Nineteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time (12 August 2018)
1Kings 19:4-8; Psalm 34:2-9; Ephesians 4:30-5:2; John 6:41-51
Theme: Taste and see that the Lord is good (Ps 34:9)
When compared with other Psalms, the “Wisdom Psalms” including Ps. 34, are “more conscious of God’s presence in daily life”; they convey “reflection and calm strength, with moderation and appreciation for the learning experience” of each day (Stuhlmueller, 180). Urging us to taste and see the goodness of the Lord, these verses of Ps. 34 invite us to probe the quite disparate and somewhat dramatic readings from Kings, Ephesians, and John, to discover how the Psalm holds them together and illumines the insights they offer.
In Elijah’s desperate flight from the wrath of Jezabel, through the desert, on route to Mt. Horeb, he is sustained by cakes baked on stone and a jar of water, provided by an angel. This passage functions, in this liturgy, like a prelude to the Gospel’s theme of “bread … from heaven.” In the Gospel, Jesus does not appeal to Elijah’s experience, but rather to the earlier tradition of the manna in the Exodus journey. Both attest to the place that bread from heaven has in the faith tradition of those he is addressing.
The selection from Ephesians calls us to be “imitators of God” (5:1) in a quality of life that is freed from all malice – bitterness, wrath, slander – in order to love “as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us” (5:2). This reference to the sacrifice of Christ is echoed in the Gospel’s closing line: “the bread that I will give, for the life of the world, is my flesh” (6:51).
The Gospel passage from John takes shape around the key question: “How can he now say, ‘I have come down from heaven?’ Is he not Jesus, son of Joseph?” Jesus responds in the strength of his conviction regarding his identity as “sent by the Father” (6:44) and “the one who is from God” (6:46). Reinhartz (171) reminds us that the “I am” statements here, as in Ex 3:14, are expressions of divinity and so imply Jesus’ unity with God.
Jesus clearly identifies those who are able to come to him: they are drawn by the Father (6:44), they have heard the Father (6:45), and they have learned from the Father (6:45). We cannot ignore the evidence here of the centrality of “the Father” in the life and ministry of Jesus. Jesus’ statement, “they shall all be taught by God” (Is. 54:13) contributes to Brown’s insight that the “bread of life” is, first of all, Jesus’ teaching, his revelation.
John’s treatment of the institution of the Eucharist takes a very different form than in the Synoptic Gospels. In Matthew, for instance, we find: “Jesus took bread, and blessed and broke it, and gave it to the disciples and said, ‘Take, eat; this is my body’” (Mt 26:26). There is no such text in John; instead, here in chapter 6, Jesus states: “I am the bread that has come down from heaven (6:41), I am the bread of life (48), I am the living bread (51), the bread that I will give … is my flesh (51), whoever eats this bread will live forever (51).
In response first to Elijah’s desert experience nurtured by an angel, and then to the Ephesians’ call to be imitators of God loving as Christ loved us, and finally, in response to Jesus’ promise of the gift of himself as the bread of life, we return each time to the Psalm’s refrain, in gratitude, “Taste and see the goodness of the Lord.”
Reflection and Discussion: 1. Think of a personal experience in which you have “tasted and seen” the goodness of the Lord. What has this taught you about your God and about the response God desires from you? 2. Recall an experience of Eucharist that meant a great deal to you. Why was it so significant?
Bibliography: Brown, Raymond, An Introduction to the New Testament, pp. 344-349, (Doubleday, New York, 1997); Reinhartz, Adele, Introduction and annotations for “The Gospel According to John,” pp. 170-171, in Levine, Amy-Jill and Brettler, Marc Zvi, The Jewish Annotated New Testament (Oxford University Press, New York, 2011); Stuhlmueller, Carroll, The Spirituality of the Psalms, pp. 178-180, (The Liturgical Press, Collegeville, 2002).
This week’s Sunday Gospel Commentary was prepared by
Diane Willey, nds, M.A., Canada, Bat Kol Alum 2005, 2006
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PLEASE NOTE: The weekly Gospel commentaries represent the research and creative thought of their authors, and are meant to stimulate deeper thinking about the meaning of the Sunday Scriptures. While they draw upon the study methods and sources employed by the Bat Kol Institute, the views and conclusions expressed in these commentaries are solely those of their authors, and do not necessarily represent the views of Bat Kol. Questions, comments and feedback are always welcome.
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