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19 B 2018
So we take our third look at the teaching in John’s gospel about Jesus as the “Bread of Life”. First we heard that Jesus provides for all of our needs. He provides real food and real help in our real world. Then last week we heard that, more than this, he offers us a relationship, an intimate relationship that will lead us to eternal life. This week we hear Jesus again emphasising the everlasting nature of our relationship with Him and He tells us that this will be nurtured through His gift of Eucharist AND His teaching. Jesus, the Bread of Life is available to us in the Eucharist and in Scripture – in Sacrament AND in Word. In mass therefore, we have the table of the sacrifice or the Communion Table and we have the Table of the Word, the altar of sacrifice AND the altar of the Word. It is the Word who was made flesh, “flesh given for the life of the world”, He tells us today.
In our first reading we heard Elijah being advised by the angel to get up and eat, which he did, and this brought him rest and recovery. But this was not the end. The angel told him to get up again and continue to eat because without this, his journey would prove to be too long for him to accomplish. His journey was to Mount Horeb (or Sinai, as we better know it). Our journey or pilgrimage is to the heavenly Mountain, eternity. But likewise we have to accept nourishment from God all along the way. We need to read the Scripture and to participate in the sacraments; otherwise the pilgrimage will prove to be too long for us. And from the earliest days of the church, the followers of Jesus met each week to reflect on Scripture, to share their stories about Jesus and then to celebrate the Breaking of Bread. Mass is the same 2000 years later with the Liturgy of God’s word and then the Liturgy of Eucharist or Holy Communion. Both Scripture and the sacraments are really wonderful gifts of God in Jesus, but it is their combination in the mass that has been so inspiring to the church all these years.
So at mass the proclamation of God’s Word in Scripture feeds us no less than does God’s gift to us in Holy Communion. “To hear the teaching of the Father and learn from it is to come to me”, Jesus says today. This is bread of life, food for the journey. We must eat it regularly. Eucharistic food is normally only found inside the church. It is “dine-in only”, as it were. Whereas the scriptural food is of the “takeaway” variety. Indeed we really should take nourishment from Scripture during the week.
We considered a little bit last week how to prepare to receive Holy Communion, particularly by participating reverently in the Holy Communion procession. We need likewise, to take care as to how we use God’s Holy Scripture. We are not reading a newspaper or a novel, we are using sacred texts to allow God all to share life with us. We should read small manageable passages so that God can speak to us between the lines, as it were. When we finish reading the passage we shouldn’t just close the book and walk away. We need to pause and reflect and see if there is anything that stands out for us which would be a sign that God is speaking to us.
Equally, it is good to prepare for the Sunday proclamation of God’s word by reading the passages before we come to church. I don’t think it’s humanly possible to comprehend all God might wish to say to us in the Sunday readings by just turning up on the day and listening to them being read out. I mean if I listen to a news broadcast what do I come away with? Probably, that Donald Trump has done something horrible somewhere in the world, that Boris Johnson has been rude about someone and that Jeremy Corbin has been attacked by yet another member of his party - but not much more! To get more I have to go away and read a little bit about it.
So read the Sunday readings at least another time, ideally before the Sunday but if not, then why not after? Take the newsletter perhaps, or access them on the internet. Even my sermon goes on the parish website every week! Anyway it should be possible one way or another to pray the scripture later on in the day or the week. But that’s the expression – PRAY the Scripture. Encounter God in the dialogue. Encounter the Almighty!  Wow!
So receive Jesus under both kinds – not just bread and wine but Word and Sacrament, and do it often and regularly. That’s this week’s focus in the teaching about Jesus as The Bread Of Life.
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