Wednesday, November 3, 2010

He is So Much More......

John 6:41-51

The Jews murmured about Jesus because he said, “I am the bread that came down from heaven, ” and they said, “Is this not Jesus, the son of Joseph? Do we not know his father and mother? Then how can he say, ‘I have come down from heaven’?” Jesus answered and said to them, “Stop murmuring among yourselves. No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draw him, and I will raise him on the last day. It is written in the prophets: They shall all be taught by God. Everyone who listens to my Father and learns from him comes to me. Not that anyone has seen the Father except the one who is from God; he has seen the Father. Amen, amen, I say to you, whoever believes has eternal life. I am the bread of life. Your ancestors ate the manna in the desert, but they died; this is the bread that comes down from heaven so that one may eat it and not die. I am the living bread that came down from heaven; whoever eats this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give is my flesh for the life of the world.”

Reflection on the gospel reading: The gospel that the Church gives us on this nineteenth Sunday of Ordinary Time speaks to who Jesus is and how this identity can change ours. I always have been amazed at what a huge Rorschach test Jesus is. After years of hearing people talk about Jesus, I have come to realize he is like a reflecting pool. People bring all their own personal issues to the Lord, look into him, and see in the image there in the water, all the things that they brought to him in the first place. In some ways, they see the Lord, but when they look into the Lord, they more nearly see themselves. They see only what they are ready to see, but they don’t see the totality of who Jesus really is, who Jesus is in Jesus’ self.

Take for instance, the people at the start of today’s gospel who look at Jesus and believe they know exactly who he is. “This is Joseph and Mary’s kid. He’s a guy from up in Nazareth.” They look into Jesus and see their own lives. He is a guy with parents from a particular town up the road. And as much as they see is true about Jesus, but while they think they know the whole story, they don’t. It is true that this is Joseph and Mary’s kid from Nazareth, but he is telling them that he is a lot more than what they know about him.

Jesus tells us in today’s gospel that he is bread come down from heaven. Bread fills our stomachs and gives us energy to do the things we need to do. When Jesus says he is heavenly bread, he is telling us that he is the food we need to sustain us on our journey. Surely, this passage has Eucharistic overtones, but when Jesus speaks of himself as heavenly food, he is talking about a total package. He has a way of looking at people with kindness, understanding, and mercy. He has a teaching about our relationships with one another and with God. He is a whole way of life that informs every aspect of our own existence. Jesus for us is an attitude, a teaching, a way of being, and the implications of all of those things forever are unfolding as we move moment by moment through our lives.

When we look into Jesus and see whatever it is that we see, we only understand what we are prepared to understand. We filter our experience of Jesus through the various preset aspects of who we are in a given moment, through our character, our beliefs, our thoughts, our experiences up to that given moment. What Jesus calls us to understand in today’s gospel is that he well may be for us those things that we are prepared to understand in this moment, but he also is so much more. This gospel we read and reflect on today calls us to the discipline of seeing Jesus more clearly, loving Jesus more dearly, following Jesus more nearly day by day.

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