Sunday, July 30, 2006

Sunday word

17th Sunday of the Year B (30Jul 2006) 2Kg 4. 42-44; Ps 145; Eph4. 1-6; Jn 6. 1-15
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
A Different Beat of Pulse

How many gospels does the New Testament contain? Yes, four. And, you know their names are: . . . Yes, Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. As you know Mark’s gospel is the shortest of the four. You also recall the Second Vatican Council desired us Catholics to encounter more scripture during Sunday Masses and did so by recalling tradition and exercising creativity. The gospel of John had been the traditional gospel of Lent and Easter. In tandem with Tradition the Council revised the lectionary by devoting a year of continuous reading at mass of Matthew, Mark and Luke. So, what gives today? Why in this year of Mark is today’s gospel reading taken from John? The short answer is because Mark's is the shortest gospel.

The gospels of Matthew and Luke each can cover a liturgical year assisted by John’s gospel during the Lenten and Easter seasons. Because Mark’s gospel is shorter, we would finish it over a month before Advent would begin a new liturgical year--even with John’s gospel used during Lent and Easter! To remedy this otherwise early ending of the gospel during each Year of Mark the Second Vatican Council revised the lectionary so that we hear the sixth chapter of John’s gospel for five Sundays. This year it will be four because next Sunday we celebrate the Transfiguration with its own set of scripture readings.

Through the modern era many have spilled much ink about John’s gospel and about its sixth chapter in particular. Pioneering and notable scholars put forward opposing views, at times inferring things the text does not support.

One of my teachers frequently reminded his students “to stick close to the text” in order to avoid inferring what the text can’t or doesn’t mean. That teacher taught my other teacher, who believes we profit most by the process of reading any scripture, which he overemphasized with a memorable statement: “When I am invited to preach on a scripture text, I have an urge to lock myself in a hotel room for a weekend and read the entire bible.” Overemphasis, yes; but he made the point that God’s revelation clothed in human language is one, grand chronicle of God entering human history.

As we begin our weeks with Jesus identifying himself as the Bread of Life, I take my cue from a word in the first reading from the Christian Old Testament: firstfruits; and from its psalm, The hand of the Lord feeds us.

The Creator, Blessed be God, provides all our needs by giving us the natural world. God feeds us via the earth. Firstfruits, the earliest ripe portion of the crop or newborn live-stock of herds, allowed people to honor God. When money replaced bartering crops for cloth or animals for daily goods people gave first a portion of their income to charity and to their places of worship: hence, tithing and others forms of stewardship we know.

Our triune God is a giver in another, uniquely relational way. God not only became human for our sake. Our God gave Jesus to us as divine firstfruits, the firstborn and only Son of God. And more: Jesus gives us himself, his body and his blood to nourish on our faith journeys, our pilgrim way on earth. Jesus feeds us with bounty to spare even though his body and blood as we consume them as a bit of bread and a sip of wine do not satisfy our human appetites.

We receive the Lord Jesus’ whole being each time we ingest a consecrated morsel of bread and a sip of consecrated wine. Jesus' fondness for human means focuses us on eating and drinking. When we ingest any food we digest it: our bodies absorb food’s nutrients so that they become part and parcel of us: fueling, shaping, strengthening and fortifying us until our next meal. Jesus gives us himself so that his Real Presence nourishes us really to be his presence in our world.

Pause 10 minutes each day this week to relive and relish your communion in the Lord this hour. Leisurely entertain what the Lord Jesus moves you to notice, perhaps: his presence; his affection; his direction; his counsel and the like. Aware that your cells and inmost self pulse with Christ, ask him to give you the grace to live in a manner worthy of the [the One] you have received, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another through love. Our scarred and riven world needs us to ask for that grace each day.

Re the coherence of scripture and the process of reading that way: The Church of St. John Neumann in Strongsville, Ohio, has added a new page summarizing the Church's three guidelines for reading scripture.

No comments: