Tag Archives: #Scripture

Bread of Life: A Mutual Invitation of Participation

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“John’s Jesus has a totally different outlook. He does supply earthly bread to a crowd that hungers; but that is not the real marvel, for they will hunger again and so are not permanently better. The real marvel is that Jesus can give a bread from heaven that obviates hunger: the true (alēthinos) bread of which the multiplied loaf was only a sign”

-Raymond E. Brown, “The Johannine World for Preachers,” Interpretation 43.1 (1989), 60-61.

This quote by Raymond Brown, as an invitation for reflection on the Bread of Life discourse (John 6:22-71), has once again completely captivated me! Here, we are presented with Jesus both as the revelation of the Word, the divine teaching that holds eternal life and as Eucharist, the living bread which “provides nourishment” when eaten (NAB, Jn 6:51; Brown, A Introduction to the New Testament, p.346). What was enlightening for me in appreciating John’s portrait of Jesus, were the parallelisms with the OT understanding of Wisdom as found in Proverbs, Wisdom, and Sirach. These texts, offer us a background in which to grasp our later Christian understandings of Jesus and continuity with the OT. In Sirach, Wisdom is described as Word emanating from the “mouth of God” (Sir.24:3), and that which when drunken in provides fulfillment (24:20). In comparison, John portrays the person of Jesus as divine word, (“I am the bread of life”) to be believed and which promises not only fulfillment but eternal life (Jn. 6:35,40,45,47-48).

Yet, there are also definite Eucharistic allusions present in John 6:51-58, and likewise throughout this discourse. Especially, if we begin just prior to the Bread of discourse with the Multiplication of the Loaves, and consider the discussion on perishable food and the food of eternal life (Jn 6:26-2; Brown p.345-346). In fact, these seem to introduce the proceeding discourse and provide “two interpretations on how this is to be done” (p.346). Once again there are OT references here, in the manna of the Exodus that came from heaven, and the water to drink that broke forth from the stone. This food sustained the Israelites in the desert, yet could not promise life eternal.

In Jesus, was the fulfillment of the Word, made “flesh for the life of the world” (NAB, John 6:51). Likewise, the blood of Jesus is the “true drink” of eternal life (Jn, 6:55). There is a bit of irony to be found here in that the fullness of this meaning could not be understood by the Jews around him, who assert their familiarity with the physical personage of Jesus (Brown, p. 336; Jn 6:42). For them, they will ‘hunger and thirst again’, working for “food that perishes” unable to look past the satisfaction of their earthly hunger or for signs in which to believe (Jn 6:27; 30-32; 58).

Therefore, I would affirm that both understandings of this discourse are present and that it need not be a decision between, but a mutual invitation to participation. The observation, by Brown, that at times churches have “been divided as to which deserves the most emphasis” speaks to my prior faith experience as a Southern Baptist. (Brown, p.378). While the “Lord’s Supper” did have a place of importance in the Baptist tradition, it most certainly did not indicate more than a symbolic remembrance. Not to mention, there was a clear priority on the word of God and in particular on the words printed in red.

Yet, one of the beautiful elements that I became aware of as a Catholic catechist is the liturgical fullness given when both Scripture and Eucharist are equally emphasized. In the Liturgy of the Word, we are called to listen and respond to the Word and prayer. In the Liturgy of the Eucharist we are called to offer our lives to God, receive communion in unity with one another and go forth to share (and be) the good news of Jesus with one another. Yet, I would add that “ideal” is most fully understood when that same balance is not only liturgically placed but felt within the hearts of the believers.

Reflect:

Do I participate fully in the Liturgy of the Word, giving my full attention to both the spoken word and the words God seeks to imprint upon my heart? Am I fully present for reception of the Eucharist, understanding that Christ is fully and intimately present to me in that very moment?

Peace,

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Worth Revisiting: The Shepherds’ Journey

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For I am the LORD, your God, who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, Do not fear; I will help you.

Isaiah 41:13

Throughout the accounts of the nativity story we encounter God working the extraordinary amidst the ordinary. Today, I find myself accompanying the shepherds in their journey this advent, beside the sheep in solitude and silence.

“Now there were shepherds in that region living in the fields and keeping the night watch over their flock. The angel of the Lord appeared to them and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were struck with great fear. The angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for behold, I proclaim to you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For today in the city of David a savior has been born for you who is Messiah and Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find an infant wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger.”And suddenly there was a multitude of the heavenly host with the angel, praising God and saying: “Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.” (Luke 2: 8-14)

The life of a shepherd was simplistic, the daily tasks at hand were few and one day could easily flow into the next. Yet, a lack of attentiveness could put the whole flock at risk and without a shepherd the sheep easily lost their way. The needs of the flock were to always supersede one’s own, and this included the need for community that we have so become accustomed to. Due to a very transient lifestyle, company was but only occasionally found with fellow shepherds along with the animals they watched and cared for.  Moreover, as they could not consistently observe the ceremonial rituals of purity prescribed by Jewish law, shepherds were considered among the lowliest of professions. Gone were the early days of Israel, as with King David, where their responsibility was respected, now they were included among the marginalized in Jewish society.

Artgate Fondazione Cariplo - Mulier Pieter, Annuncio ai pastori.jpg:
Artgate Fondazione Cariplo-Mulier Pieter

Certainly not a life easily undertaken for those who crave conversation or comforts, it did offer its own unique recompense. Under a blanket of stars and away from the hubbub of the city life they had time for quiet moments and reflection. I’ve often wondered if they, while aware their social standing, also recognized the value and purpose in their life’s work.

Even if they had, they most definitely did not expect to have been called out to receive the most magnificent angelic proclamation of the birth of the Messiah. With not one but a host of angels, breaking through the stillness and the darkness, hope was born this night. As Luke truly stresses, God moved from heaven to earth- to the peripheries to reach all of humanity. Undoubtedly aghast at their divine invitation and despite any misgivings they may have had–their unexpected response was to make way for Bethlehem in haste. Oh, the trepidation the shepherds had to have initially felt from the sudden marching orders and the impending arrival to a city, given their unkempt appearance!

Surprisingly instead of a stately palace, or grand estate customary to a king or “Lord”, they were welcomed by the small stable surroundings. Who is this king, that he would choose this as a birthplace, as a seat of governing, a site of lowly stature? Could it be that He has come for us too…and what does this mean for our lives? The peace that the angels spoke of had to have meant more to the shepherds than an absence of physical conflict, but resonated an inner peace of finally resting in God’s grace.

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Consider: Do I believe that Jesus was born for me? And, what does this mean in my life, particularly for those times I feel alone, persecuted, or marginalized?

When I am afraid, I will trust in you. In God, whose word I praise, in God I trust; I will not be afraid. Psalm 56:3

Peace,

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When God Talks

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What is it to say that God talks? How do we know that God is really speaking and guiding us as we seek to follow?

I would venture to say that nearly every believer has at some point in their walk of faith has questioned and sought certainty of God’s constant dialogue with them. Silence might seem deafening at times and the fear of abandonment or trial just too great. Hang in there, you are in good company…what you are describing has been felt by countless saints and even uttered by our Lord himself on the cross.

Not that long ago, my teenage son who had experienced a very difficult day with a friendship, and dealing with academic pressures found himself unable to sleep. Pausing by his room to say goodnight, I became suddenly aware that he needed to talk.

“Mom, why is it that when I pray I cannot hear God speaking to me? I pray every night, even apart from our family prayer…and I never hear anything back.”

“What is it that you are expecting to hear”, I ask, “an audible voice?”

“I’m not sure, he responds, but right now it’s just silence.”

“What is it that you feel…can you feel God present even if it may seem he isn’t that close?”

“Yes, but I really wish he would answer me, and help me figure out how to handle all that I am dealing with”

Smiling, “Were you just praying earlier? Have you ever considered that is why I am here now?”

Thinking of this moment today, I am reminded that perhaps we sometimes set expectations on just how God is to respond to our prayer and miss him working in the events and lives of all those around us.

Setting time aside for scripture is another way that we, if open, can “hear” God speaking to us. This past week was a beautiful testament of this! With a number of prayerful concerns on my mind last

 Monday,

I picked up my coffee and sat down with a few scriptural reflections for some Father-daughter time. Asking God for guidance, I opened my eyes and to my delight was a reflection on Luke 11:8-9..

“And I tell you, ask and you will receive; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks, receives; and the one who seeks, finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.”

God was asking me not to carry these matters alone but to ask, seek and depend on him. Though I was pleased with this consolation, God was not satisfied. He underscored it with the 2nd completely distinctive reflection on James 1:5-6…

“But if any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God who gives to all generously and ungrudgingly, and he will be given it. But he should ask in faith, not doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed about by the wind.

It wasn’t enough for me to simply ask, God was telling me I needed to trust that he had it all in control. Without faith and trust, my prayers and conversation were shallow and superficial, not at all the deep friendship that God longs to have with each and every one of us.

Wednesday:

I had hit the ground running from the moment my feet first met the floor. Scrambling to get put into place things that should’ve been done earlier I had skipped my morning reflection time. God had not given up on me though. My chosen post for Worth Revisiting was a reflection on Matthew 13:1-9, and focused on the essentials of prayer, mass, love and scripture. Quickly I had uploaded it and opened the linkup for the week without giving the post itself the needed read. That is until the Holy Spirit got my attention. Unbeknownst to me initially, my colleague Allison Gingras had also chosen that very same scripture passage to revisit. As she and I both sat in amazement, I knew that there was something God wanted me to notice in that passage and post. Then there it was, in my writing by my own hand. I had woken up without tending to my own weeds and preparing my soil adequately. “Father, thank you for your patience, persistence and humor in seeking me- when I am otherwise occupied and not always seeking you!”

Thursday:

Having come to the realization that all of my notes for my radio interview that day no longer existed, I was feeling quite dismayed. That is, until I turned to this reflection,

“We must always be starting again. These continual recoveries, this endless beginning again, tires and disheartens us far more than the actual fighting. We would much prefer a real battle, fierce and decisive. But God, as a rule, thinks otherwise.” — Dom Augustin Guillerand

Once again I found strength and determination to take up the task at hand, knowing that God had a purpose in the re-do, in my beginning again. Humble but reassured, I saw purpose in the work ahead.

So, how do we know when God is talking to us?

This tangible experience of his presence, which is at times overwhelming and also more subtle, is both anticipated and yet surprising. It lifts us up, reassures, comforts and guides, giving us hope when we have none. Even when we are not aware of it, God is ever present and faithful.. waiting for us to make space in our day. When we do– the more attentive and attune to the sound of His voice we are, no matter what the world throws at us. When was the last time you heard God talk?

Peace,

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Worth Revisiting:Sowing Seeds

With the New Year, many of us have considered making a few changes in our lives…yet, what about spiritually?  Do you find yourself often depleted, or unable to move past the obstacles in your path these days? Easily slip back into old habits?  It becomes apparent then, that more thought needs to be given to the necessary condition of our spiritual lives in order for those more physical resolutions to bear greater fruit too.

Sowing seeds: Is your soil prepared?

Gospel Reading: MT 13:1-9
On that day, Jesus went out of the house and sat down by the sea.
Such large crowds gathered around him
that he got into a boat and sat down,
and the whole crowd stood along the shore.
And he spoke to them at length in parables, saying:

“A sower went out to sow.
And as he sowed, some seed fell on the path,
and birds came and ate it up.
Some fell on rocky ground, where it had little soil.
It sprang up at once because the soil was not deep,
and when the sun rose it was scorched,
and it withered for lack of roots.
Some seed fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked it.
But some seed fell on rich soil and produced fruit,
a hundred or sixty or thirtyfold.
Whoever has ears ought to hear.”

Today as I prepared for leading Children’s Liturgy, I wanted the children to consider some of the ways that we too nourish the soil in our hearts to allow God’s Word to grow in our lives. It isn’t simply that God’s Word is spoken, and we can choose to accept it or not. There is much that we can do to prepare our hearts to hear the Word each week, and continually to nourish it. Just like a tender young plant, it needs our awareness (found in prayer), attentive removing of weeds and rocks (through confession and reconciliation), our participation (experienced in community at mass), and above all- love.

 While so simple, do we arrive at mass, and leave without noticing any change at all in our lives? Do we even remember the Gospel reading or the homily?

To this, I will on occasion challenge my family to share what they heard or felt at mass. At times it is a joke from the homily, perhaps a song, a particular prayer, and quite beautifully the Word itself. It’s is so interesting to hear how each one of us is touched differently, and yet carries the potential to bear fruit not only in our lives but in the world around us. This is the second important take away that this parable contains. We are not only the soil but when we live fruitful lives, we then can be sowers of God’s love in the lives of others. Carrying God’s Word within, we become sharers and sowers in the darkest places of hate, division, and despair.

That evening was the wake for the father of one of our youngest faithful. Together, we lifted her and her family up in prayer together in community. Lord, may this seed of love bear much fruit in the hearts of your faithful, and may you grant this family peace as they remember this loving father, husband and friend to many.

Peace,

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