Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Food That Endures

This week, the third week of Easter, the Gospel readings are from Chapter 6 of St. John's Gospel, where Jesus says, "I AM the Bread of Life." The interpretation of this passage is very different between Catholics and Protestants. While Protestants think it has merely a symbolic or spiritual meaning, Catholics believe that Jesus meant exactly what He said. I think it is pretty ironic that fundamentalists fail in this one instance to take a passage of scripture literally. They rely on one verse taken in isolation to prove their interpretation. "It is the spirit that gives life, the flesh is of no avail; the words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life." (John 6:63) Jesus speaks here of flesh that is corrupt. It is for this reason that the flesh is of no avail. But Jesus' flesh is incorrupt because of his obedience. Jesus,

"though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form he humbled himself and became obedient unto death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father." ~ Philippians 2:6-11

Jesus humbly took on human flesh to redeem it. Because He chose to be obedient to the Father - doing the will of the Father in this world - Jesus was raised up - body, blood, soul and divinity - on a cross to die. But that is not the end. Because of His obedience, God also highly exalted Him by raising Him from the dead - body, blood, soul and divinity. Jesus redeemed us in His flesh and the Father transformed His flesh through the Resurrection.

Before we get too far ahead of ourselves, let us stop and look at Monday's reading:
Monday of the 3rd Week of Easter - John 6:22-29
[After Jesus had fed the five thousand men, his disciples saw him walking on the sea.] On the next day the people who remained on the other side of the sea saw that there had been only one boat there, and that Jesus had not entered the boat with his disciples, but that his disciples had gone away alone. However, boats from Tiber'i-as came near the place where they ate the bread after the Lord had given thanks. So when the people saw that Jesus was not there, nor his disciples, they themselves got into the boats and went to Caper'na-um, seeking Jesus. When they found him on the other side of the sea, they said to him, "Rabbi, when did you come here?" Jesus answered them, "Truly, truly, I say to you, you seek me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves. Do not labor for the food which perishes, but for the food which endures to eternal life, which the Son of man will give to you; for on him has God the Father set his seal." Then they said to him, "What must we do, to be doing the works of God?"  Jesus answered them, "This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent." 
The passage says that the people were seeking Jesus. Were they truly seeking Him? Pretty soon, we will see that they will have had their belly full of Jesus' teaching and they will walk away. In fact, Jesus had called them through the miracle of the loaves and fishes, but they seek Him now only to feed the hunger of their flesh. They had not seen the sign and followed Him. They had seen the sign and followed the sign. They were like birds following a trail of bread crumbs only to find that the trail ended and they had to find more crumbs. How often are we like these people, getting so caught up in the process of life that we forget the goal?

Though some people act like it, the goal of life is not to get a better job, a fancier car, a bigger house, or win the lottery. That is worldliness - a corruption of the flesh. Life's goal isn't to purchase the clothes we wear, to pay our bills, or even to buy the groceries. That is just the process of survival of the flesh - the stuff of the world. But God did not make humanity for that. We were made for a life that is eternal. It is the sin of our first parents, Adam and Eve, that brought death into the world.

But Jesus tells us that the goal of life is not death. It is eternal, and if we are to reach that goal, we must believe in Him. The real process of life is growing in relationship with Him. We are designed with a soul which seeks a food that does not perish - a food that leads to eternal life. Jesus tells us that He is the one who will give us that food and that to have it, we must believe in Him and that what He says is true. Faith itself is not the food, but it is the prerequisite. Faith is the work of God - purely grace - preceded by the gift of His Love. "For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life." (John 3:16)  

The lesson of John 6:22-29 is multi-layered. It calls us to faith. It is faith that asks us to believe:

  • God is a Father.
  • The Father has a Son.
  • God sent His Son into the world.
  • The Son of God took on flesh, becoming a man in history - the Son of Man.
  • The Son of Man is the Son of God in the flesh.
  • The Son has the authority of the Father for on Him the Father has set His seal.
  • The work of God is faith - belief in the Son He sent.
  • We must seek a food that does not perish
  • The Son will give us the food that does not perish.
  • The food that the Son gives will bring us eternal life.

So let us set our sight on the goal which is eternal. Let us follow Jesus, not the world. He came that we may have life and He will give us the food for the journey. It is the food that endures to eternal life.

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