How we appear to others is our personality; how we consider our very own selves is character. A man of integrity does not merely appear a good man; he is in fact a good man. Principles govern his behavior.
When we were little children, we were always repeatedly reminded by our parents on certain things. They’d warn us about meeting strangers, going home late, bad choice of friends, etc. they always do these to ensure we get the message.
We have heard in the past three Sundays the Bread of Life discourse in the Gospel of St. John, wherein Jesus reminds us again and again of the Bread of Life. Some experts say that this is a preview of the time in Heaven when the Great Feast will be celebrated. To become part of that, we have to be dressed properly. Being dressed properly means to be authentic, real, and not being a hypocrite. In the Gospel of St. Matthew (22: 1-14), we are told of the shabbily-dressed person who was thrown out of the wedding feast. He wasn’t dressed in the proper attire such that he was asked to leave. Similarly, we are being warned that when the time comes and we will be scrutinized ourselves, we should be able to meet the majesty and glory of the Lord’s presence, having spent the effort needed to be sanctified in our life’s journey. This humanly effort is made possible (despite our sinful nature after the fall of Adam) with the grace that the Lord provides. Else we are thrown out of the “wedding banquet”. The day is coming, when hypocrites will be called to account for all their presumptuous intruding into what the Lord requires.
“…whoever eats this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give is my flesh for the life of the world.” (Jn. 6: 51)
The words of Jesus are so deep in meaning such that it is also hard to decipher. Could you imagine being told,
“My flesh is true food and, and my blood is true drink.” (Jn. 6: 54)
It requires discernment and understanding to grasp its meaning and intent. The Lord wants us to listen carefully and understand the essence of His message. When understood, the Word of God penetrates the inner recesses of the heart.
We are invited to understand and open ourselves more, in order to get nourishment from the Word of God. Many are called to the wedding feast (salvation), but few have the wedding garment (the righteousness of Christ). We therefore have to ensure ourselves that when the time comes, we are in the Faith and always seek to be approved by the King, our God the Father.
May we understand the real meaning of the Bread of Life, so that we won’t doubt or fear, because the Lord has promised to be with us. Guaranteed.
The Gospel this Sunday tells us that the people following Jesus had a hard time accepting His teachings such that they withdrew and no longer followed Him. (Jn. 6: 60–69). Jesus didn’t stop them from leaving. They were free to go and they wouldn’t be punished for leaving their Teacher. As one author wrote, “Jesus would not play nanny to those whose faith was weak to absorb the shock of knowing who Jesus was.”. Similarly at the present time, God in His goodness wouldn’t stop us from exercising our free will, from doing what we want.
Jesus asked the Twelve, “Do you also want to go leave?” Simon Peter answered Him, “Master, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe and are convinced that you are the Holy One of God.” (Jn. 6: 67-69)
After the Bread of Life discourse these past weeks, when people left; the Lord now made the disciples choose. However, the path to destiny would be changed forever and they who left would be missing the opportunity of a lifetime that only those (like the Twelve) who choose to remain and persevered till the end, would be given. The lives of the Twelve and the others following Jesus were (and are) radically changed, but they have made the decision to follow Jesus till the end. For them it is enough: to bet on Jesus, even with an uncertain and difficult future.
Similarly, this question is asked of everyone, including you and me. In the First Reading, Joshua summoned the twelve tribes of Israel and asked them to choose between Yahweh God, and the lesser gods that the people served before. Joshua delivered a great oratory reminding the Israelites of how Yahweh delivered them to “where they’re now”. In the end, he uttered the famous declaration, “As for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.” (Jos. 24: 15)
Perhaps this is also a good opportunity to reflect on our own life, whether we are just like the rest who obey blindly without making the conscious decision to follow Jesus. Then when the next wave of oppressions and challenges come, we just withdraw and fall by the wayside. On the other hand, once we have made the conscious decision to be a follower of Christ, we will have the willpower to overcome the trials as these come along.
But the Lord, in His infinite goodness didn’t stop there: in order to succeed in our journey, He knows we need to be sustained and renewed. We need renewal because of our unfaithfulness and stubbornness. Everytime we sin, we have to go to Sacramental Confession to renew our commitment and faithfulness to the Lord. He left us His Body and Blood in the Holy Eucharist, the concrete manifestation of the Bread of Life to provide a lifeline to God in our continuing journey of faith.
So this is the significance of the Bread of Life, made real with the Holy Eucharist in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. Together with the Sacraments, these sustain us in our journey.
May the Holy Spirit of the Lord continue to enlighten our minds and hearts so that we come to know Jesus more and more, so that we can better sustain our commitment to Him. May we firmly decide to Prioritize the Spirit. Always.
Disappointments will surely come by, but let it not provide the alibi to bite back to others. Choose to be gentle.
“I am the bread of life.
Your ancestors ate the manna in the desert, but they died;
this is the bread that comes down from heaven
so that one may eat it and not die.
I am the living bread that came down from heaven;
whoever eats this bread will live forever;
and the bread that I will give is my flesh for the life of the world.”
Jn 6: 41-51
This discourse took place shortly after the feeding of the multitude episode (in which Jesus feeds the crowds with five loaves of bread and two fish) after which the crowds watch as Jesus walks to the other side of lake (where Jesus walked on water). Early in the Gospel, we read about the people murmuring and checking out the details of Jesus’ life. Knowing the humble origins of Jesus, they began to doubt. This is also happening today, rejection comes with being a follower of Christ. People will question our motives and plans, regardless of our sincerity and authencity. Thus, as leaders, it is important that we should be firm and strong. We should be able to lead by example. We are called to be the messengers, not necessarily by what we preach, but more by what we practice in faith.
Further in the reading, Jesus gave us a beautiful analogy of Himself and bread. Bread, being staple food among the early Hebrew community, is important in sustaining life. Here the Lord mentioned about the temporal nature of earthly bread, but that with Himself the Bread of Life, we will live forever. What a beautiful promise indeed!
All this was made by Jesus while being rejected by the community. Jesus didn’t mind the oppression, but He persisted. He persevered. He pressed on! The message must be proclaimed, regardless of the circumstances. Jesus preached the Gospel in good times and as well as in bad. Never mind if others don’t understand, the message must be spread, regardless. For Jesus, time is essential. The moment is now. This showed the commitment of Jesus to follow the Father’s will. He understood and was committed completely to His mission. No ifs, no buts.
This is a challenge for us because sometimes, we are guilty of becoming afraid when the going gets tough. We are uncomfortable in proclaiming our faith whenever there are objections. Whenever there’s difficulty, we shy away and become fearful. This is the challenge for us: to be more faithful in our calling to proclaim the Kingdom, whatever our situation in life is.
Now, this is another dimension to what Jesus meant when He said, “Do not be afraid”. Hopefully, our faith will be strengthened all the more by the Lord’s assurance and our subsequent sharing of the Bread with others, and thus will feed on our faith. Our gestures and acts of faithfulness to the Lord will allow us to experience some more the awesome majesty of God. In the end, we look with hope to what the Psalmist said, “Taste and see the goodness of the Lord”.
Today, let us re-dedicate ourselves to Jesus. May we be able to know Him in a more intimate way, so that we will be able to boldly share His message of love to this weary world. Let’s do it. Now.
When we are afraid, we need to be assured by the calmness of everyone around and cling to the people around us for assurance. Have we allowed our fears to lower the quality of our lives and gag our creativity? We always have reasons to be afraid but it should not lead us to be stupefied to helplessness.
“I tell you most solemnly, you are not looking for me because you have seen the signs but because you had all the bread you wanted to eat. Do not work for food that cannot last,
but work for food that endures to eternal life, the kind of food the Son of Man is offering you,
for on him the Father, God himself, has set his seal.”
Jesus said it clearly that most of the time, people chose superficial over things that last. In the Gospel, the people were after the food that sustains physical hunger, and weren’t after THE REAL sign in their midst. The authentic sign wasn’t given attention. Most of us go only on what is visible on the surface.
Secret Number Four in the Code of Champions Seminar emphasizes that we have to catch the right balls. We have to decide what really is important and what matters to us. Keeping our priorities clear is an important element in ethusiastic people. On the other hand, tepid souls proceed through life without clarity needed in the journey, unaware of the perils of awaiting carelessness. “Don’t we instinctively feel sorry upon the sight of an abandoned half-built house? Many a tear would have been saved if only we have our priorities cleared up in the first place”, Fr. Armand clearly said.
True. There are a lot of us that don’t really know what matters most. We spend countless hours looking for things or successes that aren’t really important. In other words, we’re concerned with our rubber balls, rather than the crystal balls. We think that our personal lives, our careers, and our search for earthly treasures, are more important than the relationships, the goodwill, and the happiness of the people around us. We ignore the friction and the heartaches we cause because we are determined to achieve our “goals” and “successes”, without realizing that we are destroying the real treasures we’re supposed to take care, as responsible stewards, in our journey back to the Father. We want to be in control, and we don’t want to give way to Jesus taking over.
Life has a certain way of equalizing. Whatever we sow, we reap back. It is only in sowing goodness that we harvest back goodness. It is only in knowing the REAL BREAD — Jesus Himself — that we come to attain fullness of life, and get the seal of approval from God the Father.
May the Holy Spirit guide us to discern fully the will of Jesus every moment of our lives.
Are we always in a rush? Life can sometimes be unforgiving and things have a way of piling up at the same time. Summon the courage to prioritize what is important and slow down on some that need not be rushed. There are some tasks that can be done simultaneously but only for short runs.