Saturday, February 6, 2016

You both know Me, and you know where I am from; and I have not come of Myself, but He who sent Me is true, whom you do not know


 Now about the middle of the feast Jesus went up into the temple and taught.  And the Jews marveled, saying, "How does this Man know letters, having never studied?"  Jesus answered them and said, "My doctrine is not Mine, but His who sent Me.  If anyone wills to do His will, he shall know concerning the doctrine, whether it is from God or whether I speak on My own authority.  He who speaks from himself seeks his own glory; but He who seeks the glory of the One who sent Him is true, and no unrighteousness is in Him.  Did not Moses give you the law, yet none of you keeps the law?  Why do you seek to kill Me?"  The people answered and said, "You have a demon.  Who is seeking to kill You?"  Jesus answered and said to them, "I did one work, and you all marvel.  Moses therefore gave you circumcision (not that it is from Moses, but from the fathers), and you circumcise a man on the Sabbath.  If a man receives circumcision on the Sabbath, so that the law of Moses should not be broken, are you angry with Me because I made a man completely well on the Sabbath?  Do not judge according to appearance, but judge with righteous judgment."

Now some of them from Jerusalem said, "Is this not He whom they seek to kill?  But look!  He speaks boldly, and they say nothing to Him.  Do the rulers know indeed that this is truly the Christ?  However, we know where this Man is from; but when the Christ comes, no one knows where He is from."  Then Jesus cried out, as He taught in the temple, saying, "You both know Me, and you know where I am from; and I have not come of Myself, but He who sent Me is true, whom you do not know.  But I know Him, for I am from Him, and He sent Me."  Therefore they sought to take Him; but no one laid a hand on Him, because His hour had not yet come.  And many of the people believed in Him, and said, "When the Christ comes, will He do more signs than these which this Man has done?"

The Pharisees heard the crowd murmuring these things concerning Him, and the Pharisees and the chief priests sent officers to take Him.  Then Jesus said to them, "I shall be with you a little while longer, and then I go to Him who sent Me.  You will seek Me and not find Me, and where I am you cannot come."  Then the Jews said among themselves, "Where does He intend to go that we shall not find Him?  Does He intend to go to the Dispersion among the Greeks and teach the Greeks?  What is this thing that He said, 'You will seek Me and not find Me, and where I am you cannot come'?"

- John 7:14-36

In yesterday's reading, we learned of Jesus' choice to remain in Galilee; for He did not want to walk in Judea, because the religious leaders sought to kill Him.  Now the Jews' Feast of Tabernacles was at hand.  His brothers therefore said to Him, "Depart from here and go to Judea, that Your disciples also may see the works that You are doing.  For no one does anything in secret while he himself seeks to be known openly.  If You do these things, show Yourself to the world."  For even His brothers did not believe Him.  Then Jesus said to them, "My time has not yet come, but your time is always ready.  The world cannot hate you, but it hates Me because I testify of it that its works are evil.  You go up to this feast.  I am not yet going up to this feast, for My time has not yet fully come."  When He had said these things to them, He remained in Galilee.  But when His brothers had gone up, then He also went up to the feast, not openly, but as it were in secret.  Then the Jews sought Him at the feast, and said, "Where is He?"  And there was much complaining among the people concerning Him.  Some said, "He is good"; others said, "No, on the contrary, He deceives the people."  However, no one spoke openly of Him for fear of the Jews.

  Now about the middle of the feast Jesus went up into the temple and taught.  And the Jews marveled, saying, "How does this Man know letters, having never studied?"  Jesus answered them and said, "My doctrine is not Mine, but His who sent Me.  If anyone wills to do His will, he shall know concerning the doctrine, whether it is from God or whether I speak on My own authority.  He who speaks from himself seeks his own glory; but He who seeks the glory of the One who sent Him is true, and no unrighteousness is in Him.  Did not Moses give you the law, yet none of you keeps the law?  Why do you seek to kill Me?"  The people answered and said, "You have a demon.  Who is seeking to kill You?"  Jesus answered and said to them, "I did one work, and you all marvel.  Moses therefore gave you circumcision (not that it is from Moses, but from the fathers), and you circumcise a man on the Sabbath.  If a man receives circumcision on the Sabbath, so that the law of Moses should not be broken, are you angry with Me because I made a man completely well on the Sabbath?  Do not judge according to appearance, but judge with righteous judgment."  Here is the great question:  where does Jesus' authority come from?  He speaks with a kind of authority that comes from Himself, not from having studied with a great rabbi, nor from being approved of in some official capacity.  There's an implicit question here:  how can people recognize the truth in Him?  My study bible notes that the simple desire to know and follow God's will is the key to understanding here, as Jesus says.  And there's a question of whose particular glory one is seeking:  one's own, or God's?  It comes down to where our heart is, what (or Who) we truly love.  My study bible says, "Spiritual blindness comes from unwillingness to know God or to recognize His authority."  It quotes John Chrysostom, who paraphrases Christ as follows:  "Rid yourselves of wickedness; the anger, the envy, and the hatred which have arisen in your hearts, without provocation against Me.  Then you will have no difficulty in realizing that My words are actually those of God.  As it is, these passions darken your understanding and distort sound judgment.  If you remove these passions, you will no longer be afflicted in this way."  In these verses, Jesus refers back to His healing of the paralytic on the Sabbath during the Jewish Feast of Pentecost, near the Sheep Gate of the temple.  At that time Jesus was accused because He told the paralytic to "take up your bed and walk," thereby telling him to carry a burden, forbidden in rabbinical teachings.

Now some of them from Jerusalem said, "Is this not He whom they seek to kill?  But look!  He speaks boldly, and they say nothing to Him.  Do the rulers know indeed that this is truly the Christ?  However, we know where this Man is from; but when the Christ comes, no one knows where He is from."  Then Jesus cried out, as He taught in the temple, saying, "You both know Me, and you know where I am from; and I have not come of Myself, but He who sent Me is true, whom you do not know.  But I know Him, for I am from Him, and He sent Me."  Therefore they sought to take Him; but no one laid a hand on Him, because His hour had not yet come.  And many of the people believed in Him, and said, "When the Christ comes, will He do more signs than these which this Man has done?"   My study bible tells us that the crowds are mistaken in saying they know where this Man is from, both in a earthly sense and a divine sense.  In His human birth, they think Jesus is from Nazareth in Galilee, and are unaware that He's actually born in Bethlehem.  Moreover, they can't comprehend His statements that He's come from the Father in Heaven, and as Son is eternally begotten -- His divine origin also remains unknown.  Jesus once again returns to the theme that knowing and loving God the Father means the capacity to know Him.  When Jesus says that His hour has not yet come, He's speaking of the time of His suffering and death.  He goes to the Cross voluntarily in the time set by God, not according to the plots of human beings.

The Pharisees heard the crowd murmuring these things concerning Him, and the Pharisees and the chief priests sent officers to take Him.  Then Jesus said to them, "I shall be with you a little while longer, and then I go to Him who sent Me.  You will seek Me and not find Me, and where I am you cannot come."  Then the Jews said among themselves, "Where does He intend to go that we shall not find Him?  Does He intend to go to the Dispersion among the Greeks and teach the Greeks?  What is this thing that He said, 'You will seek Me and not find Me, and where I am you cannot come'?"  We who know His story understand where He will go; He's referring to His death, Resurrection, and Ascension into heaven.  To go among the Greeks means to go among the Gentiles.  My study bible calls this an unwitting prophecy, pointing to the time after His Ascension when Christ's name will be preached among the Gentiles  by the apostles.

It's kind of astonishing to read Jesus' words as He speaks the bold truth to everyone who is listening -- to the people who are at the temple for the Festival (it is the Feast of Tabernacles, or Sukkot).  This is an autumn harvest festival, lasting eight days, and commemorates the time the Israelites spent living in tents (or tabernacles), wandering in the Sinai, on their way to the promised land.  As such, it is a feast of the coming kingdom.  But Christ is the One who brings the Kingdom into the world, and He speaks His truth here at the temple.  Where is He from?  And where is He going?  Do they know Him or understand Him?  At the previous festival (the Jewish Pentecost, the Feast of Weeks) He healed a paralytic, and told him to take up his bed and walk.  We know of the great works He's done, and the people testify to that as well.  But where does He get His understanding and authority?  Who does He think He is?  Do the leaders know something that they're keeping from the people?  Why can't they arrest Him?  Questions swirl around Jesus, reflected in the crowds and all the varying opinions of the people.  In the midst, the leadership want to kill Him.  He knows this, although people call Him mad.  So many different opinions and impulses are in these crowds and among the people, from the leadership, from His hearers.  But where is the truth?  Jesus declares the truth about Himself, sparking all the speculation and division.  He's boldly done His good works, only to be challenged and condemned for doing so on a Sabbath.  But nothing stops the mission.  Somehow His faith and His work is not just about the people there present at the festival.  It's not just about the leadership, nor the people He heals, nor any who behold His great works.  What Jesus is doing is for the life of the world:  those who are to come, who came before, who are everywhere and not just there among the Jews.  The mission goes beyond all limits that we can know or understand; His Resurrection and Ascension are for a "world" -- cosmos in the Greek,  all of Creation, the universe and everything in it.  The truth He tells here reveals mysteries unimaginable to these crowds.  And yet, there are those who believe, who come to faith.  Somehow we're all in there in that crowd, in this picture at the temple.  We may be presented with mysteries that are beyond us.  We may not be capable of understanding everything about Christ, of knowing all about where He comes from and what His true nature is.  But we can understand what He says when He teaches that we are to judge with good judgment, that the letter of any received teaching cannot override the healing love of God, the goodness of His works, the fullness in an act of pure restoration of a human being to his life.  The least of us can know what it is to love God, and to respond to God's love for us.  That goes beyond words and education, beyond worldly authority.  Is goes to the heart.  This is the place where Christ communicates with us, the place these legalistic rulers bound up in their own jealously guarded places cannot reach.  The love of God, as Jesus teaches it, roots us to a place where truth draws us and gives us hope. leads us beyond what we know and can immediately grasp.  But the real "gravity" of God, the great drawing power of Christ, is bound up in love.  Hope, truth, goodness, and life itself are bound up in that love, and that is what draws the world back to its Maker, the One who wants what's best for us, always.   There will always be envy to contend with.  There will always be the things that seek to get in the way.  But we know where our heart is focused, and that takes us forward through all things.  This is "righteous judgment."





Friday, February 5, 2016

The world cannot hate you, but it hates Me because I testify of it that its works are evil


 After these things Jesus walked in Galilee; for He did not want to walk in Judea, because the Jews sought to kill Him.  Now the Jews' Feast of Tabernacles was at hand.  His brothers therefore said to Him, "Depart from here and go to Judea, that Your disciples also may see the works that You are doing.  For no one does anything in secret while he himself seeks to be known openly.  If You do these things, show Yourself to the world."  For even His brothers did not believe Him.  Then Jesus said to them, "My time has not yet come, but your time is always ready.  The world cannot hate you, but it hates Me because I testify of it that its works are evil.  You go up to this feast.  I am not yet going up to this feast, for My time has not yet fully come."  When He had said these things to them, He remained in Galilee.

But when His brothers had gone up, then He also went up to the feast, not openly, but as it were in secret.  Then the Jews sought Him at the feast, and said, "Where is He?"  And there was much complaining among the people concerning Him.  Some said, "He is good"; others said, "No, on the contrary, He deceives the people."  However, no one spoke openly of Him for fear of the Jews.

- John 7:1-13

Over the course of the past several readings, a great dialogue has taken place as Jesus has taught about Himself as the "bread of life."  It began with the feeding of five thousand men, plus women and children (the fourth sign in John's Gospel) after which they wanted to forcefully make Him king.  He eluded the crowd (the fifth sign in the Gospel, Jesus walked on the water to His disciples).  When the people found Him in Capernaum, He began to teach them that they must labor for the food which endures to everlasting life, not that which perishes.  To work the works of God, said Jesus, is to have faith in Him.  Jesus taught that He is the bread of life, and those who partake through faith He wishes to raise with Him to everlasting life.  That bread that He will give is His flesh, which He will give for the life of the world.  He taught,"He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood abides in Me, and I in him."   Therefore many of His disciples, when they heard this, said, "This is a hard saying; who can understand it?"  When Jesus knew in Himself that His disciples complained about this, He said to them, "Does this offend you?  What then if you should see the Son of Man ascend where He was before?  It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing.  The words that I speak to you are spirit, and they are life.  But there are some of you who do not believe."  For Jesus knew from the beginning who they were who did not believe, and who would betray Him.  And He said, "Therefore I have said to you that no one can come to Me unless it has been granted to him by My Father."  From that time many of His disciples went back and walked with Him no more.  Then Jesus said to the twelve, "Do you also want to go away?"  But Simon Peter answered Him, "Lord, to whom shall we go?  You have the words of eternal life.  Also we have come to believe and know that You are the Christ, the Son of the living God."  Jesus answered them, "Did I not choose you, the twelve, and one of you is a devil?"  He spoke of Judas Iscariot, the son of Simon, for it was he who would betray Him, being one of the twelve.

 After these things Jesus walked in Galilee; for He did not want to walk in Judea, because the Jews sought to kill Him.  Now the Jews' Feast of Tabernacles was at hand.   The next section of John's Gospel (extending through a little more than three chapters) will deal with Jesus' visit to the temple in Jerusalem for the Feast of Tabernacles.  This feast (also known as succoth or sukkot) figures prominently in the Gospels as a kind of backdrop, a reminder of the events of the Old Testament that prefigure Christ and work as a "type" of Christ, for which Jesus is the fulfillment.    The Feast of Tabernacles is an eight-day autumn harvest festival, which commemorates the time when Israel wandered int eh wilderness of Sinai and people lived in tents (or "tabernacles").   With Passover and Pentecost (Feast of Weeks), this was one of the three most important festivals of the ancient Jews.  It included many sacrifices and celebrations (see Leviticus 23:33-43).  Various aspects of this feast, such as drawing water from the pool of Siloam, or the lighting of great lamps in the outer court of the temple, will figure in the teachings of Jesus over the next few chapters.  We are given to know that this is the final year of Jesus' ministry.  His fame has spread; He is teaching in the temple and has attracted a great deal of public attention, as my study bible puts it.   We remember that the term "the Jews" is used to designate not the people, but the religious leadership, who by now consider Jesus to be a threat.

His brothers therefore said to Him, "Depart from here and go to Judea, that Your disciples also may see the works that You are doing.  For no one does anything in secret while he himself seeks to be known openly.  If You do these things, show Yourself to the world."  For even His brothers did not believe Him.  Then Jesus said to them, "My time has not yet come, but your time is always ready.  The world cannot hate you, but it hates Me because I testify of it that its works are evil.  You go up to this feast.  I am not yet going up to this feast, for My time has not yet fully come."  When He had said these things to them, He remained in Galilee.   Jesus' "brothers" are extended family, kin in Galilee.  They taunt Him to prove to the world who He is.  When Jesus speak of His "time" this is usually to designate the time of  His "glory" -- Passion, Crucifixion, death, Resurrection.

But when His brothers had gone up, then He also went up to the feast, not openly, but as it were in secret.  Then the Jews sought Him at the feast, and said, "Where is He?"  And there was much complaining among the people concerning Him.  Some said, "He is good"; others said, "No, on the contrary, He deceives the people."  However, no one spoke openly of Him for fear of the Jews.  Jesus goes to the feast in the manner of a pilgrim -- "not openly" means not with grand, public display or entrance such as on Palm Sunday (John 12:12-16).   The leadership seeks Him at the feast, and the crowds speak about Him in expectation.  We hear the people like a Greek chorus:  they are divided about Him, some thinking Him good, others as a deceiver.  But all are afraid to speak openly for fear of the religious leaders.

It's interesting to think about the struggles that went on in Jesus' life.  Here, His own relatives don't really believe in what He's teaching -- at least about His own identity.  In tomorrow's reading we'll be given to understand that there are those (at the festival) who think He's mad.  Here, His own kin taunt Him about going to the festival and showing Himself.  The leadership feel threatened by Him and already want to do away with Him.  It's very easy to ignore and to forget about the kinds of things that went on during Jesus' public ministry.  We focus, properly, on His actions, His teachings, His voluntary sacrifice and death on the Cross, and the Resurrection.  But we might all too easily overlook the struggles with which Jesus had to grapple.  We can't really ignore the fact that one of His own chosen disciples was "a devil," as He said in yesterday's reading -- one who would betray Him.   These struggles are important for many reasons, and we can't just ignore them as we are so wont to do.  Somehow there persists a notion that having faith in Christ will convey to us a simply easy life, one in which we are always welcomed, or privy to the things that we desire, whatever they are.  Telling the truth doesn't necessarily make us popular and well-liked.   I don't believe the Gospels give us such a message, but there are particular ways in which we receive a spiritual blessedness, and the gifts of the Spirit.  These are blessings that don't necessarily have much to do with a successful social or worldly life.  And as blessings they do come even as the result of struggling with obstacles, in faith, just as Jesus does in His example to us all.  In Galatians 5:22, St. Paul names the fruit of the Spirit as including love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.  If we look at each of these virtues, we can see how challenging experiences can be opportunities to help build and experience them.  Of course, every situation is an opportunity for choice, one way and another, but the fruit of the Spirit comes from passing through things with faith, and seeking to understand God's way through whatever it is we are blessed to deal with in life, "good" or "bad."  Altogether, there is a balance here that we need to see:  Jesus Himself does not live a charmed, perfect life in the sense that there is no trouble nor difficulty.  Everybody does not respond to Him with love or faith.  And I can't help but wonder -- as many have before me -- how that hurts the heart of Christ, even the love of God the Father.  After all, everything in the Gospels points to the great love that God (Father, Son, and Spirit) has for us, and the great desire for us to simply return that love.  It's got to be enough for us to know how much we are loved, and in that knowledge we must see our lives in a particular way.  In that light, challenges can come to mean that we may have depths we don't know about:  of creativity and resourcefulness, of hope and strength, of patience and forbearance.  We may learn we've got wells of kindness even when the world isn't kind to us.  And we just might discover the capacity to love someone who has not perfectly loved us.  In that way, we do become God-like, and that might just be the most important thing of all.




Thursday, February 4, 2016

Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life


 Therefore many of His disciples, when they heard this, said, "This is a hard saying; who can understand it?"  When Jesus knew in Himself that His disciples complained about this, He said to them, "Does this offend you?  What then if you should see the Son of Man ascend where He was before?  It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing.  The words that I speak to you are spirit, and they are life.  But there are some of you who do not believe."  For Jesus knew from the beginning who they were who did not believe, and who would betray Him.  And He said, "Therefore I have said to you that no one can come to Me unless it has been granted to him by My Father."  From that time many of His disciples went back and walked with Him no more.  Then Jesus said to the twelve, "Do you also want to go away?"  But Simon Peter answered Him, "Lord, to whom shall we go?  You have the words of eternal life.  Also we have come to believe and know that You are the Christ, the Son of the living God."  Jesus answered them, "Did I not choose you, the twelve, and one of you is a devil?"  He spoke of Judas Iscariot, the son of Simon, for it was he who would betray Him, being one of the twelve. 

- John 6:60-71

The past several readings have taken us from the fourth sign in John's Gospel (the feeding of five thousand men, plus women and children), to their desire to forcefully make Him king, which He eluded (the fifth sign in the Gospel is Jesus walking on the water to His disciples).  When the people found Him in Capernaum, He began to teach them that they must labor for the food which endures to everlasting life, not that which perishes.  To work the works of God, said Jesus, is to have faith in Him.  Jesus taught that He is the bread of life, and those who partake through faith He wishes to raise with Him to everlasting life.  That bread that He will give is His flesh, which He will give for the life of the world.  Therefore the local religious leaders quarreled among themselves, saying, "How can this Man give us His flesh to eat?"  Then Jesus said to them, "Most assuredly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in you.  Whoever eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day.  For My flesh is food indeed, and My blood is drink indeed.  He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood abides in Me, and I in him.  As the living Father sent Me, and I live because of the Father, so he who feeds on Me will live because of Me.  This is the bread which came down from heaven -- not as your fathers ate the manna, and are dead.  He who eats this bread will live forever."  These things He said in the synagogue as He taught in Capernaum.

 Therefore many of His disciples, when they heard this, said, "This is a hard saying; who can understand it?"  When Jesus knew in Himself that His disciples complained about this, He said to them, "Does this offend you?  What then if you should see the Son of Man ascend where He was before?  It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing.  The words that I speak to you are spirit, and they are life.  But there are some of you who do not believe."  For Jesus knew from the beginning who they were who did not believe, and who would betray Him.   Jesus has been speaking in a Eucharistic sense, teaching about eating His flesh and drinking His blood, a hard saying so difficult for His disciples to grasp.  He has taught about this food that gives everlasting life; it is a food of Himself that includes the reality of Christ's life, death, and Resurrection -- imparting that to us so that He abides in us, and we in Him.  Here, He extend that spirit of Resurrection to something more:  the words He speaks.  And He teaches us about the Spirit, the root of all life; in His words (and in the words of an Orthodox prayer) the giver of life.  Words spoken in spirit are words of life. St Paul has written about the word of God that it is "living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart"  (Hebrews 4:12).

And He said, "Therefore I have said to you that no one can come to Me unless it has been granted to him by My Father."  From that time many of His disciples went back and walked with Him no more.   Here again is reiterated the inseparability of God the Father with all of Jesus' work, and even from our faith in Christ.

Then Jesus said to the twelve, "Do you also want to go away?"  But Simon Peter answered Him, "Lord, to whom shall we go?  You have the words of eternal life.  Also we have come to believe and know that You are the Christ, the Son of the living God. Jesus answered them, "Did I not choose you, the twelve, and one of you is a devil?"  He spoke of Judas Iscariot, the son of Simon, for it was he who would betray Him, being one of the twelve.  Again, Peter's explanation comes back to the compelling nature of Christ, the rootedness in the faith he experiences, "You have the words of eternal life."

Christ's response to Peter is, to say the least, an intriguing one.  It's a kind of important crossroads noted here.  Peter's affirmation and confession of his faith, as he speaks for the twelve, is a turning point.  He confesses that Jesus is "the Christ, the Son of the living God."  But Jesus' next words should make us all take note.  It's not an expression of joy for the twelve, but one that stings and haunts, and gives us yet new questions:  "Did I not choose you, the twelve, and one of you is a devil?"  How can Jesus choose one "who is a devil"?  Whatever we might speculate about such a question, the facts are clear, as Jesus states them.  There is a problem with one of His chosen twelve, and even at this point of great faith expressed in Peter's confession, we see a time of choice, a parting, a definite decision.  One of them is going another way, and ultimately will not choose this faith. We know that he will, in fact, be Jesus' betrayer.  Already the seeds are sown for what will come later.   Jesus moves forward in His ministry, the tough choices beginning, losing disciples over His "hard sayings," difficult teachings, truths that comes with hurdles one way and another.  But Judas isn't just one of the disciples who goes away.  He's one who will betray Christ to those who wish to kill Him.  "Devil" in the Greek also carries with it a meaning of "slanderer," a false accuser, one who makes accusations in order to destroy.  If we look closely, we see the important associations of Christ with truth; one who makes a false accusation, a slanderer, is therefore opposed to Christ on many levels.  This sort of action is meant to destroy a person, not to correct an evil nor to protect the innocent.  By contrast, Christ's mission to the world has been to save, out of love.   It is important to understand the nature of our faith, what we put faith in.  Faith, akin to trust, creates a kind of alliance.  So much depends on our choices.  In the opposition of a "devil" to Christ, we come to understand the nature of the reality we either embrace, or not.  We ally with the One who was betrayed by one of His own.  We might come to experience a similar sort of treatment in sharing that life with Christ.  But Jesus knows what is happening.  He speaks the truth boldly, and lets the "chips fall where they may," so to speak.  All things are in the hands of the Father; there will be those who choose to follow His truth, and those who do not.  And then there is the "devil," the one who will slander, even though he was chosen by Christ.  The Gospel gives us a picture of the world as it is, not how we would wish it to be.  It doesn't fill us with false promises of a fairy tale life.  It doesn't give us simplistic solutions in place of the difficult things.  But it does give us a true picture of the spiritual reality in which we live, the hope of Christ, the faith in love and truth -- a faith that works through all things.  It offers us the "good fight" together with the One who has come to save and to liberate.  And that is everything.








Wednesday, February 3, 2016

He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood abides in Me, and I in him


 The Jews therefore quarreled among themselves, saying, "How can this Man give us His flesh to eat?"  Then Jesus said to them, "Most assuredly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in you.  Whoever eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day.  For My flesh is food indeed, and My blood is drink indeed.  He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood abides in Me, and I in him.  As the living Father sent Me, and I live because of the Father, so he who feeds on Me will live because of Me.  This is the bread which came down from heaven -- not as your fathers ate the manna, and are dead.  He who eats this bread will live forever."  These things He said in the synagogue as He taught in Capernaum.

- John 6:52-59

In recent readings, Jesus has fed five thousand men, and more women and children, in the fourth sign of Jesus divinity in the Gospel.  After this, the crowd wanted to forcefully make Him king.  He eluded them (the fifth sign, walking on water), and came to Capernaum where eventually they found Him, and He began to teach that they must labor for the food which endures to everlasting life.  To work the work of God, He said, was to have faith in Him.  Jesus taught that He Himself is the bread of life.  In yesterday's reading, we read that the local religious leadership then complained about Him, because He said, "I am the bread which came down from heaven."  And they said, "Is not this Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know?  How is it then that He says, 'I have come down from heaven'?"  Jesus therefore answered and said to 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.'  Therefore everyone who has heard and learned from the Father comes to Me.  Not that anyone has seen the Father, except He who is from God; He has seen the Father.  Most assuredly, I say to you, he who believes in Me has everlasting life.  I am the bread of life.  Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and are dead.  This is the bread which comes down from heaven, that one may eat of it and not die.  I am the living bread which came down from heaven.  If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever; and the bread that I shall give is My flesh, which I shall give for the life of the world."

  The Jews therefore quarreled among themselves, saying, "How can this Man give us His flesh to eat?"  Then Jesus said to them, "Most assuredly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in you.  Whoever eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day.  For My flesh is food indeed, and My blood is drink indeed."  Once again, in John's Gospel, the term "the Jews" is used as a sort of political party name representing the religious leadership, not all Jewish people.   It's reflective of the struggles of the period in which the Gospel was written.  With very few exceptions, all the people in the Gospel, including Jesus and His disciples (and the author of the Gospel) are Jews.  And the Gospel here does something it does frequently:  it takes us from the mundane to the divine, the things of which Jesus speaks and that He is offering to the people.  It all depends on perception.  "How can this Man give us His flesh to eat?" teaches us about the perplexity with which His words are greeted, and a different insight needed into His teachings in order to understand them and grasp what is on offer.  Plainly, Jesus is talking about the Eucharist, already a fixture of the Church for those who would be hearing the Gospel at the time it was written.  For those who understand in faith, these words are an affirmation of the reality of the Eucharistic practice.  But these words, this teaching, is also taking us somewhere. 

"He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood abides in Me, and I in him.  As the living Father sent Me, and I live because of the Father, so he who feeds on Me will live because of Me.  This is the bread which came down from heaven -- not as your fathers ate the manna, and are dead.  He who eats this bread will live forever."  These things He said in the synagogue as He taught in Capernaum.   When Jesus speaks here about eating His flesh and drinking His blood, when He teaches about abiding in those who do so, He isn't speaking only of the time of His human life and ministry, but also of His Crucifixion and Resurrection.  What is being consumed, is that which gives eternal life:  flesh and bled were crucified and shed and He was raised on the third day in a glorified state.  This is what we receive, and what grants the eternal life that is His to those who partake in faith.  Where we are "going" is with Him, abiding in Him, as even we are free as we live in this world to obtain the bread of heaven.  We go further -- Jesus takes us further -- not just into an eternal life with Him, but a life in which we abide in Him and He in us; that is, a life of the closest possible relationship.

Jesus teaches us about Eucharist, and more.  At the time this Gospel was written, its hearers already knew about the institution of the Eucharist at the Last Supper.  But His teachings give us so much more here.  As He has been crucified and risen, so our practice in faith is a sacrament in which He promises that life for us; He will raise us with Himself.  But there is so much more to it:  even as we live in the world, He abides in us and we in Him.  This is a relationship closer than every other.  It is about a kind of total dependency for this sort of life that He offers, and it's a two-way dependency.  He is within us, we are within Him.  It is a promise of love that goes as deep as it can go, touches us in all aspects of our lives and our selves:  spiritual, material, psychological, in all that we know.  It colors all aspects of our lives and it can give meaning to each moment, because each moment is part of a continuing reality.   If we take a closer look at His words, we see how emphatic they are.   The word for flesh is one that indicates clearly He's not just talking about some vague concept of an ethereal, spiritual kind of flesh; this is something that incorporates every single element of our lives, and His life, and leaves nothing out.  He says, "I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in you."   Not only does He offer life in abundance (John 10:10), but here He's saying that unless we do this, we have no life in us.  Life itself is in the hand of God; without this we don't really experience life -- we don't have it in ourselves.  There's clearly a connection between the divine source of life and what we are capable of having within us here.  And it's also an indication of the nature of the gift:  we have the freedom, the capacity, to refuse it.  But if we do so, we are refusing life itself, what it means to truly have life within us.  Christ offers the hope of resurrection, and He calls that life.  This isn't just a resurrection to eternal life He's speaking about, but a kind of resurrection that lives in us, abides in us, all the time.  Life in us gives us myriad possibilities in all circumstances.  It offers us transcendence of limitation, a perspective on our lives in the here and now.  It is an invitation to experience joy, fullness, beauty, goodness, love, and all the virtues that are the fruits of the Spirit and the kind of life He is offering.  He gives us a constant hope that abides in us in the here and the now.  Even our suffering has meaning with this life in us, because every kind of suffering has -- with God -- a kind of transcendence and a hope in it, of what our faith gives us at that time.  What He offers us in this life He's giving, is something that is inexhaustible in its possibilities for us.  As many stories of faith that we may find or hear, those are only a small handful representing what is on offer.  They do not limit us.  Eternal life is the promise; that is, a life not limited to the things we think we already know, the rules we know, the certainties we know -- not a dead-end, but open-ended and certain in His love.  That's what's on offer here, and beyond what we can grasp.  Let us consider the inexhaustible Gift, and what He brings us.   Think of all the signs of Christ which point beyond what we think we know, and consider what it is that then abides in us.




Tuesday, February 2, 2016

The bread that I shall give is My flesh, which I shall give for the life of the world


 The Jews then complained about Him, because He said, "I am the bread which came down from heaven."  And they said, "Is not this Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know?  How is it then that He says, 'I have come down from heaven'?"  Jesus therefore answered and said to 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.'  Therefore everyone who has heard and learned from the Father comes to Me.  Not that anyone has seen the Father, except He who is from God; He has seen the Father.  Most assuredly, I say to you, he who believes in Me has everlasting life.  I am the bread of life.  Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and are dead.  This is the bread which comes down from heaven, that one may eat of it and not die.  I am the living bread which came down from heaven.  If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever; and the bread that I shall give is My flesh, which I shall give for the life of the world."

- John 6:41-51

In yesterday's reading, Jesus was speaking to the crowds that followed Him after the feeding of five thousand men (and more women and children).  They had wanted to forcefully make Him king, but He eluded them.  He said, "Do not labor for the food which perishes, but for the food which endures to everlasting life, which the Son of Man will give you, because God the Father has set His seal on Him."  Then they said to Him, "What shall we do, that we may work the works of God?"  Jesus answered and said to them, "This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He sent."  Therefore they said to Him, "What sign will You perform then, that we may see it and believe You?  What work will You do?  Our fathers ate the manna in the desert; as it is written, 'He gave them bread from heaven to eat.'"  Then Jesus said to them, "Most assuredly, I say to you, Moses did not give you the bread from heaven, but My Father gives you the true bread from heaven.  For the bread of God is He who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world."  Then they said to Him, "Lord give us this bread always."  And Jesus said to them, "I am the bread of life.  He who comes to Me shall never hunger, and he who believes in Me shall never thirst.  But I said to you that you have seen Me and yet do not believe.  All that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will by no means cast out.  For I have come down from heaven, not to do My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me.  This is the will of the Father who sent Me, that of all He has given Me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up at the last day.  And this is the will of Him who sent Me, that everyone who sees the Son and believes in Him may have everlasting life; and I will raise him up at the last day."

 The Jews then complained about Him, because He said, "I am the bread which came down from heaven."  And they said, "Is not this Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know?  How is it then that He says, 'I have come down from heaven'?"  Jesus therefore answered and said to 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.'  Therefore everyone who has heard and learned from the Father comes to Me.  Not that anyone has seen the Father, except He who is from God; He has seen the Father."   We remember that the term "the Jews" generally is used in John's Gospel to denote religious leadership.  Here, there are echoes of scenes from the synagogue in His hometown (see, for example Luke 4:14-35).  We remember that here He is among people who know Him and His extended family, in Galilee.   Here Jesus quotes from the prophesy of Isaiah (54:13).   This is a kind of repetition of the statements in yesterday's reading, but the verses ask us to look closer, and to see many connections.  How are we drawn by the Father to Christ, to know Jesus, to really see and perceive?

"Most assuredly, I say to you, he who believes in Me has everlasting life.  I am the bread of life.  Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and are dead.  This is the bread which comes down from heaven, that one may eat of it and not die.  I am the living bread which came down from heaven.  If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever; and the bread that I shall give is My flesh, which I shall give for the life of the world."  He can state it no more plainly:  He is the living bread which came down from heaven.  It is a plainly eucharistic statement, giving meaning to the sacrament and its institution, already known to those who would have received this Gospel at the time it was written.  But it is an emphatic statement of His own divinity, and asking those who "behold" Him to truly see.  He is revealing everything, great mysteries, and standing before them as greater mystery and revelation than anything Moses could give to the people.  Of course, there is also reference here to the Cross, and to the sacrifice He will make for the life of the world.

For the life of the world . . . there are many ways one can think about this statement.  Like so much else, the words themselves just "keep on giving."  It is seemingly inexhaustible, perhaps literally inexhaustible as a subject, to think about how many ways this statement is true.  This inexhaustible nature actually is the reality of Christ.  He is the Gift that keeps on giving.  The flesh He will give for the life of the world is His own body, His voluntary sacrifice on the Cross, transforming the most feared instrument of death into the symbol of Resurrection, of everlasting life.  His flesh is given in the Eucharist, also to feed us, to give us life on so many levels -- to give us an abundant life, more than the grimness and the banality the world can at times present us with.   His mission on earth as Incarnate human being as a whole is given for the life of the world:  to reveal to us, to teach us, to give us mysteries "hidden since the foundation of the world."  There are so many ways in which He feeds us, for the life of the world.   He gives us meanings, He gives us beauty, He asks us to transcend a material perspective and to see what there is in love, in sacrifice, what life we're given in return.  Truth and goodness become more than mere relative values; they become aspirations, something in which to participate and grow, to be nourished as well by this bread of life.   And in so doing, we are taught about what it is to receive a pure gift, the grace of God.   For the life of the world adds meaning to the beauty of sunlight dappling and glinting off leaves of a tree, sparkling after the rain.  Why?  Because we may come to know all of life as a gift, given out of love for us.  We come to know that we are loved with a love that longs to give us everything, and it changes the ways in which we can perceive our lives.  Every loss may be an occasion for gain, for seeing what is beyond the loss, hidden in our circumstances, our capacity for transcendence and resurrection, even in the minor events in our lives.  Everything is given meaning and richness in light of Christ's life that it doesn't have otherwise.  His very mission is to give resurrection to everything, to add life in abundance to our daily lives, a texture beyond the purely material.   Everlasting life teaches us about a quality of life, something added to us, and it teaches us about this great, tremendous love that wants nothing more than for us to be with Him.  Let us consider the ways He is here as a gift for the life of the world.




Monday, February 1, 2016

This is the will of Him who sent Me, that everyone who sees the Son and believes in Him may have everlasting life; and I will raise him up at the last day


 "Do not labor for the food which perishes, but for the food which endures to everlasting life, which the Son of Man will give you, because God the Father has set His seal on Him."  Then they said to Him, "What shall we do, that we may work the works of God?"  Jesus answered and said to them, "This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He sent."  Therefore they said to Him, "What sign will You perform then, that we may see it and believe You?  What work will You do?  Our fathers ate the manna in the desert; as it is written, 'He gave them bread from heaven to eat.'"  Then Jesus said to them, "Most assuredly, I say to you, Moses did not give you the bread from heaven, but My Father gives you the true bread from heaven.  For the bread of God is He who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world."  Then they said to Him, "Lord give us this bread always."

And Jesus said to them, "I am the bread of life.  He who comes to Me shall never hunger, and he who believes in Me shall never thirst.  But I said to you that you have seen Me and yet do not believe.  All that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will by no means cast out.  For I have come down from heaven, not to do My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me.  This is the will of the Father who sent Me, that of all He has given Me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up at the last day.  And this is the will of Him who sent Me, that everyone who sees the Son and believes in Him may have everlasting life; and I will raise him up at the last day."

- John 6:27-40

On Saturday, we read that when evening came, after Jesus had fed the five thousand, His disciples went down to the sea, got into the boat, and went over the sea toward Capernaum.  And it was already dark, and Jesus had not come to them.  Then the sea arose because a great wind was blowing.  So when they had rowed about three or four miles, they saw Jesus walking on the sea and drawing near the boat; and they were afraid.  But He said to them, "It is I; do not be afraid."  Then they willingly received Him into the boat, and immediately the boat was at the land where they were going.  On the following day, when the people who were standing on the other side of the sea saw that there was no other boat there, except that one which His disciples had entered, and that Jesus had not entered the boat with His disciples, but His disciples had gone away alone -- however other boats came from Tiberias, near the place where they ate bread after the Lord had given thanks -- when the people therefore saw that Jesus was not there, nor His disciples, they also got into boats and came to Capernaum, seeking Jesus.  And when they found Him on the other side of the sea, they said to Him, "Rabbi, when did You come here?"  Jesus answered them and said, "Most assuredly, I say to you, you seek Me, not because you saw the signs, but because you ate of the loaves and were filled.  Do not labor for the food which perishes, but for the food which endures to everlasting life, which the Son of Man will give you, because God the Father has set His seal on Him."

 "Do not labor for the food which perishes, but for the food which endures to everlasting life, which the Son of Man will give you, because God the Father has set His seal on Him."  Then they said to Him, "What shall we do, that we may work the works of God?"  Jesus answered and said to them, "This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He sent."  We often talk about, and debate, differences and value in faith and works.  But here, Jesus does not separate the two at all.  The work He speaks of is faith in Him:   to believe in Him whom He sent.

 Therefore they said to Him, "What sign will You perform then, that we may see it and believe You?  What work will You do?  Our fathers ate the manna in the desert; as it is written, 'He gave them bread from heaven to eat.'"  Then Jesus said to them, "Most assuredly, I say to you, Moses did not give you the bread from heaven, but My Father gives you the true bread from heaven.  For the bread of God is He who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world."  Then they said to Him, "Lord give us this bread always."  For the quotation, see Exodus 16:4, Nehemiah 9:15, Psalm 78:24.  Jesus is implying that He is the sign which they seek, the true bread from heaven.

And Jesus said to them, "I am the bread of life.  He who comes to Me shall never hunger, and he who believes in Me shall never thirst."  Jesus offers Himself as the "bread of life."  This is a food that satisfies all hunger, a drink that satisfies all thirst.  It is similar to the words He said to the Samaritan woman at Jacob's well:  "Whoever drinks of this water will thirst again, but whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst.  But the water that I shall give him will become in him a fountain of water springing up into everlasting life."

"But I said to you that you have seen Me and yet do not believe.  All that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will by no means cast out.  For I have come down from heaven, not to do My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me.  This is the will of the Father who sent Me, that of all He has given Me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up at the last day.  And this is the will of Him who sent Me, that everyone who sees the Son and believes in Him may have everlasting life; and I will raise him up at the last day."   My study bible cites the decision of the Sixth Ecumenical Council (Constantinople, AD 680-681), which proclaims the two wills of Christ do not work contrary to one another, but rather "His human will follows, not resisting nor reluctant, but subject to His divinity and to His omnipotent will."   Jesus teaches us about His mission, and the essence of what one sees in beholding Christ.  This ties together how faith works (as He's implied above in the statement responding to what it is to "work the works of God").

It's interesting to ponder these last words of Jesus in today's reading:  "And this is the will of Him who sent Me, that everyone who sees the Son and believes in Him may have everlasting life; and I will raise him up at the last day."    This statement reminds us of a similar one He made to Nicodemus:  "No one has ascended to heaven but He who came down from heaven, that is, the Son of Man who is in heaven.  And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life."  Jesus was speaking of Moses lifting up the serpent image on a pole, so that the Israelites who focused on it would not die of bites from the serpents at their feet (see Numbers 21:8).  Jesus speaks of Himself as a similar image, only He is speaking of being raised on the Cross, transforming the instrument of death to the instrument of resurrection.  If we focus on this phrase, "everyone who sees the Son" we can see that the particular choice for this word in the Greek for "see" is one that means to contemplate, to gaze at depth, even to experience, partake, consider.  This is not just a kind of casual "seeing" He's referencing.  It is about making a connection, truly trying to understand.  It's similar to the "beholding" by the Israelites of the serpent raised high on the pole, keeping their eyes in the place Moses offers them through the direction of God.  This is a particular kind of focus, of taking in, of discerning.  It implies seeking a deeper understanding.  And this is where John's Gospel takes us, into this place where Jesus begins with the simple elements of life and asks us to look deeper.  He feeds people bread in the wilderness, but it's a kind of bread from heaven.  And He invites us to more deeply contemplate what bread is, what it does, and how we need nurturing -- even how we are offered a kind of bread that nurtures us in a way so that we never hunger.  There is always a sort of riddle, a mystery offered.  We are always asked to transcend our daily ways of thinking -- to move from what is commonplace to us, even to see God in the elements of our daily lives.  This is what it is to truly behold in this sense, to watch, to look, to see.  He asks us to use every sense we have, and the deeper senses with which we're endowed and made capable not just of faith but of discernment of the kinds of spiritual truths He offers.  He asks us to look into the substance of the world and begin to discern the substance within it, around us, beyond us.  What is the bread of heaven?  What could it nurture and feed in us?  How are we dependent on it?  How does it intersect with our world, in our lives, in us?  Let us focus on Him and see what's on offer.  Let us find the place, and the life, He takes us to.


Saturday, January 30, 2016

You seek Me, not because you saw the signs, but because you ate of the loaves and were filled. Do not labor for the food which perishes, but for the food which endures to everlasting life


 Now when evening came, His disciples went down to the sea, got into the boat, and went over the sea toward Capernaum.  And it was already dark, and Jesus had not come to them.  Then the sea arose because a great wind was blowing.  So when they had rowed about three or four miles, they saw Jesus walking on the sea and drawing near the boat; and they were afraid.  But He said to them, "It is I; do not be afraid."  Then they willingly received Him into the boat, and immediately the boat was at the land where they were going.

On the following day, when the people who were standing on the other side of the sea saw that there was no other boat there, except that one which His disciples had entered, and that Jesus had not entered the boat with His disciples, but His disciples had gone away alone -- however other boats came from Tiberias, near the place where they ate bread after the Lord had given thanks -- when the people therefore saw that Jesus was not there, nor His disciples, they also got into boats and came to Capernaum, seeking Jesus.  And when they found Him on the other side of the sea, they said to Him, "Rabbi, when did You come here?"  Jesus answered them and said, "Most assuredly, I say to you, you seek Me, not because you saw the signs, but because you ate of the loaves and were filled.  Do not labor for the food which perishes, but for the food which endures to everlasting life, which the Son of Man will give you, because God the Father has set His seal on Him."

- John 6:16-27

Yesterday, we read that Jesus went over the Sea of Galilee, which is the Sea of Tiberias.  Then a great multitude followed Him, because they saw His signs which He performed on those who were diseased.  And Jesus went up on the mountain, and there He sat with His disciples.  Now the Passover, a feast of the Jews, was near.  Then Jesus lifted up His eyes, and seeing a great multitude coming toward Him, He said to Philip, "Where shall we buy bread, that these may eat?"  But this He said to test him, for He Himself knew what He would do.  Philip answered Him, "Two hundred denarii worth of bread is not sufficient for them, that every one of them may have a little."  One of His disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter's brother, said to Him, "There is a lad here who has five barley loaves and two small fish, but what are they among so many?"  Then Jesus said, "Make the people sit down."  Now there was much grass in the place.  So the men sat down, in number about five thousand.  And Jesus took the loaves, and when He had given thanks He distributed them to the disciples, and the disciples to those sitting down; and likewise of the fish, as much as they wanted.  So when they were filled, He said to His disciples, "Gather up the fragments that remain, so that nothing is lost."  Therefore they gathered them up, and filled twelve baskets with the fragments of the five barley loaves which were left over by those who had eaten.  Then those men, when they had seen the sign that Jesus did, said, "This is truly the Prophet who is to come into the world."  Therefore when Jesus perceived that they were about to come and take Him by force to make Him king, He departed again to the mountain by Himself alone. 

 Now when evening came, His disciples went down to the sea, got into the boat, and went over the sea toward Capernaum.  And it was already dark, and Jesus had not come to them.  Then the sea arose because a great wind was blowing.  So when they had rowed about three or four miles, they saw Jesus walking on the sea and drawing near the boat; and they were afraid.  But He said to them, "It is I; do not be afraid."  Then they willingly received Him into the boat, and immediately the boat was at the land where they were going.  This is the fifth sign of Jesus' divinity in John's Gospel.  It is just after Jesus has fed five thousand men, and more women and children.  He has gone to the mountain by Himself alone, as the crowd wanted to take Him by force and make Him king.  We have already noted the parallels with the Exodus in John's sixth chapter.  Here there is a parallel to Moses leading the Israelites across the Red Sea (Exodus 14:15-31), as Jesus walks on the sea as if it were dry ground.

On the following day, when the people who were standing on the other side of the sea saw that there was no other boat there, except that one which His disciples had entered, and that Jesus had not entered the boat with His disciples, but His disciples had gone away alone -- however other boats came from Tiberias, near the place where they ate bread after the Lord had given thanks -- when the people therefore saw that Jesus was not there, nor His disciples, they also got into boats and came to Capernaum, seeking Jesus.  And when they found Him on the other side of the sea, they said to Him, "Rabbi, when did You come here?"  Jesus answered them and said, "Most assuredly, I say to you, you seek Me, not because you saw the signs, but because you ate of the loaves and were filled.  Do not labor for the food which perishes, but for the food which endures to everlasting life, which the Son of Man will give you, because God the Father has set His seal on Him."   These are the same people who wanted to forcefully make Jesus king, whom He had eluded.  They are those who were fed in the wilderness, and they manage to track Him to Capernaum.  Jesus' saying here is similar to the ways in which He spoke to the Samaritan woman at Jacob's well, about the water that made it so one would never thirst.  This crowd has sought to make Him king just because He fed them; it is a misreading of the signs of His divinity.  They have labored to find Him, but they must labor for the food which endures to everlasting life

We can think of the parallels with the Exodus suggested by my study bible, and think about these people who have been fed by Christ, and therefore sought to make Him king.  They have followed Him to Capernaum, although with difficulty, as the disciples had set sail without Him.  He teaches them to labor not for the food which perishes, but for that food which endures to everlasting life.  We can think of the Israelites following Moses -- with grumbling and quarrels -- to get to the Promised Land.  But is that what faith is really about?  Is it a journey toward a promise of wealth, food, material abundance that is easy and free?  Again, the Gospel is asking us to think about faith, and Jesus is teaching about faith.  What is it for?  Where does faith come from?  From what is it inspired?  Jesus offers a different kind of food, which He instructs has even more benefits than the physical food with which He's fed them.  That feeding was a sign, of His divinity, of a heavenly origin from which He's come to offer us something more.  But that something more, the food which endures to everlasting life, is a food that feeds something more -- that part of ourselves capable of understanding and perceiving more, of relationship, of love, of the nurturing of soul and spirit.  This is the kind of food He wishes for them to seek, something greater that He offers.   Once again we're drawn into the nature of faith, akin to trust, but even more in the ways that He sparks our thinking.  In Jesus' view, it is a love of God that must draw us to faith, a participation in relationship.  We must be hungry for the life of that kingdom, a kind of heavenly participation in what is offered by the One on whom God the Father has set His seal.  What would that food be that endures to eternal life?  What feeds us something beyond the material and the worldly, gives meaning and dimension to our lives, renders beauty and goodness and our ability to perceive that?  What gives more dimension to relatedness, to love?  This is the food He wishes for us to desire, the thing of greater value He is here to distribute.  If our goal is simply material gain, then what is our faith all about?  In the next reading, on Monday, Jesus will teach just what the specific labor is that He speaks of when He tells the people to labor for the food which endures to everlasting life.  His definition of what constitutes that "work" may surprise you, but there is so much contained in what it implies.