August 12 2018 (B) 19th Sunday of the Year (B)
- The Bible as Guide in Life and Liturgy (Sunday Readings)
First Reading (1 Kings 19:4-8). Strengthened by the food he walked until he reached the mountain of God. This brief reading is taken from what is known as the “Elijah Cycle”, a series of episodes about the fiery prophet Elijah. This prophet was very active in the northern kingdom of Israel, especially countering the attempts of the pagan queen Jezebel to have the religion of the God of Israel replaced by that of her pagan god Baal. After a successful defeat of prophets of Baal, Jezebel threatened Elijah’s life and he fled south. He is tired of life, and asks God to take away his life. He is comforted by an angel and given food to eat. In the strength of that food he walked forty days and nights until he reached the mount of revelation, called Horeb in the tradition of the northern state Israel, Sinai in the tradition better known to us. He encountered God there. The present reading is chosen because of the food and drink that sustained him in his long journey – a figure of the bread of life of which today’s Gospel reading will speak.
Responsorial Psalm (Psalm 33). Taste and see that the Lord is good.
Second Reading (Ephesians 4:30-5:3). Follow Christ by loving as he loved you. True Christian life can be described as one permeated by the spirit of the Sermon on the Mount. From an early date the goodness and the holiness of God, and the example of Christ for Christian living, must have been central to Christian preaching and teaching. It went from the central tenets of Christian belief to the affairs of everyday life. The Christian community was holy, the Body of Christ, anointed by the Holy Spirit. When Ananias lied concerning money he had kept back from the early community in Jerusalem, Peter told him that he had not lied to humans, mortals, but to the Holy Spirit (Acts 5:3). In this spirit of faith, today’s reading gives early Christian recommendations about what militates against true Christian community, and what makes for it. On the negative side there are grudges against one another, losing one’s temper, loud talking, name-calling, spitefulness. On the positive side it recommends friendliness, kindness, and especially forgiveness readily given, as Christ has forgiven us. The person and teaching of Christ stand closely behind all this. It all makes for a genuine Christian community, a fragrant offering to God in imitation of that of Christ.
Gospel (John 6:41-51). I am the living bread that has come down from heaven. In this section of the discourse where Jesus presents himself as the bread of life, emphasis is on Jesus as the one who has come down from heaven to give eternal life. At this very beginning, the scene and discourse are set against the backdrop of the desert wanderings and the manna episode with the Israelites “murmuring”, “complaining”. In the original text, the murmuring in Moses’ time produced the gift of water (Exodus 15:24) and the manna 16:2, 7, 12). Murmuring was regarded as unbelief (Isaiah 10:12; Psalm 106:24-25). Today’s passage is very much about the faith required to understand Jesus and his message, a faith equally required of the Jewish people with a deep belief in God. The first “complaint” concerns Jesus’ assertion of himself as bread of life, descended from heaven, and his known human origins, known from the persons regarded as his human father Joseph, and his mother.
Jesus’ reply is on the absolute need of faith, a gift of his Father, belief in him and his mission. A prophetic citation is adduced in clarification, probably Isaiah 54:13 (“All your children shall be taught by the Lord”), possibly combined with Jeremiah 31:34 (“No longer shall they teach one another, or say to one another, ‘Know the Lord’, for they shall all know me from the least of them to the greatest’ says the Lord”). Whatever of the meaning of these texts in their original setting in the sixth century or so B.C., they are applied by John in the age of fulfilment to Jesus. Belief in him is a gift of the Father. Listening to the voice and the teaching of the Father, in one’s soul, leads to Jesus.
Monotheism, belief in an unseen personal God, and furthermore One who addresses his will to his people and humanity, was and in never easy. It requires faith. Jesus repeats the central truth that nobody has ever seen God, God the Father. This unseen God was being revealed by Jesus his Son, who has come on earth from God. Against the backdrop of the biblical manna tradition, Jesus is propounding teaching that he will later develop at greater length elsewhere in this Gospel. Jesus has come from the Father to bring life to the world, to bring the life of the Father to believers in him and to humanity, to unite them to life he has with the Father. The life he brings is eternal life, new life with God already on earth, a life to continue with God in a new way after death. Union with Christ, eating him as the bread of life, brings this eternal life; those who eat it will not die but live forever. This new manna thus differs from the old manna of the desert; that did not give eternal life. Jesus is the bread of life through his person, his teaching, through the divine life of the Father which he communicates through grace.
This passage speaks of Jesus as the bread of life metaphorically speaking. The reading ends on a note that will lead to Jesus as the bread of Life through his death on the cross, his flesh for our salvation, his flesh present in the Eucharist. The next section, read next Sunday, will speak of Jesus as the bread of life in a realistic, Eucharistic, sense.
The Bible in Dialogue with Questions of the Day: Transparency in Private and Public Life
In discourse concerning political and public life much in often made of the need of transparency and the means to attain and sustain it. From tribunal hearings and other ways the public learns of improper deals, financial and otherwise, and occasionally public professions of personal transparency which prove to be unfounded. In Church administration there is occasional cover-up in matters of clerical under-age sex abuse in order to protect the good name of the institution. Modern legislation aims at making transparency the rule, by means of freedom of information and such like.
Readings from the Epistle to the Ephesians remind us of how central truth, openness and transparency are to Christian life, in everyday life as well as in public. Paul stresses that truth should shine forth in all Christian life, and through this be an example to unbelievers. We should all put away all falsehood, and speak the truth to our neighbours, for we are members one of another (Ephesians 4:25). The Christian community is sealed with the Holy Spirit of God. Untruthfulness grieves this Holy Spirit (Ephesians 4:30). Once when Paul was accused by the church in Corinth of a kind of double-dealing, saying one thing and doing another, he reacted very strongly. Such behaviour would be a complete contradiction of his mission from Christ. He speaks emphatically: “Indeed, this is our boast, the testimony of our conscience: we have behaved in the world with frankness* and godly sincerity, not by earthly wisdom but by the grace of God—and all the more towards you. 13For we write to you nothing other than what you can read and also understand”. In the Latin and Greek of the word “sincerity” some would see an expression of transparency. “Sincerity”, in Latin (sincerus) might be seen as deriving from sine cera, “without wax”, and the Greek word eilikrineia as connected with the Greek word for “sun” (helios) and judgment (krino) — as transparent as the sun shining through clear glass.
Jesus stressed the need for transparency in the lives of his followers. Their actions were to reflect their true inner selves. He severely criticizes hypocrisy in religion, outward show without inner substance. His followers are called to be the salt of the earth and the light of the world. Through their good works their light is to shine before others, so that they may see their good works and give glory to their Father in heaven.
Through their simple everyday living, Christ’s followers bear this witness, as they have done throughout the centuries when inspired by the clear teaching of Jesus in the Gospels and of Paul and his followers in the Second Readings of the Sunday Mass.