Have you ever heard someone say something completely outlandish?
The Jews in today’s Gospel are not just shocked by Jesus’ teaching, they are also likely disgusted and oﬀended. Is Jesus of Nazareth really telling them that He is the Bread of Life and the fulﬁllment of all the Scriptures? Is he truly the new Passover Lamb? These possibilities are scandalous to them. Oftentimes, living our faith can cause scandal, at least in the eyes of the world. It’s radical for us to cling to the truths of the faith and to Christ in today’s culture. Let’s take some time today to learn more about the Eucharist, the source and summit of our faith. Jesus knew we need physical signs, which is why he gave us his very self, hidden under the appearances of bread and wine, to nourish us on our journey in this life.
First Reading Reflection
Sometimes success is rewarded with difficulty. Here we find Elijah just after the peak of his renown. He has just defeated the prophets of Baal on Mt. Carmel, where the Lord sent down fire from heaven to consume his sacrifice. The people of Israel confessed triumphantly, “The Lord is God! The Lord is God!” (1 Kings 18:39), and Elijah executed all the prophets of Baal. It would seem that his struggles against pagan worship were at an end and he could continue his prophetic ministry in peace. Yet the Baal-worshipping queen, Jezebel, seeks revenge. She wants to kill Elijah for his actions on Mt. Carmel, so he must flee for his life. Despite his victory, Elijah finds himself exhausted in the desert without food or water, shading himself under the only tree he can find and praying for death. But the Lord is not yet done with him. Instead, he sends an angel with food and water to sustain the prophet. In fact, this heaven-sent meal is nothing short of miraculous food that sustains Elijah for forty days and forty nights on his journey to Mt. Horeb, the place where Moses received the Ten Commandments from the Lord. Our own lives have ups and downs. The key to riding them out is to depend on the Lord’s provision in our most despairing moments. Rather than praying for death like Elijah, we can pray for the Lord’s help. He knows our needs and longs to sustain us for the journey ahead.
Second Reading Reflection
It can be hard to see the connection between the spiritual realm and our everyday activities. God can seem distant; prayer can feel dry; and the invisible battle of angels and demons raging all around us can slip our minds like a distant memory. Yet Saint Paul clearly teaches that our sins “leave room for the devil”
(Ephesians 4:26) and “grieve the holy Spirit of God” (v. 30). Jesus warns us against becoming outwardly pious while being inwardly corrupt (see Matthew 6:5). In fact, a great deal of our personal spiritual battle is not just about changing our external conduct, but getting our internal attitudes to line up with our upright behavior. In particular, Paul targets our speech—“fury, anger, shouting”—for change since “from the fullness of the heart the mouth speaks” (Luke 6:45; NAB). Our speaking to one another reveals our interior spiritual condition. Instead of shouting at each other, we should forgive each other like God forgives us and thus be “imitators of God”
(Ephesians 5:1). By imitating his pattern of generous love and forgiveness, we slowly begin to become like him. The Holy Spirit gives us grace, not just to escape from Hell, but actually to become holy like God. Our everyday life, our habits, our relationships, and our work can be transformed from a merely human set of tasks into a Spirit-empowered, God-imitating reality. The invisible realm thus invades the visible. It is through our actions that the life of God becomes observable in the world.
Even though the crowds had been seeking Jesus out and pleaded with him to give them the bread from heaven, now they question him. He claims to be the bread come down from Heaven, but they dismiss him as merely “the son of Joseph” (John 5:42). He is familiar to them, and so they reject his claims to divinity. But Jesus doesn’t back down. Instead, he reaffirms his claim by quoting Isaiah, saying that everyone will be “taught by God”—that is, by Jesus himself. He doubles down on his identity as the living bread come down from Heaven when he insists that we must both believe in him and eat the bread, which is his flesh, in order to gain eternal life. The crowd wanted to have something to eat, but they did not want to change their perspective. They wanted to receive the benefits of belief without actually believing. Jesus seemed like a normal person, a familiar face in the village, and when he claims to be something more, the crowd can’t comprehend how someone seemingly so normal could actually be the Son of God. It is easy for us to fall into the same trap and regard Jesus as the world does: just another religious teacher, an interesting historical person. Yet Jesus’s claims lay ahold of our very lives. If he is who he says he is, then our whole world is altered, turned upside down by the very fact that the Son of God has walked in our midst. And yet he has not only come to us, but he has offered us his eternal-life-giving flesh in the Eucharist.
Join the Parish Discussion Group
Log in to your FORMED account and click the “Community” tab and visit the Opening the Word Discussion. From there, you can view a short video reflection on today’s readings and respond to the discussion questions.
Consider discussing these questions with a friend this week, or write your thoughts in a journal.
When have you thought Christ to be crazy and rejected his teaching or resisted what you learned about him?
Who is one person you need to show kindness or compassion to this week?
Digging Deeper: Prayer After Communion
It is easy to become distracted after we receive Communion on Sunday as we watch for friends and pay attention to people’s Sunday style. However, this is a profoundly intimate time with Jesus. We should give him all our attention and reverence to him during the time that he is in our hearts. Here is a prayer you can pray as you focus your heart on him. It is called the Anima Christi and was written by St. Ignatius of Loyola:
Soul of Christ, sanctify me.
Body of Christ, save me. Blood of Christ, inebriate me.
Water ﬂowing from the side of Christ, purify me.
Passion of Christ, comfort me. O good Jesus, hear me.
Hide me within Thy wounds.
Never permit me to be separated from Thee.
From the malignant enemy defend me.
At the hour of my death call me, and cause me to come to Thee,
that with the Saints and the Angels, I may praise Thee
For everlasting ages.
Reflections reprinted here with permission from Augustine Institute.