Reflection on the Gospel of John 6:56-69 Thirteenth Sunday after Pentecost August 22, 2021

Jesus said, “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.” He said these things while he was teaching in the synagogue at Capernaum. When many of his disciples heard it, they said, “This teaching is difficult; who can accept it?” But Jesus, being aware that his disciples were complaining about it, said to them, “Does this offend you? Then what if you were to see the Son of Man ascending to where he was before? It is the spirit that gives life; the flesh is useless. The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life. But among you there are some who do not believe.” For Jesus knew from the first who were the ones that did not believe, and who was the one that would betray him. And he said, “For this reason I have told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted by the Father.” Because of this many of his disciples turned back and no longer went about with him. So Jesus asked the twelve, “Do you also wish to go away?” Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom can we go? You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe and know that you are the Holy One of God.”

Let us Pray: Everlasting God we come to you at this time to give you thanks for all you have done for us. We thank you for the beauty of each morning, for the power of the sun and for the beauty of our part of God’s world. Help us to be aware of your presence and hear your voice and make us always ready to obey and do your will. We pray for the church throughout the world and especially for our diocese and our church. This we pray in God’s Name. Amen.

For five weeks the lectionary journey through the Gospel of Mark has been  interrupted by a brief detour into the sixth chapter of John. The chapter opens with two familiar stories from the synoptic Gospels: the feeding of the multitude which appears six times in the four Gospels and to Jesus walking on the water. Then there are conversations about the meaning of the miracle of the feeding and about Jesus’ identity. As is often with John, small, ordinary words such as bread and life are explained with theological meaning. Jesus provided bread, but his bread is not like the manna that God provided in the wilderness; this bread is himself, his very life; and those who eat it “will live forever.” In this final gospel reading we find the followers of Jesus in an internal struggle. Some are murmuring among themselves: “This teaching is difficult; who can accept it?” Even today, when we know that Jesus has been using ordinary words to refer to extraordinary things, it is still somewhat difficult.: “Whoever eats me will live because of me.” Years of eucharistic theology give us a way to understand these words, but at the time they were more than puzzling, they probably were downright offensive. Rightly reading the mood, Jesus says, “Does this offend you?” We learn that some of those who had been following Jesus “turned back and no longer went about with him.” Jesus then turns to the Twelve and says, “Do you also wish to go away?” Peter plays the spokesperson, just as he does in the other Gospels: “Lord, to whom can we go? You have the words of eternal life.”

The question now becomes to what level are our own lives in relationship to Jesus, not just as a role model, but to what level do we allow Jesus’s life force to interact with our own lives?  And how does Jesus define our own identity? This is an invitation to allow Jesus to interact in our lives that He becomes the source of our energy and our power, and as long as we believe in him there is life.  It becomes a conversation about relationship, not just a personal relationship, but a relationship in which his life defines our lives.  Yes, he is the bread of heaven, the bread of life, and the living bread, the manna sent from God to sustain the lives of God’s people. The bread He offers is needed to live life with boldness rather than fear, with love rather than hate, with hope rather than pessimism.

Let us Pray: We pray today for people around the world, those who have suffered natural disasters as the earthquake in Haiti. We pray for the people of Afghanistan as their world has turned up[side down. We pray God’s helping hands will guide and protect them through their turmoil and that God will direct help from others to provide relief. We ask that you keep them all in your prayers. This we pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.

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