03 August 2012

'Believe in him whom he has sent'. Sunday Reflections, 18th Sunday in Ordinary Time Year B

From The Gospel of John (2003)  Directed by Philip Saville. Jesus played by Henry Ian Cusick; narrator, Christopher Plummer.
[John 6:24-35 is found between 2:36 and 4:24 in the video.]

Readings (New American Bible: Philippines, USA) 

Readings (Jerusalem Bible: Australia, England & Wales, India [optional], Ireland, New Zealand, Pakistan, Scotland, South Africa)

Gospel John 6: 24-35 (Revised Standard Version – Catholic Edition)

So when the people saw that Jesus was not there, nor his disciples, they themselves got into the boats and went to Caperna-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." So they said to him, "Then what sign do you do, that we may see, and believe you? What work do you perform? Our fathers ate the manna in the wilderness; as it is written, 'He gave them bread from heaven to eat.'" Jesus then said to them, "Truly, truly, I say to you, it was not Moses who gave you the bread from heaven; my Father gives you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is that which comes down from heaven, and gives life to the world." They said to him, "Lord, give us this bread always." Jesus said to them, "I am the bread of life; he who comes to me shall not hunger, and he who believes in me shall never thirst. 

Fr Ragheed Ganni (20 January 1972 - 3 June 2007)

‘He was a raconteur par excellence and a font of knowledge - we discussed everything and anything from the metaphysical to the trivial. A young and gauche student at the time, I learnt about Iraq and about theology; about the workings of the college in the summer and the best places to eat pizza. I was amazed at his command of English and Italian and his perennial good spirits and big smile - he was and will always be an inspiration’.

That is how an Irish student at the Pontifical Irish College in Rome described Fr Ragheed Ganni, a Chaldean Catholic priest murdered along with three subdeacons, Basman Yousef Daud, Wahid Hanna Isho, and Gassan Isam Bidawed, on 3 June 2007 just after the young priest had celebrated Mass in Holy Spirit parish, Mosul, Iraq. Fr Ganni, an engineer, studied theology in Rome, and stayed at the Irish College, where he was known as 'Paddy the Iraqi', 'Paddy' being a generic term for Irishmen, derived from the name of Ireland's - and Nigeria's - patron, St Patrick.

Dear young people, do not be satisfied with anything less than Truth and Love, do not be content with anything less than Christ. Pope Benedict spoke these words at the prayer vigil on 20 August last year during the Madrid World Youth Day. He also said, we need to speak with courage and humility of the universal significance of Christ as the Saviour of humanity and the source of hope for our lives.

In these words he is echoing the answer of Jesus to the question put to him in today's gospel, What must we do, to be doing the works of God? His reply: This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent.

In Verbum Domini the Pope wrote, We cannot keep to ourselves the words of eternal life given to us in our encounter with Jesus Christ: they are meant for everyone, for every man and woman. ... It is our responsibility to pass on what, by God's grace, we ourselves have received. In his Angelus talk on 29 October 2006 Benedict said, The rediscovery of the value of one's own Baptism is at the root of every Christian's missionary commitment, because as we see in the Gospel, those who allow themselves to be fascinated by Christ cannot fail to witness to the joy of following in his footsteps

In that same talk, in which he commented on the gospel of that Sunday, Mark 10:46-52, Pope Benedict said, The decisive moment was the direct, personal encounter between the Lord and that suffering man. They found each other face to face:  God with his desire to heal and the man with his desire to be healed; two freedoms, two converging desires. He was speaking of the meeting between the blind Bartimaeus and Jesus.

One theme that comes through repeatedly in the teaching of Pope Benedict is that our faith is in a person, Jesus, God who became man. Jesus tells us clearly that it is his Father's will that we believe in him.

Another theme of Benedict is the joy that Jesus promised those who follow him. This was the theme of the Pope's message for this year's World Youth Day held on Palm Sunday in Rome.

Pope Benedict uses a very striking term,those who allow themselves to be fascinated by Christ. I don't think I've heard it put that way before by anyone. Benedict insists so often that our faith is faith in the person of Jesus, not in a set of doctrines, though they come to us from Jesus through his Church.

Just over a year before his death Father Ragheed spoke at the Eucharistic Conference in Bari, Italy. He said, Mosul Christians are not theologians; some are even illiterate. And yet inside of us for many generations one truth has become embedded: without the Sunday Eucharist we cannot live.

In the context of the war in Iraq he spoke eloquently about the Sunday Eucharist: It is among such difficulties that we understand the real value of Sunday, the day when we meet the Risen Christ, the day of our unity and love, of our (mutual) support and help. There are days when I feel frail and full of fear. But when, holding the Eucharist, I say 'Behold the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world', I feel His strength in me. When I hold the Host in my hands, it is really He who is holding me and all of us, challenging the terrorists and keeping us united in His boundless love.

In normal times, everything is taken for granted and we forget the greatest gift that is made to us. Ironically, it is thanks to terrorist violence that we have truly learnt that it is the Eucharist, the Christ who died and risen, that gives us life. And this allows us to resist and hope

This martyr of our times was clearly fascinated by Christ and understood that it is the Risen Lord himself whom we meet when we come together for Sunday Mass.

Jesus chides the people and questions their real reason for coming after him: Truly, truly, I say to you, you seek me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves. Yet he doesn't regret having fed them and he sees that for at least some of them their reason is somewhat deeper. He gives a straight answer to their question about the work of God: This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent. It is not being 'good', it is not being 'nice'. It is in accepting him for who he is, God who became man, who lived among us, died for us on the Cross, rose from the dead on Easter Sunday and is with us in an intimate and challenging way when we celebrate Mass, especially on Sunday.

All who met Father Ragheed described him as a joyful person. There is something very joyful, in the sense that Jesus meant, in a person who can not only tell you where the best pizza in Rome is, who is not content with anything less than Christ and who is prepared to go back to a very dangerous situation in order to be able to celebrate Mass with his people and to stay with them in the midst of war.

Read more about Fr Ragheed Ganni here and here.

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