Saturday, 4 August 2012


Sunday GospelJohn 6:24-35 

When the people saw that neither Jesus nor his disciples were there, they got into those boats and crossed to Capernaum to look for Jesus. When they found him on the other side, they said to him, ‘Rabbi, when did you come here?’
  Jesus answered:
‘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.’
Then they said to him, ‘What must we do if we are to do the works that God wants?’ Jesus gave them this answer, ‘This is working for God: you must believe in the one he has sent.’ So they said, ‘What sign will you give to show us that we should believe in you? What work will you do? Our fathers had manna to eat in the desert; as scripture says: He gave them bread from heaven to eat.’ Jesus answered:
‘I tell you most solemnly,
it was not Moses who gave you bread from heaven,
it is my Father who gives you the bread from heaven,
the true bread;
for the bread of God
is that which comes down from heaven
and gives life to the world.’
‘Sir,’ they said ‘give us that bread always.’ Jesus answered:
‘I am the bread of life.
He who comes to me will never be hungry;
he who believes in me will never thirst.’

“There are people in the world so hungry, that God cannot appear to them except in the form of bread.”
Mahatma Gandhi

The crossing of the Sea of Galilee always suggests change. Around the coastline are bordertowns of both Gentile and Jewish settlements; Jesus moves from one to the other; often seeing the Gentiles grow in faith whilst the Jews grow in criticism. With each sailing,  Jesus physically challenges the boundaries that have been set by cultures, by faith, by individuals. Perhaps that's why he chooses so many fishermen - the vagaries of the natural world don't accept such limitations.

The move to Capernaum takes them to a place of unsettlement. A Jewish town with a Roman garrison - in Luke we are told that the  synagogue has been gifted by the local Centurion - and a waymark town for the Via Maris - the trade route from the Mediterranean to Damascus. The local Custom House is a sign that people know the price of fish; a loaf of bread; a day's work. They also know about exploitation and privilege; haves and have nots. This is a place of duality or diversity depending on your outlook - at best a place of encounter - where you can choose to reject or embrace. 

Often, when the crowd calls Jesus Rabbi or Teacher, it isn't with respect; it simply allows them to take advantage of his company without committing to a relationship - ok, we have called you 'teacher' so don't test us on it.  But their bellies are full and Jesus had something to do with it - he has aroused their interest; it seems worthwhile to hang on to his coat tails, so they have followed him.

Out of all the questions the crowd could have asked 'When did you come here?' shows the least amount of interest. Why? Where from? Who from? What for? would have come from the heart; and Jesus makes it clear that he knows their 'following' comes from physical greed and not spiritual desire. He tells them that their true hunger will never be fulfilled until they believe in Jesus as the human face of the Father.

The crowd misunderstands again and asks what 'works' they can do to own this everlasting food. In a town where everyone has an agenda - there are always ways and means of getting what you want. 

Now, Jesus does act as teacher and corrects their throwaway comment - 

Moses didn't give you food, my Father did and to share in the food of eternal life the Father does not ask for works but for one 'work' - believe in me, want me, desire me.

The crowd will disperse soon to their boats and homes and talk about the day;   their stomachs will complain again as the hunger returns - it may have been a miracle but it was only bread. 

Another longing stirs - this time in the heart. Eyes search the night sky, seeking out the North Star - a sigh. And what was that other thing?

“Nor does God whisper through the trees. His voice is not to be mistaken. When men hear it they fall to their knees and their souls are riven and they cry out to Him and there is no fear but only wildness of heart that springs from such longing...” ― Cormac McCarthy



Philomena Ewing said...

Great post. Thanks.
I feel it is that "wildness of heart" that needs a bigger imaginal space for expression in our Western church. I long for this !!
No doubt some parishes have it and but in the "big picture" it is lacking.

Word in the Hand said...

My recent feelings is that it is almost impossible to create it in the big picture - the energy of relationship and commitment disolves. The community of churches that Vatican II proposes makes more sense - allow the personality of a parish to be recognised - you may well get more wildness that you imagine.
There will always be those prepared to sit back and think of England - or Rome - but they will have somewhere to do that too.