12 August, 2012

(Short) Homily for the Tenth Sunday after Trinity (B) 2012

John 65:35, 41-51

For the past two Sundays we have been considering two passages from John 6 and today we are presented with a third instalment of our story. The narrative of the last couple of Sundays has been building up to today; to the moment when we hear Jesus saying, The bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh (John 6:51)
We have heard how Jesus fed five thousand people. We have seen how the crowd debated with Jesus about the significance of the miraculous food which they received on the mountain side and their ancestors ate in the wilderness. Today we hear of another dispute between Jesus and those opposed to him about the significance of the bread offered by Jesus to those who follow Him.
The change between last Sunday and this Sunday is very subtle and it isn’t very clear from this passage, but if you have been reading the whole of John 6 at home, as I invited you to do, you should perhaps have noticed some differences already. Today St John leaves the crowd that so eagerly sought for Jesus behind. Instead, this second debate centres on the words spoken by Jesus to the people of a local synagogue.
Imagine an early Christian community, gathered around the experience of the apostle John and the first disciples. Think of yourself as part of this community which took place out of day-to-day Judaism. Now imagine if many of the people with whom your community has worshipped for many years were to turn against it. Imagine if you were asked to leave that synagogue on account of your belief in Christ. Imagine if you were like brothers and sisters contending, fighting in the same house of prayer.
This is what happened to the community of John; cast out by their own kin and made to be an enemy of Judaism. This early Church did not need a book to instruct them about the practice of the Eucharist because that was already part of their core tradition. Instead, they needed to be encouraged in their daily debates with their former Jewish relatives who persecuted them as heretics.
This is where John’s gospel comes into place. Here we find no recollection of how the Eucharist happened as part of the Last Supper; but we find a theological discussion on the significance of the Eucharistic meal and on the meaning of the food itself. In John’s gospel we find the boldest statement about the Eucharist outside of St Paul’s letters: The bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh (John 6:51). 

Let us therefore meditate on these words of faith in the coming weeks, and let us ask Jesus to draw us ever near to His altar to share in the Eucharistic meal as often as we can.

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