18th Sunday of the Year Reflection
In today’s gospel story, we are given a great example of such incomprehension. The crowds that have gathered around Jesus don’t understand and look for a sign such as their ancestors received. The irony is that they have just such a sign in front of them. They have witnessed Jesus performing a miracle, but they fail to see it.
Jesus tells them he is the Eternal Wisdom, the true bread, not like the manna, but the bread of God’s word that satisfies the deepest human hunger. They are invited to nourish themselves on the bread of life, in other words to come to know and believe in Jesus. At this point in the narrative the evangelist is making use of the Old Testament symbolism of wisdom as nourishment to speak of Jesus as the only one who can satisfy our hunger for God.
What work does God want us to do? Believe in the one he has sent. Re-look at what you believe to be reality and believe in the Good News, the Gospel. When people come to us asking what they must do if they are to do the work God wants, it is tempting to give easy answers, “Do this and do that, and you will be doing what God wants.”
But to be honest, like Jesus, we must say clearly that there is no such security for us, that the “work” we have to do is to give ourselves to the present moment to the NOW; the reality of what is. Letting go of the past with its grudges; un-forgiveness, resentments and demands; letting go of the future with its uncertainties, its fears. This is the meaning of the Incarnation.
Parker Palmer describes the impact when this is not our priority: “When we forget that politics is about weaving a fabric of compassion and justice on which everyone can depend, the first to suffer are the most vulnerable among us, our children, our elderly, our mentally ill, our poor, and our homeless. As they suffer, so does the integrity of our democracy.”
I think we can readily echo here in South Africa what Richard Rohr describes for America: We are indeed living through perilous and polarising times as a nation, with a dangerous crisis of moral and political leadership at the highest levels of our government and in our churches. We believe the soul of the nation and the integrity of faith are now at stake.
Our Identity in Christ Before Anything
It is time to be followers of Jesus before anything else; nationality, political party, race, ethnicity, gender, geography; our identity in Christ precedes every other identity. . . . “By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:35).
All three traditions, Christianity, Judaism, and Islam, are misunderstood because some of their alleged adherents engage in hateful and violent behaviour that distorts and defies the values they claim to represent. At their core, Christianity, Islam, Judaism, and all of the major world religions are committed to compassion and hospitality. . . . In this fact lies the hope that we might reclaim their power to help reweave our tattered civic fabric.
Each day is, however, a new beginning, another step to be taken and the choice to be made anew, always in the compassionate remembrance of God’s great Mercy and those moments of incredible grace; moments of soaring beauty as well as the moments of scorching darkness. Those moments with God that are terrible, awesome and wild. Moments of the tender promptings of the Holy Spirit, gently leading us from blind judgements and that hardness of heart that comes from years of needing to win, needing to be on top.
Lord that we may see! Philosophy is a great teacher in knowing that we cannot always trust our judgements according to what we think we see. How easily we fall away from Truth into our own illusions. The optical illusions that trick us into false judgments and to perilous predictions. The moment we have made this judgement, in or out, in front or behind, on top of below, good or bad, useful or useless, we have formed an attachment to our own particular “enlightened judgement”. This is easy enough to prove and to understand yet it can be a great stumbling block.
Only the compassion of the Incarnation can lead us out of the darkness into new life and new hope.