We all received baptism and became adopted children and we are sent out to evangelize. But over the time we lost its true meaning. There may be some of our friends and relatives who turn away from faith. The New Evangelization calls all Catholics to be Evangelized and then go out to evangelize.
This weekends reading reminds us we are called to be disciples, and at the same time we are called to be apostles. In the first reading God chose Amos to deliver His words to the people of Bethel. He was from southern kingdom and worked in an orchard. God sent him to the northern kingdom. Amaziah, the chief priest in charge of the sanctuary, told Amos to go back to south and learn to live, because he was prophesying against the King Jeroboam. In those days there were prophets who misled the people. We see in the book of Micah 3:5, “Thus says the LORD regarding the prophets: O you who lead my people astray, when your teeth have something to bite you announce peace, but proclaim war against the one who fails to put something in your mouth.” Deutronomy 18:22 says, “If a prophet speaks in the name of the Lord but the word does not come true, it is a word the Lord did not speak. The prophet has spoken it presumptuously; do not fear him.” Amos reacts strongly to Amaziah’s attempt to classify him as a “prophet for hire who earns bread” by prophesying. Amos said, “I am not a prophet and not belong to a company prophet. I am a herdsman and a dresser of sycamore.” So this ordinary man, Amos, became the vehicle of God’s truth.
The first reading prepare to listen to the Gospel reading. Jesus sent twelve ordinary men to proclaim the Good News. Jesus sent them two by two and gave the instruction. St. Gregory the Great suggests that Jesus sent out the disciples in pairs to signify that the twin precepts of charity: love of God and love of neighbor, are indispensable for the duty of Christian preaching. Jesus gave them authority. In the Gospel of Matthew 10:1, we read, “Then he summoned his twelve disciples and gave them authority over unclean spirit to drive them out and to cure every disease and every illness.” Jesus instructed them “To take nothing for the journey but a walking stick, no food, no sack, no money in their belt (Mark 6:8).” These detailed directions were indications for the need to move quickly and to be totally dependent on God’s care.
The second reading is a prayer of praising God in the form of benediction and thanksgiving for the many blessings He has showered and God has accomplished in Jesus. St. Thomas Aquinas commented on this passage that: “The apostle says, ‘Blessed be God’ that is, may I and you and everyone bless him with our heart, our mouth, our actions.” Paul says, through Christ, God has given us a clear purpose in life—to praise and to serve God and one another—with the Holy Spirit as a helper in carrying out the task.
Pope Francis keeps reminding us that our Catholic faith is not primarily a bunch of rules to follow, rather, it's a relationship, friendship with a real, living person Jesus Christ. And a healthy life of prayer means that we spend time each day with that friend, listening to what he has to say to us, especially through the words of the Bible, and speaking to him about what's on our minds and hearts.
Every time we gather to celebrate the Eucharist, God gives us nourishment through His Word and Body and Blood and at the end of Mass we are sent out to proclaim the Good News. Once God sent Amos, Jesus sent His disciples, and today He sends each one of us with same message. New Evangelization invites us relearn our faith, renew our relationship with Christ and His Church.
“My Grace is Sufficient for you!”
This weekend we celebrate the Fourth of July. We are grateful for our country, and we want to be good citizens. That includes voting and other forms of political involvement. The best thing we can do to become better citizens is to be better Christians. A couple of years ago USCCB issued a document “Our First, Most Cherished Liberty,” outlining the United States Bishops’ Conference expresses concerns over threats to religious freedom, both at home and abroad. We observed and prayed for Religious Freedom from June 22 through 29. Freedom to teach and celebrate our faith. Let us keep these thoughts in our prayers. Happy July 4th!
This weekends reading presents the theme of rejection. In the first reading, Ezekiel is commissioned to preach to rebellious Israelites, who are rude and stubborn. The prophet Ezekiel lived 600 years before Christ, before, during, and after the Babylonians destroyed Jerusalem. While the false prophets were consoling Israelites, God appointed Ezekiel to warn his people about the destruction that was to come if they did not change their ways. God warns Ezekiel that as a prophet he would not have an easy job, and has to face rejection. The first reading prepares us to listen to the Gospel.
Gospel of Mark presents Jesus’ rejection in his own Galilean village, Nazareth. In the first reading, Ezekiel is a priest and prophet. In the Gospel, we see the eternal priest and prophet. When Jesus came to his native town and went to the synagogue and taught, everyone was astonished and asked one another, “Where did this man get all this?” We see other times also people expressed astonishment in his teaching. For example, after the Sermon on the Mount, the crowds are in admiring astonishment at Jesus’ teaching (Matthew 7:28); but here the astonishment is of those who take offense at him (Mark 6:2). Another question was raised, “Is he not the carpenter, the son of Mary, and the brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon? And are not his sisters here with us? (Mark 6:3)” Catechism of Catholic Church says that it is Jesus’ cousin or relatives. Catechism says, “James and Joseph, "brothers of Jesus", are the sons of another Mary, a disciple of Christ, whom St. Matthew significantly calls "the other Mary" (CCC500).”
Like Ezekiel and other prophets, Jesus was persecuted and rejected. We saw in the first reading; God warns Ezekiel about rejection. At the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus talks about the rejection that his disciples were going to face, “Blessed are you when they insult you and persecute you and utter every kind of evil against you [falsely] because of me (Matthew 5:12).”
Jesus uses a common proverb, “A prophet is not without honor except in his native place and among his own kin and in his own house (Mark 6:4).” Jesus is often called a prophet in the Gospels. We see in the Gospel of Matthew when Jesus entered Jerusalem, the crowd said, “This is Jesus the prophet, from Nazareth in Galilee (Matthew 21:11).” The Samaritan woman at the well says, “Sir, I can see that you are a prophet John 4:19).”
One side Jesus commonly accepted as prophet and people place their trust in him and witness miracles. On the other hand, Jesus is rejected by his hometown people. Both events prepare for the great mystery of his passion, the death of Jesus.
The second reading St. Paul humbly says that he knows he can be weak, in fact, he speaks about a thorn in the flesh that he prays that God would remove, but he says that his own weakness shows the Power of God in his words. Many have become followers of Christ, not because of Paul but because God worked through this weak man. Paul was content with weakness and hardship for the sake of Christ. He surrendered to God’s love; God’s grace is sufficient for him. Through the grace of God, we too will be able to face the hardship and challenges as a disciple of Christ.