Trust – And the Leap of Faith

Reflection on John 6:60-69

Giusto di Gand Joos Van Wassenhove Instituzione delleucarestia (from commons.wikipedia.org)

by Angela Jendro

August 25th, 2018; 21st Sunday in Ordinary Time

Gospel of John 6:60-69 NAB

Many of Jesus’ disciples who were listening said, “This saying is hard; who can accept it?”
Since Jesus knew that his disciples were murmuring about this, he said to them, “Does this shock you? What if you were to see the Son of Man ascending to where he was before? It is the spirit that gives life, while the flesh is of no avail. The words I have spoken to you are Spirit and life. But there are some of you who do not believe.” Jesus knew from the beginning the ones who would not believe and the one who would betray him. And he said, “For this reason I have told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted him by my Father.” As a result of this, many of his disciples returned to their former way of life and no longer accompanied him. Jesus then said to the Twelve, “Do you also want to leave?” Simon Peter answered him, “Master, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe and are convinced that you are the Holy One of God.”

Meditation Reflection:

The psalmist exhorts us to “Taste and see the goodness of the Lord” (Psalm 34).  He does not say, “see then taste”.  Rather than requiring scientific evidence to support the miracle of the Eucharist before receiving it, Christ pleads with us to believe in Him and receive the Eucharist after which we will see its power to give life.  Belief in the Eucharist should not be predicated upon whether it satisfies our natural reason or whether or not we feel like it.  Instead, Christ’s word alone, His teaching as Lord and Savior of the world forms the basis for belief in the supernatural miracle of the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist.  Because of its supernatural quality, it necessarily exceeds our natural experience and reasoning.  This makes it difficult for any person to believe in such a transformation based on merely human experience.

The Catechism discusses this common problem, writing:

The first announcement of the Eucharist divided the disciples, just as the announcement of the Passion scandalized them: ‘This is a hard saying; who can listen to it?’ (Jn 6:60) The Eucharist and the Cross are stumbling blocks.  It is the same mystery and it never ceases to be an occasion of division.  ‘Will you also go away?’ (Jn 6:61):  The Lord’s question echoes through the ages, as a loving invitation to discover that only He has ‘the words of eternal life’ (Jn 6:68) and that to receive in faith the gift of His Eucharist is to receive the Lord Himself.”

In this passage the followers of Christ divide between those who “returned to their former way of life” where their faith wasn’t challenged and those who, with Peter, can only say “We have come to believe and are convinced that You are the Holy one of God.” The passage seems to indicate that everyone present experienced confusion and found Christ’s teaching difficult to accept.  Many of us share this same experience.  We follow Christ and marvel at His actions in our life.  Then we come to a point where one of His teachings, whether in Scripture or through His Church, seems too difficult.  We are tempted to rationalize that no one could really believe it and then go on living as we were. Christ challenges us to respond instead like Peter by putting our trust in Him.  If we are convinced that Jesus is the Christ, then we should be convinced that everything He says and promises is true.

Consider:

  • What makes you convinced that Jesus is God and Savior?  Are you convinced?
  • What teaching of Christ do you struggle with the most?  Do you follow Christ always or only when it makes sense to your natural reason?
  • Which is more reliable – Christ’s wisdom or your own? Why?
  • Do you find it hard to believe in the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist?  If yes, why?  If no, why not?  If you have a deep belief in the Eucharist, consider how you might share that belief with someone else.  Pray for a providential moment.

Make a Resolution (Practical Application):

  • Faith is a gift.  Pray each day this week for an increase in the gift of faith.  You could share the prayer of the man in Mark 9:24 who said to Christ, “Lord I believe, help my unbelief.”
  • Make an effort to deepen your belief in the Eucharist.  Spend time praying at Church or adoration, go to a daily Mass, read about the Eucharist in the Catechism http://www.vatican.va/archive/ccc_css/archive/catechism/p2s2c1a3.htm, read John 6 again, read about Eucharistic miracles. Ask the Holy Spirit to enlighten your mind and heart.

~ Written by Angela Jendro © 2018 (edited from original post Aug. 23rd, 2015)

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A Meal and An Encounter

Last Supper

August 19th, 2018 20th Sunday of Ordinary Time

Gospel of John 6:51-58 NAB

Jesus said to the crowds: “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.” The Jews quarreled among themselves, saying, “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?” Jesus said to them, “Amen, amen, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you do not have life within you. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him on the last day. For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me and I in him. Just as the living Father sent me and I have life because of the Father, so also the one who feeds on me will have life because of me. This is the bread that came down from heaven. Unlike your ancestors who ate and still died, whoever eats this bread will live forever.”

Meditation Reflection:

When I have old friends over for dinner, it is never merely a meal.  It’s always a highly anticipated event, an encounter with people I dearly love at a deep level.  It’s an exchange of conversation flavored by our shared history, values, and mutual respect.  When I have new friends over for dinner, it’s never merely a meal either.  It too is an encounter, a sharing of ourselves and opening up to discover common values as well as the excitement of hearing a person’s different perspective or experiences.

The great modern theologian, Fr. Romano Guardini (1885-1968), made the beautiful insight that the Mass too is both a meal and an encounter (from his book Meditations before Mass).  He reflected that Christ made this connection when He referred to Himself in the passage above as both “bread” (meal) and as “come down from heaven” (encounter).  In the Mass Christ invites us to a dinner He has prepared that we might both be nourished by the food and refreshed in spirit by the personal encounter with Him either as a new or old friend.

Deep friendship is one of the greatest pleasures one can experience in life. Even the philosopher Aristotle considered it one of the highest virtues.  To find someone who shares the same “vision of the Truth” as C.S. Lewis put it, is a real joy.  Scripture reminds us that “Faithful friends are beyond price” (Sirach 6:15) and we all know that for something to be expensive it must be rare.  To spend time with that friend in person is even more delightful.  To have that kind of friendship in marriage can result in an exchange of love and unity at the very depths of our humanness.

Christ desires this kind of friendship and union with each of us.  That is why the image of a wedding feast is used to represent the culmination of the Christian life.  Christ the bridegroom and the Church His bride are united body and soul in the Eucharist.  Celebrating the Lord’s Supper presents the opportunity to encounter Christ at every level, from the surprises of a new friendship to the deepest and most intimate of long relationships.  The more dinners, the more the friendship can develop.

Consider:

  • Who is your closest friend?  How did the friendship develop?
  • How would you describe your friendship with Christ?  How has it developed?
  • Consider the role of meals in developing friendships.  Whether it is as simple as coffee, drinks, lemonade, cookies, grilling, eating out, or cooking a full meal, or family dinners.  How does food somehow enrich the experience and open people up to each other?
  • Consider why Christ would desire to be present to you in Person, in the flesh, in the context of a meal.  Consider how personal it is and bonding.  Also consider the addition of other people – how does eating with others add to the experience?

Make a Resolution (Practical Application):

  • Next Mass, approach the Lord’s Supper the way you would a dinner with a close friend.  Prepare yourself for the encounter and treat it with the same attention and respect you would give your dinner guest or host.
  • On the way up the aisle to receive the Eucharist try to push away any distracting thoughts.  Reflect on the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist.  After receiving Christ, try to remain silent and focus on Him for a few minutes before talking, singing, or thinking of anything else.
  • Offer hospitality to someone.  Make them dinner and treat them as if they were Christ Himself visiting your home.

*revised edition; first posted 8/16/15

~ Written by Angela Jendro © 2018

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Hard but Satisfying Work…Gospel Meditation John 6:24-35

by Angela Jendro
Fra_Angelico_coronation of Mary

Fra Angelico – Coronation of Mary

August 5th, 2018; 18th Sunday in Ordinary Time

(updated and edited from post August 2nd, 2015)

Gospel of John 6: 24-35 NAB

When the crowd saw that neither Jesus nor his disciples were there, they themselves got into boats and came to Capernaum looking for Jesus. And when they found him across the sea they said to him, “Rabbi, when did you get here?” Jesus answered them and said, “Amen, amen, I say to you, you are looking for me not because you saw signs but because you ate the loaves and were filled. Do not work for food that perishes but for the food that endures for eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. For on him the Father, God, has set his seal.” So they said to him, “What can we do to accomplish the works of God?” Jesus answered and said to them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in the one he sent.” So they said to him, “What sign can you do, that we may see and believe in you? What can you do? Our ancestors ate manna in the desert, as it is written: He gave them bread from heaven to eat.” So Jesus said to them, “Amen, amen, I say to you, it was not Moses who gave the bread from heaven; my Father gives you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is that which comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.” So they said to him, “Sir, give us this bread always.” Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me will never hunger, and whoever believes in me will never thirst.”

Meditation Reflection:

Jesus instructs us to “work for the food that endures for eternal life.” The people responded wisely  by asking a follow up question, which in modern language could be phrased “tell us the job description.” The task seems simple enough – “believe in the one God sent.”

How is believing in Christ work though? If believing in Christ were merely an intellectual assent then it wouldn’t be much work at all. However, believing in Christ means believing He is the Savior sent to transform our hearts and lives. This requires not merely an assent of the intellect, but the arduous work of aligning our will with His, and allowing Him to change our lives. Consider the life changing “yes” of Mary, Joseph, the Apostles, all the saints, and the transformation in lives of people you know who have accepted Christ and follow Him intentionally.

In his famous book, What’s Wrong with the World, G.K. Chesterton astutely states the reason why so many people forsake believing in Christ and the reward that comes with it. He writes,

“The Christian ideal has not been tried and found wanting; it has been found difficult and left untried.”

Jesus does not say “I am the bread of life who will force feed you”. Rather, He states that those who come to Him will never hunger. Still, you may ask, how hard is it to come to Christ? Well, how hard is it to make it to Mass every Sunday? How difficult is it to attend one or more daily masses a week? How hard is it to find 30 minutes to pray with Scripture? How hard is it to listen, with your full attention, to your child, spouse, or friend in need? How difficult is it to turn to Christ in prayer when you are feeling anxious, frustrated, or angry rather than escaping through t.v., drinking, or shopping?

Coming to Christ and believing in Him is work, but like any job it gets easier as you get the hang of it. Imagine the career satisfaction you could experience in a job with that kind of reward. We all want happiness and we go to great lengths to achieve it. Christ promises that if we are wise enough to put all of our efforts toward relationship with Him, we will be guaranteed an abiding happiness we can find nowhere else.

Consider:

  • In your daily life, what is the biggest challenge to seeking Christ?
  • What do you hunger for most? How do you try to fill that hunger? How long does it last before feeling hungry again?
  • When was a time you experienced delight, satisfaction, peace, or happiness from God?

Make a Resolution (Practical Application):

  • Choose one way to come to Christ this week that has been difficult in the past. (wake up 30 minutes early to pray, spend 10 minutes with each of your kids, download a bible app to your phone, attend a daily Mass, make a holy hour at adoration)
  • Start a gratitude journal for God’s gifts to you each day. Before bed think back on your day and identify God’s grace at work in your heart and life.
  • The next time you feel anxious, frustrated, or angry, stop and sit in silence with God for 5 minutes. Find a quiet spot (even if it’s your car or bedroom), set a timer, and just turn your heart and ears toward God. Gently push away distractions and be in God’s presence. Let Christ fill your hunger and soothe your thirst.

~ Written by Angela Jendro © 2018