Thirteenth Sunday of Ordinary Time: Year A

Jn 6: 51 – 58

Corpus Christi

Prayer before praying Scripture

Lord I believe in you and your presence in sacred Scripture. I believe with all my heart that you are present to me here and now and that you are about to communicate with me through the words of this sacred text.

We are called to read this text with much openness and attention.

52The Jews quarreled among themselves, saying, “How can this man give us (his) flesh to eat?” 53 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 in you. 54Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him on the last day. 55For my flesh is true food and my blood true drink. 56Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me and I in him. 57Just 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. 58This is the bread that came down from heaven. Unlike your ancestors who ate and still died, whoever eats this bread will live forever.

53Jesus The Bread of heaven is first of all the Word of God, the message of the Father that Jesus has come to bring into the world. This Word is the true bread of life for us. All the other words, even if sweet and pleasing, lead us only to unhappiness and death.

But if this word is written only in a book, can it be the word of life? To be life it has to take
flesh in persons, it must become concrete, visible. Now the perfect embodiment of the Word is Jesus.

This being understood clearly, what does it mean to eat the flesh and drink the blood of Jesus? No one today will make the mistake of the Jews, who thought they had to eat him materially. Let us try, however, to understand things still more clearly.

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Material bread is assimilated and becomes part of ourselves. It is transformed into our own flesh. Jesus says he is the bread. It is his person that must be eaten, must be assimilated. It is his very existence given up for men that must become our own existence.

Communion with the body of Christ means to accept, to identify ourselves with him. It means to offer up our own selves to him so that he can keep on living, suffering, giving himself and rising again in us. That is why St Paul says the Christian must “recollect himself” (1 Cor 11: 28) , and see if he is really ready to let the life of Jesus continue in him.

The transformation of our own person into Jesus does not happen magically. It is not enough to receive communion many times.

For the Eucharist to have effect it must be received in faith, that is, we must be ready to be
transformed into the person of Jesus.

We all know we cannot receive the Eucharist before first listening to the word of God. This is because in the reading we discover new aspects of the person of Jesus; then in eating his Body we intend that his “Flesh” may shine through our own more clearly and in a more luminous way. Communion is a sign that we accept to be transformed into the Body of Christ. After communion, whoever meets us , whoever looks at our deeds, at our ways of acting with others should be able to recognize in us Jesus who continues to love, act, speak, teach, smile…1

We will be drawn more and more into wanting to continue being transformed into Christ, as we hear we hear Christ in the “Word”:

Giving himself totally to us, placing every part of his being at our service. (“this is my
body given for you”).

Inviting us into deep union with himself so that his spirit courses through us and we
experience the passion of his love for everyone.2

The Second Vatican Council confirms this when it teaches:

“The Church has always venerated the divine Scriptures just as she venerated the body of the Lord, since from the table of both the Word of God and of the Body Christ she unceasingly receives and offers the faithful the bread of life, especially in the sacred liturgy.”3

1. Armellini, F, sci; Celebrating the Word. Year A Paulines Publications1992

2. Michel de Verteiul – Year A “Lectio Divina with the Sunday Gospels Columba Press 2004

3. Dogmatic Constitution of Divine Revelation – Dei Verbum. 1965 – (21)

 

Seventh Sunday of Easter

Mt 28: 16 – 20

Ascension

Prayer before praying Scripture

Lord I believe in you and your presence in sacred Scripture.  I believe with all my heart that you are present to me here and now and that you are about to communicate with me through the words of this sacred text.

* * * * * *

16The eleven disciples set out for Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had arranged to meet them.  17When they saw him they fell down before him, though some hesitated.  18Jesus came up and spoke to them.  He said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.  19Go, therefore, make disciples of all the nations; baptize them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20and teach them to observe all the commands I gave you.  And know that I am with you always; yes, to the end of time.

What do you find strange about this reading?  Read it again carefully and you will find that there is no mention of the Ascension.  The Ascension only appears in Luke’s Gospel.  He has it take place on Easter Sunday and then writes about it in Acts of the Apostles where it takes place forty days after Easter.  “But Mark has it,” you may exclaim.  You are quite right, but remember that originally Mark’s Gospel ended in verse eight with the women saying nothing to anyone, for they were afraid. (Mk 16: 8)  What follows this was added and has obviously been copied from Luke.

So why did Matthew choose to conclude his Gospel with this story?  Certainly we have here the commissioning of the disciples.   Jesus began his mission in Galilee and he hands it on to others in Galilee.  Throughout this Gospel we see Jesus ministering to the Jewish community.  “He went around all Galilee.” (4: 23)  Here there seems to be a shift, “Go .. to all nations.”  Not so!  “And great crowds from Galilee; the Decapolis; Jerusalem and Judea, and from beyond the Jordan followed him.” The places in bold print were Pagan.  In other words Jesus went “beyond” Israel to the whole world.  He healed the Centurion’s servant (8: 13), the Canaanite woman’s daughter (15: 28) and told us to “give witness before the pagans.”  (10: 18)

All Jesus’ disciples are told to:  “Go, therefore, make disciples of all the nations; baptise them .. and teach them to observe all the commands I gave you. This includes us.

In the closing words of the Gospel we receive the assurance, “I am with you always; yes, to the end of time.” (28: 20)  This re-affirms two earlier promises, “They shall name him, Emmanuel, which means ‘God is with us,” (1: 23) and “For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.” (18: 20)

It is interesting to note that Matthew is following the pattern found in the account of the missioning of Moses, Jeremiah and Isaiah. “Go now!  I am sending you to Pharaoh to bring my people, the sons of Israel, out of Egypt,” says God to Moses.  Moses, like the disciples hesitates or doubts, “Who am I that I should go?”  God replied, “I will be with you  ..  you will worship God on this mountain.” (Ex3: 10 – 12)  Surely there is much food for thought for us, here.

If we read Mt 28: 16 -20 carefully we become aware that Matthew is giving us a brief summary of the main points in his Gospel.  He opens with, “ The eleven disciples.”  There are two groups mentioned here, the eleven and disciples.  For Matthew the large group of disciples was very important.  He speaks of them seventy three times.  Twice the women were told to “Go tell my brothers.”  And then there were the Eleven.  Here is Jesus founding community, and all are included.

Mountains are symbolically very important in Jesus’ life.  He is on a mountain when he rejects the temptation of money and power. (4: 10)  It is on a mountain that he instructs his followers. (5: 1)  He goes to the mountain to pray, (14: 23)  and there he heals and nourishes people. (15: 31 and 32)  His transfiguration takes place on a mountain. (17: 1–9)

Jesus leaves us in no doubt about the role he has in mind for us when he tells us;

“You are the light of the world.

A city set on a mountain cannot be hidden.

Just so, your light must shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your heavenly Father. (5: 14 and 16)

Even after hearing all these beautiful thoughts, some, possibly all, the disciples hesitated or doubted. They were battling to believe that Jesus was truly risen and present in their lives.  Let us not be too critical of them.  Are there events in your life in which you can recognize the hand of God?  Am I aware of the Risen Christ active in my life today.