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READINGS: 2 Samuel 18:5-9, 15, 31-33 and Psalm 130 OR 1 Kings 19:4-8 and Psalm 34:1-8; Ephesians 4:25-5:2; John 6:35, 41-51|
COLLECTFor the Nineteenth Sunday in Ordinary time ....
Heavenly Father, you sent down from heaven your only begotten son Jesus to be, by his offering of himself, bread and life for the world. You call us to be imitators of you by offering ourselves prayerfully in love to you and our brothers and sisters. Help us to grow in our vision and our understanding of becoming a fragrant offering. Feed us always with the bread of life. This we ask in Jesus' name. Amen.
THOUGHTSFrom my early years, the Eucharist has had a powerful and growing influence on my life. It is only now, in my fifties, though, that I realize that I am really just beginning to scratch the surface of its meaning, to grasp its power in my life and the lives of others.
When I go to Mass I meet Jesus on several levels. He comes in many ways. When the community is gathered at the beginning of the Mass with the Greeting, that is the first time. When the Gospel is read, that is the second time. When the host and the wine are consecrated and are now the Body and Blood of Christ that is the third time. When the Peace is passed and we shake hands and hug each other or even just nod to, that is the fourth time. Finally, when I receive the bread and wine in communion and render my "Amen!", that is the fifth time. I am fed and sustained to journey many days in the power of this food.
2 Samuel 18:5-9, 15, 31-33
David is not alone in this world. Many a father has had cause, like David, to grieve their son's loss or death or distance from them despite the son's behaviour towards them. David appears, many times throughout his life, to be almost paralyzed by his affections, to be of two minds as to the appropriate course of action. When his commander Joab kills Abner; David curses him, nothing more. When Amnon rapes Tamar, Absalom's sister, David does not punish him "because he loved him." When Absalom murders Amnon two years later, nothing is done.
In some ways David's own indecisiveness, his own tenderness, lead him to the grief he suffers at Absalom's death. David is unwilling to deal with consequences so he ends up paying consequences. And others do too! None of this negates the pain and the heartache that David's love for his son bring him. Imperfect as we humans are, can you not imagine the pain and heartache that God's love for us brings him? When we act in ways that hurt? God's grace and mercy are brought home powerfully in stories like this.
What does redemption mean? To be redeemed from all my iniquities? I imagine that to be redeemed means to be delivered from or out of, to be restored to a loving relationship, to be forgiven, pardoned. Do I deserve any of this? Certainly not. What claim can I, could I make?
I so love the Psalms. I can pray them, sing them, whisper them, cry them. I identify with them. In this psalm, I see myself "waiting for the Lord...."
1 Kings 19:4-8
Here, this week, we have another instance of being fed bread from heaven. Elijah, in his weariness and fear and inner defeat, flees his demons into the desert. Despite his great accomplishments in the power of God and before witnesses, Elijah is seized with doubt and self-recrimination and off he goes. Petulantly he cries out to God to take his life, he has had enough.
Did he have reason to fear? Oh yes. Jezebel was unmoved at the demonstration of the power of Elijah's God and was foaming with murderous rage. Her husband seemed unwilling and unlikely to stop her. Just as Jezebel was unmoved by God's message, so Elijah himself seemed unmoved by it! What did it mean to Elijah that God had most powerfully demonstrated that "[He] was indeed God" and then Elijah flees?
He lies down and goes to sleep. He was awakened by an angel and fed, twice. He is told to eat, "otherwise the journey will be too much for you." He eats, then journies forty days and nights (a sufficient time) "in the strength of that food" to the mount of God.
The thoughts and questions for me in all this are: what does it mean to me that the Lord is God? what is the bread of heaven for? what does the bread of heaven strengthen me for?
What a contrast between Elijah's words and those of the psalmist. It is as if Elijah forgot. We need to remember to "take refuge" in God, to turn to God, to "taste and see...," to take the bread of heaven offered to us and rejoice in God's goodness.
The full passage contains some wonderful advice that would help us to "imitate" God, some rules to guide us. But by far the most important words are words that remind us that we are "beloved children," that we are to "live in love, as Christ loved us." The epistle writer further tells us how Christ loved us. By giving "himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God."
Thus, it seems, that to imitate God consists in a sacrificial loving, in a loving that is a pleasing and fragrant (ie, prayerful) offering of one's whole self to God and to serve God by loving those given to us in this life. Our sacrificial loving would enable and allow others to have hope, to taste and see that the Lord is good!
John 6:35, 41-51
How very shocking Jesus' words must have been. You can see that in the response of the crowd. They even sound a bit confused. Not only did they think they knew who this man was ('is not this Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know?'), they also deliberately ignore the implications of Jesus BEING the bread to focus on the claim that he has come down from heaven.
The hearers of Jesus' day are not the only ones who miss the shocking implications of his words to focus in on other stuff that reflect more what they are about than what he is about. "The bread that I give for the life of the world is my flesh."
What does the Eucharist mean to you? How is the Eucharist "life for the world?"
Ordinary ThoughtsI would appreciate your prayers for continuing health.
copyright - Charlene E. Fairchild - Spirit Networks, 2000 - 2006
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