GOSPEL, FIRST READING & PSALM TRANSCRIPT (Subscribe or Login for Full Transcript):
The 19th Sunday in Ordinary Time continues our journey through the Gospel of John, chapter 6.
Athough we’re in the Year B, which is the year of St. Mark's Gospel— as we've been seeing here — the Church takes something of a break from the Gospel of Mark and focuses our attention on the Gospel of St. John chapter 6 for five Sundays in a row.
This is the third Sunday that we’re focusing on John 6, and now we’re actually moving into the “Bread of Life” discourse proper. And, we looked at Jesus' feeding of the 5,000 two Sundays ago, and then last Sunday we looked at some of the exchange between Jesus and the crowds that led to his “Bread of Life” discourse when they asked him to give them the new manna forever always.
Now, we’re actually looking at what he has to say about this new manna, about this bread from heaven. Now he's beginning to use the manna to reveal two mysteries: the mystery of his divinity, of his heavenly origin as the bread of life come in person, and also the mystery of the sacrament of the Eucharist, the mystery of his real presence in the bread and the wine of the Lord's Supper.
So let's without any further adieu turn back to John chapter 6. Today, the Gospel is from verses 41 through 51:
The Jews then murmured at him, because he said, "I am the bread which came down from heaven.” They said, "Is not this Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How does he now say, `I have come down from heaven'?" Jesus answered them, "Do not murmur among yourselves. No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him; and I will raise him up at the last day. It is written in the prophets, `And they shall all be taught by God.' Every one who has heard and learned from the Father comes to me. Not that any one has seen the Father except him who is from God; he has seen the Father. Truly, truly, I say to you, he who believes has eternal life. I am the bread of life. Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died. This is the bread which comes down from heaven, that a man may eat of it and not die. I am the living bread which came down from heaven; if any one eats of this bread, he will live for ever; and the bread which I shall give for the life of the world is my flesh."
Alright, so what’s going on in this particular Gospel?
Well, in this case we’re getting into the heart of Jesus’ Bread of Life discourse. And, it's a little unfortunate that the verses are selected in the way they are, because it obscures the structure of the discourse from John's Gospel. If you read through John 6 in its entirety, and not in just the selected verses given to us in the lectionary, what you will see is that there are two parts to Jesus’ Bread of Life discourse.
We looked at the beginning of the first part last Sunday and it picks up in the middle of the first part this Sunday, but the two parts can be broken down as follows: the first part begins in John 6:35 when Jesus says, “I am the bread of life.
He who comes to me shall not hunger; he who believes in me shall never thirst.”
In that first part of the Bread of Life discourse, which starts in verse 35 and then goes all the way down to verse 47, Jesus uses the manna from heaven as a metaphor for his own divinity — as a symbol, a kind of a sign of the fact that just like the manna was heavenly in origin, so too Jesus is heavenly in origin. He as the Bread of Life has come down from heaven.
In other words, he has become incarnate; he is the God who has become man.
So, the first part of the discourse is really focusing on Jesus' divinity, and you can see also emphasis on the word “faith” or “believe” — pisteuō
in Greek. So, before Jesus gets into talking about the sacrament of the Eucharist or eating his flesh, the first thing he says is, “I want you to believe that I have come down from heaven.”
SECOND READING TRANSCRIPT (Subscribe or Login for Full Transcript):
...the entire passage here is under the initial exhortation of not grieving the Holy Spirit. It’s a powerful image. We don’t usually think of making God sad. I think most of us are kind of aware of the fact that we can make God angry. And so it’s very common that people will try to exhort others to avoid sin in order to avoid making God angry, as well as people who often feel, “Oh, something bad happened to me. Is God angry at me?” And I think that’s a pretty natural response based on just human growth and childhood where kids break rules as young children, they just tend to make their parents angry. That’s one response.
But we maybe aren’t quite to think of our sin as causing God grief, because we don’t tend to think of God as suffering sadness. And of course there’s a true sense in which God in Himself is impassable. We can’t do anything to God. I don’t want to go down that particular philosophical road right now, that’s certainly true. But the language of Scripture will often use anthropomorphisms to describe God’s response using terms drawn from human experience and human emotion that are analogous to human experience and human emotion.
And in this case, the image is of making the Holy Spirit sad, causing grief to the Holy Spirit through sin. And so Paul says don’t do that:
And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, in whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. (Ephesians 4:30)
So what is it that grieves the Holy Spirit? Paul gives us one of his very, very helpful — although not very popular — list of vices. So every now and then in his letters, as Paul’s writing, once he gets to his section of moral exhortation where he begins (usually towards the end of the letter) … where he begins exhorting his readers to live a certain kind of life in Christ. He’s calling them to follow the standards of morality and charity and virtue that are part of living life in Christ. He will often give lists of both vices and virtues, of sins and of gifts of the Holy Spirit or fruits of the Spirit or things that are life-giving acts in Christ and then things that bring death, spiritual death to those who commit them.
And so in this case, he lists some vices that grieve the Holy Spirit. So what kind of things grieve the heart of God, grieve the spirit of God? Number one: bitterness… bitterness. Number two: wrath or anger. Number three: clamor.
Now this one is interesting. We don’t tend to use the word clamor very often, but the Greek word is kraugē
. It literally means “shouting”. So it’s tied to anger. Anger often leads to shouting, right? So Paul says no shouting.
Slander – and again, this one is a little strange. The English word is “slander” but the Greek word is blasphēmia
, which we have a pretty good English cognate for. It’s “blasphemy”. I’m not sure why they didn’t put “blasphemy” in the translation and they put slander instead. Some translations will have “reviling,” and that’s good too … but it’s a little general, because reviling is something you can do to anything. But blasphemy is when we revile something or someone holy. Like in profanity, we will often blaspheme the name of God or the Blessed Virgin or the name of Christ.
And then finally, he mentions malice as well — hatred for another. So you can see here there is some overlap with the vices Paul lists here and the seven capital sins — in particular, the sin of anger, of wrath, one of the classical capital sins. But for me, what’s fascinating is that Paul is saying to the Ephesians — who again, are converts from paganism, so he’s trying to teach them about what life in Christ looks like. And he says, “Look, in Christ …” — he doesn’t just say, “Try to moderate your wrath. Don’t blaspheme too often. Don’t shout too often.” No, he says, “Put it away. Expunge it from your life. Take it out. Cut if off.”
All wrath, all anger, all malice, blasphemies. Christians should not be uttering blasphemies. Christians should not be shouting in wrath and anger at one another. You can think here about the kind of domestic strife that happens in families that are plagued by anger and by wrath and shouting … which often leads to blasphemies and cursing and profanity.
These things grieve the Holy Spirit of God when those who are in Christ, who are sealed with the Spirit, engage in them. So instead of that, Paul calls the Ephesians to virtue and to charity. So in particular, notice what he highlights here. You want to make the Holy Spirit happy?
… and be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you. (Ephesians 4:32)
Now that last line should sound familiar. It’s a little echo of the Our Father in there. So in the Our Father, we pray that line, “forgive us our trespasses” — so far, so good — “as we forgive those who trespass against us” … the most terrifying words in the New Testament is that word “as” in the Our Father. Because it actually means we’re asking God to make the standard of forgiveness that we receive from him, the same that we give to others.
And I was actually reading — I can’t remember whether it was John Cassian or John Chrysostom, I’d have to go back and look at it — one of the 4th, 5th century Church Fathers (it must have been Chrysostom, because he was preaching to a congregation) who actually says that in the ancient Church, in some congregations, the people (the laity) would not pronounce that line of the Lord’s Prayer. They wouldn’t say it out loud. When they got to that part of the Lord’s Prayer, everyone went quiet, because they actually understood what it meant. They weren’t just rambling, kind of mumbling it off — you know, “forgive us our trespasses” — without even thinking, while thinking about what they’re going to eat for lunch or something. They were listening to the words, they did know what it meant, and they didn’t want God to apply the same standard to them that they apply to others … so they wouldn’t say that line of the prayer. They would skip it. Fascinating.
So Paul here, though, is making that the model. So if you don’t want to grieve the Spirit of God, you have to forgive others as you yourself are forgiven.
For the measure you give will be the measure you get back. (Luke 6:38b)
So all this is talking about (once again) morality, about life in Christ. And Paul in Ephesians 5:1 brings up the language of imitation. It’s become very important in the spiritual tradition of the Church. It’s known as the Imitatio Dei
, the imitation of God — not just to be in a relationship with God. People like to talk about that: “Do you have a relationship with Christ? Do you have a relationship with God?” Yes. Are you like God? Are you striving to imitate God? And that’s what Paul calls them to:
Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. (Ephesians 5:1-2)
Again, in Judaism, they didn’t use the term “morality” to describe doing good, avoiding evil. The language they use was a Hebrew word known as halakha
comes from the Hebrew word “to walk”, the verb. So keeping the law, choosing good, avoiding evil, was halakha
. So whenever Paul uses that language of walking, he’s always talking about morality — what we call morality or ethics. That’s the context of what he’s describing here.
So how do we walk? We walk in charity. That’s what makes the Holy Spirit happy, because the Holy Spirit is
the eternal love of the Father and the Son. He is
charity itself. And Christ, of course, manifests that to us in both the way He loves us and gave Himself as a fragrant offering and a sacrifice to God.
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