First reading: 1 Kgs 19:4-8 Psalm: Ps 33:2-9 Second Reading: Eph 4:30-5:2 Gospel: John 6:41-51
When I came and joined the seminary in Melbourne in 2007, one thing I found fascinating in Australian conversation is the way questions are answered with negatives.
For example the question: ‘How are you going today?’ You answer: ‘Not bad.’
‘Where are you assigned for your pastoral placement?’ ‘Not far.’
‘Do you like that certain lecturer at Catholic College?’ ‘Not really’.
‘How did you go with your exams? ‘Not sure’.
When I say, ‘Thank you’, I would expect ‘You’re welcome’ but instead the reply is: ‘No worries.’
I just found conversations like this fascinating so I just listened. But when one of these Aussie seminarians noticed me being left out in the conversations, he would try to include me in the conversation by saying: ‘So, Johnny boy (as I was known then) what team do you barrack? And I would answer: ‘Not Collingwood.’
And I felt accepted. But I think it is not because I didn’t go for Collingwood, but because I speak their language.
By speaking ‘the language’ so to speak, I felt I belong to the community.
Friends, brothers and sisters, God wants to be part of the human community, or to say it more exactly, God wants us human beings to belong to the community of the Divine- i.e. life with God.
We can reflect on the gospel today that God is really serious of having us part of the Divine life by sending us Jesus to teach us, to feed us, and to fetch us.
First, Jesus is sent to teach us.
In the gospel today, Jesus hints himself as the fulfillment of the Prophetic word that ‘we will all be taught by God’, when he said: ‘To hear the teaching of the Father and learn from it, is to come to me.’
As our teacher, Jesus speaks the language of humanity in order to teach us the language of God- the language of love, of forgiveness, of peace, of service and communion.
To learn from Jesus we need first of all to come to him in faith and to believe in the one who sent him.
But it is not enough to say we believe in Christ, or that we are Christian. We need to live it out in our lives. In other words, practice what we believe.
To practice what we believe, St Paul in the second reading today would offer us few practical ways. St Paul said: ‘never havegrudges against others, or lose your temper, or raise your voice to anybody, or call each other names, or allow all sort of spitefulness.’ Rather that we live as ‘friends with one another, kind and forgiving’ as God has forgiven us in Christ.
Second, Jesus is sent to feed us.
From the very beginning of the story of our salvation, one of the ways God reveals himself to us is to be our provider in order for us to live. In the Old Testament, we heard the story of the people of Israel led by Moses having given the Manna from heaven. In today’s first reading, we have Elijah being provided by the angel with bread and water- essential elements to live.
In Jesus however, God provides us with food and drink that are not just for temporary provision for our hunger and thirst but in order for us to live on forever. In the gospel Jesus said: ‘I am the bread of life’, the bread from heaven, the living bread, the bread for the life of the world, and ‘anyone who eats this bread will live forever.’ Jesus here was talking about his body being offered on the Cross for our salvation and which we do in memory of him every time we come to celebrate the Holy Eucharist.
The Body and blood of Christ we partake when we come to Mass is Jesus really being true to his promise that he will be with us until the end of time.
Let us receive the Eucharist then with such respect and veneration, regularly examining ourselves, going to confession and making ourselves worthy to receive such heavenly gifts right now, by living our lives the way God wants us to every moment in our life.
Third, Jesus is sent to fetch us.
This is what makes Christianity different from all other faith conviction.
I have certainly heard someone before saying to me: ‘Father, it doesn’t really matter what religion do you affiliate with. We are all heading to the same mountain anyway- God.’
When I heard this, there is always the temptation for me to reply: ‘But are you sure you can get to the top of the mountain with what you have?’ ‘Or are you sure, you are climbing up the right mountain?’
Fr Frank Moloney, a Salesian priest and a scripture scholar describes Christianity in this way: ‘All religions seek to find God, but the wonder of Christianity is that in Jesus of Nazareth, God has set out in search of humankind.’
In other words, Christianity offers us the truth that God didn’t just remain up on the top on the mountain looking down at us struggling to go up expecting that eventually we will get up there.
He sent his only Son down to help us in our struggles, to guide us on the right way, to show us the sure way to get up there, to support us in our journey up and at the same time to be our food and drink in the journey.
Brothers and sisters, God wants us to be forever part of his Divine life in heaven.
He sent us Christ, his son, speaking in our own human language to teach us how to be part of the divine life, feeding us with his life-giving body and blood in the Eucharist and fetching us himself in order to get us up there safely. Let us not take this amazing grace for granted. Let us resolve to be Christ-like in our life and works everyday, for with him, we can ‘taste and see the goodness of the Lord.’ (Psalm 33).