Friday, September 1, 2023
Feast of Saint Giles
Dear Sisters and Brothers in Christ,
If there is one thing that got the Jewish religious authorities riled during those days when Our Lord walked the earth, it was Jesus’ deliberate deployment of two little words: I AM. In fact, in the Gospel of Saint John we are told that the people picked up stones and were ready to kill him for doing so, but Our Lord hid away.
So why did these two words create such fear and alarm? Because in using them in reference to himself, Jesus was claiming to be equal to God, the great “I am who am,” (Exodus 3:14) who spoke to Moses.
That was the clear meaning as understood by his listeners. In total, Jesus refers to himself as “I am” on seven occasions in Saint John’s Gospel. Each time, some in the crowd are enthralled while many others are enraged. None remain neutral.
Hence, this week On the Road to Emmaus I want to take you on a detour via the fishing village of Capernaum by the Sea of Galilee in order to turn our attention to the sixth chapter of the Gospel of John and another of Christ’s I AM statements. In this case: “I am the bread of life” (John 6:35). How very eucharistic!
In the midst of speaking about the multiplication of the loaves and offering to provide the crowd with heavenly bread, Jesus tells them, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me will never hunger, and whoever believes in me will never thirst” (John 6:35).
As if filling out what he had told the woman at the well, “the water I shall give will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life” (John 4:14), Jesus is now repeating God’s care for his people in the wilderness: he provides a new manna from heaven and new water from the rock.
But there is a difference. For Jesus casts the hunger and thirst of his listeners back on himself with this “I am” statement. He is the answer and they must have faith in him to find satisfaction and eternal life.
It is all about Jesus, not so much what he can do or what he can give, but about him and our coming to him. Jesus is the one sent by the Father to free us from our own wilderness.
Jesus goes even further in his comments. He repeats that he is the bread of life, the living bread (verses 48 and 51). Each time he draws his hearers deeper into the mystery of who he is but even more into the mystery of who he is for them. This finally leads to the bread being his flesh and the requirement to eat that flesh and drink his blood to have life forever.
We are told that many of his disciples, when they heard these words, said, “This is a hard saying; who can listen to it?” After this many of his disciples drew back and no longer walked with him.
He then turns to the Twelve and asks if they too will leave him to which Simon Peter responds: “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life; and we have believed, and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God,” (John 6:68).
Brothers and sisters, we often want something from the Lord, but we want to keep an arm’s distance from him as well. He wants union with us, communion with us. He wants to be the very sustenance of our lives, that food and drink which is perfect, irreplaceable, which is Jesus himself.
We believe this is the Holy Eucharist which is already a taste of and a participation in the Heavenly Banquet where every hunger and thirst will be amazingly fulfilled for all of us.
And so, to my challenge for this week: Read John Chapter 6 each day this week, aloud with your household, perhaps after a meal together. Got that? Good.
One person who has already attempted the challenge as a trial run is Steve Ray who features in the following short film. Steve is a best-selling Catholic author and an in-demand tour guide for pilgrims to the Holy Land. He is also a convert to the Catholic faith and a parishioner of Christ the King parish in Ann Arbor. Click below to watch. Enjoy the film!
Assuring you of my prayers, I am sincerely yours in Christ,
+ Earl Boyea
Bishop of Lansing