07 August 2015

'I am the bread of life.' Sunday Reflections, 19th 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.

Readings (New American Bible: Philippines, USA)

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

Then the Jews began to complain about Jesus because he said, “I am the bread that came down from heaven.” They were saying, “Is not this Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How can he now say, ‘I have come down from heaven’?” Jesus answered them, “Do not complain among yourselves. No one can come to me unless drawn by the Father who sent me; and I will raise that person up on the last day. It is written in the prophets, ‘And they shall all be taught by God.’ Everyone who has heard and learned from the Father comes to me. Not that anyone has seen the Father except the one who is from God; he has seen the Father. Very truly, I tell you, whoever believes has eternal life. I am the bread of life. Your ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died. This is the bread that comes down from heaven, so that one may eat of it and not die. I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats of this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.”

Dieric Bouts the Elder, 1464-68. 
Sint-Pieterskerk, Leuven, Belgium [Web Gallery of Art]

'Get up and eat, otherwise the journey will be too much for you' (1 Kings 19:7 - from First Reading).

Sto Niño Church, Lianga, Surigao del Sur [Photo: Benjie Otagan]

More than twenty years ago when I was parish priest in Lianga in the Diocese of Tandag, which covers the province of Surigao del Sur on the east coast of Mindanao, one of our voluteer catechists came to me on a Saturday afternoon and told me that her father, who was gravely ill, had asked to receive 'the Bread of Life'. I discovered that Mario, as I'll call him, had been married three times, having been widowed twice. 

When I arrived at the house there were children from his three marriages there, many of them with their own children. There was a palpable sense of joy  in the home and Mario was fully alert. After hearing his confession I invited his family to join us as we celebrated the Sacrament of the Sick before giving him Holy Communion. 

After a period of silence and the closing prayers of the rite I asked those closest to their father/grandfather to place their hands on him. My idea was that we would have some spontaneous prayer. However, Mario changed this into something far more beautiful. He took one of his grandchildren, only a few months old, into his arms, embraced and kissed the child. Then he embraced each of his children and grandchildren and kissed them. Almost everyone, particularly Mario himself, was aware that he had not long to live. He was making a joyful farewell to his family, full of hope because he had received God's forgiveness in the Sacrament of Reconciliation followed by the nourishment of God himself in the Bread of Life.

In the First Reading an angel wakes up the weary prophet Elijah twice with the command 'Get up and eat'. On this occasion Mario's family in effect said the same to me, even though I wasn't weary like Elijah, as they had prepared a snack for me, which is not usual when the priest makes a sick call. However, on this occasion I thought it 'truly right and just' as the joy of the Lord was clearly evident in Mario and his family. He knew that 'the journey' would not 'be too much for' him.

The bread that I will give, says the Lord, is my flesh for the life of the world (Cf John 6:51, Communon Antiphon).

Ego sum panis vivus by Palestrina
Sung by Amici Cantores

Ego sum panis vivus. Patres vestri manducaverunt manna in deserto, et mortui sunt. Hic est panis de coelo descendens: si quis ex ipso manducaverit, non morietur

I am the bread of life. Your ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died. This is the bread that comes down from heaven, so that one may eat of it and not die (John 6:48-50 - from today's Gospel).

Responsorial Psalm (Philippines, USA)

No comments: