August 19, 2012
Proverbs 9: 1-6; Ephesians 5:15-20; John 6:51-58
We Benedictine, inclusive (c)atholic followers believe that Jesus is most emphatically here, with us, around this table. We call this Eucharist “Sacrament”: neither symbol nor re-enactment, but a real time encounter with the God whose invisible activity works always, at the very heart of things.*
“Just as the living God sent me and I live because of God, so whoever eats me will live because of me.”
John the Evangelist introduces us to Jesus as Sacrament, as Eucharist, to make of all we who would follow him First Generation Christians.*
We meet Jesus the Christ through our encounter in Gospel, Bread, and Wine. Not less than the first disciples did through his humanity, teaching, and witness. Through Jesus — not as a mediator to God but in direct communion, we share in full intimacy with God’s own Self, Source of Life, without restriction.
“Jesus said I AM the living bread; whoever eats of this will live forever.”
To the earliest followers of Jesus, with their struggles and their diverse hopes, and to us, John offers: Jesus. John’s Gospel presents Jesus as the fulfillment of all human longing. Jesus, who revealed God present and active in our every moment; in whom our every moment is already eternal.
This life we live together? We live it in God’s home, here in real time.
A recent rainy day in the contemplative Monastery of the Annunciation on the isle ofMontrealafforded me the opportunity to immerse myself in reading and reflection. The Recluse sisters’ tiny library holds a commentary on John’s Gospel by Henri Van den Bussche, a significant Scriptural scholar of the 1950’s and 60’s.
His passion for this Gospel is beautifully evident, and I want to share a few of his insights, and the emphases his French language brought to this passage. Of the “I am” Jesus asserts in the opening verse , Van den Bussche elaborates “C’est moi que je suis, Moi-meme je suis” That is, This is really me, THIS is who I am! My very self, truly, I am!
“In this way”, Van den Bussche writes, “Jesus insists on his definitive character and the exclusive value of the life he is affirming. And this he does facing a world that is uncomprehending and constantly incredulous.” The world struggling to believe at the time of John’s writing was the early church, but most scholars of this text agree that This Gospel was written to us, those who came later. John writes from his experience as a disciple of Jesus and witness to the resurrection, as well as a participant in the formation of the earliest communities of believers. He writes to tell us that our encounter with Jesus in the Eucharist and in following his Way is no less real and true than his own. He writes, so that we might believe.
“I AM”, Jesus says, present tense. And “I will give…my flesh for the life of the world”, into the future. Flesh, because flesh and blood was the Hebraic definition of life. Body could mean just that, a dead body. But the entire person was evoked by the Hebrew and Aramaic words for “flesh.” In the giving of himself through his life and in his brutal death, Jesus offers us a paradox: life eternal, gained by death. From that moment on the cross, Van den Bussche asserts, we are given the gift of the Spirit.
As followers, we must also hand over our own lives to one another in love. This is how we participate in the ongoing transformation of the world, and enter into eternal life. In John’s Gospel, reference to the death of Jesus himself on the cross, and the reality of his complete person present in the Eucharistic are both evoked by the word for flesh. Those who do not believe can only ask, “How can it be? How can he do that? What scandal!”
“Very truly I tell you…”Jesus says as he speaks to the power of the Son of Man to bring about what he intends. “You must eat this flesh to have life in you..”
We who do believe, can only come again and again to this table of encounter and take in, literally consume the bread and wine that is Jesus. The gift has been offered, and it is ours to accept. We eat his flesh and blood so that the life and courage, the love and justice of Jesus will course through our veins, will nourish and strengthen us on The Way.
As Wisdom invites us to her table to lay aside our immaturity, Jesus, the Word and Wisdom of God invites us to this table to set aside our incredulity and accept the gift of life, to draw close to its Source. Here we become one Body in Christ, one growing community of believers to witness love and justice in the world. A people truly filled with the Spirit, singing praise and gratitude to our God each day. This is the heart of our communion; this is who WE truly are, US, fully alive. Who Jesus has invited to this meal, let no one turn away.
Prayers of the Faithful:
Let us pray,
For all who lead families, monasteries, churches and other communities of faith, to be led by humility, wisdom, and joy in their faith, let us pray.
For all who hunger for sustenance, freedom, for justice and their dignity, let us pray.
That we might all contribute to an increase in civility and engagement in this election season so that justice and the common good may be before all who can vote, let us pray.
For what else shall we pray?
For these and those persons whose names are entered in our book of intentions, and for members of this assembly who are not with us this morning, for their full health, peace, and well-being we pray.
Creator, Sustaining God. Through Jesus you draw us into your own heart. This is who we are today, with all our yearnings, fears, joys, sorrows and doubt. Hear our prayers and accept our thanksgiving, for we trust you to hold us, those we love, and those we have yet to love in your mercy.
We ask this in your holy name, with Jesus and your Spirit of Holy Wisdom,