The Gospel for Sunday, the 19th Sunday of Ordinary Time, is part of the Bread of Life section of John’s Gospel which is heard every third year from the 17th to the 21st Sunday. Next Sunday, in England and Wales the Sunday readings are displaced by the Solemnity of the Assumption so it seems sensible to extend this Sunday’s reading to include what will not be heard next week. The additional text has been added below.
The Jews were complaining to each other about Jesus, because he had said, ‘I am the bread that came down from heaven.’ ‘Surely this is Jesus son of Joseph’ they said. ‘We know his father and mother. How can he now say, “I have come down from heaven”?’ Jesus said in reply, ‘Stop complaining to each other.
‘No one can come to me
unless he is drawn by the Father who sent me,
and I will raise him up at the last day.
It is written in the prophets:
They will all be taught by God,
and to hear the teaching of the Father,
and learn from it,
is to come to me.
Not that anybody has seen the Father,
except the one who comes from God:
he has seen the Father.
I tell you most solemnly,
everybody who believes has eternal life.
‘I am the bread of life.
Your fathers ate the manna in the desert
and they are dead;
but this is the bread that comes down from heaven,
so that a man may eat it and not die.
I am the living bread which has come down from heaven.
Anyone who eats this bread will live for ever;
and the bread that I shall give is my flesh,
for the life of the world.’
Then the Jews started arguing with one another: ‘How can this man give us his flesh to eat?’ they said. Jesus replied:
‘I tell you most solemnly,
if you do not eat the flesh of the Son of Man
and drink his blood,
you will not have life in you.
Anyone who does eat my flesh and drink my blood has eternal life,
and I shall raise him up on the last day.
For my flesh is real food
and my blood is real drink.
He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood lives in me
and I live in him.
As I, who am sent by the living Father,
myself draw life from the Father,
so whoever eats me will draw life from me.
This is the bread come down from heaven;
not like the bread our ancestors ate:
they are dead,
but anyone who eats this bread will live for ever.’
John 6:41-51 (-58)
Sometimes the life of the Christian is presented as though it is the same as everyone else’s, only it is more moral, more focussed, humanity at its best.
And yet although we are called to be fully human – not the same of course as having achieved it! – we are also called to be something more too.
Through the sacraments we are drawn, welcomed into the life of Grace. The ‘something more than human’, the Divine, is shared with us, and establishes the pattern for our lives.
Those who are ‘only human’ are dead, but, in Christ, by his grace, we are to live for ever.
The radical newness and difference is important. It ought not to make us think more highly of ourselves, for we so often fall short, and in any case the newness is entirely gift, and not earned by us.
But it should help us to know our blessing, to have further reason for giving thanks, and want to share this new life with others, even those (especially those?) who at first find the newness and more, shocking and who even reject it.
Photograph of tabernacle, Abbey of Montserrat. (c) 2003, Allen Morris.