JOSHUA 21:1-2A, 15-17 EPHESIANS 5:21-32 JOHN 6:60-69
We’ve been reading sections of the sixth chapter of John’s gospel since July 25th. We paused last Sunday to celebrate the Feast of the Assumption. This Sunday we conclude the “Bread of Life Discourse” by reflecting on the peoples’ reaction to what Jesus taught.
Jesus delivered this discourse in the synagogue at Capernaum, a city along the Sea of Galilee. This area was quite liberal and open to new ideas. The synagogue, the town’s community center, would periodically invite speakers of interest to address the community. Jesus, though from Galilee, would have been of interest to the people. He seemed to have a fresh, new approach to Judaism often putting him in open conflict with the religious leaders. The synagogue provided a good forum for the people to hear what he had to say. But the audience ended up struggling with his message.
Recall some of his statements from this teaching: “I am the living bread come down from heaven, whoever eats this bread will live forever.” “Unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood you do not have life within you.” “The bread that I will give is my flesh for the life of the world.” Acceptance of this teaching required more than intellectual understanding. It required faith.
Today’s first scripture reading from the Book of Joshua parallels this moment in the synagogue. The children of Israel were nearing the Promised Land. Joshua camped at Shechem and demanded a profession of faith
from the people before they continued on. They would be coming into contact with foreign religions. Joshua challenged the people to make a profession of faith to the God of their ancestors before they moved on. The people recalled how God protected and cared for them throughout their journey, and so renewed their faith in the God who delivered them from the land of slavery.
In the synagogue in Capernaum Jesus was challenging the people there, and his disciples, to take a leap of faith. He had presented himself as the fulfillment of the Passover. God had sent him to be the new and eternal paschal lamb, slain for the redemption of the world, and eaten as life-giving bread. He wasn’t asking them to totally understand the paschal mystery. He was inviting them to begin a new journey of faith. Many couldn’t take that step. But then Peter stepped forward and spoke for the faithful few. “You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe and are convinced that you are the Holy One of God.”
As we conclude our lengthy reflection on the Bread of Life Discourse we’re faced with a similar choice. We have to ask ourselves if we really believe in him and what he teaches about himself. Do we believe that when we celebrate the Eucharist he’s with us in the flesh as the living Lamb sacrificed for our redemption? Do we believe that he’s the bread of life for us and the world? Do we believe that he is the food for eternal life?