"This saying is hard; who can accept it?" The words of Jesus' disciples in today's Gospel must sound familiar. At some point in our lives, you and I have said it about some article of our faith. Christianity makes firm demands on our ethical behavior and gives no easy answers for suffering. Many disciples were confused and dismayed by Jesus' words in the Bread of Life Discourse. Not all of them, however, had the same reaction.READ MORE
In this Sunday's Gospel, the conflict escalates in the Bread of Life Discourse. Confusion is mounting in the crowd. "How can this man give us his flesh to eat?" Their minds were thinking literally, not mystically. Jesus doesn't seem to help, however, and only drives his point home with more emphasis. "Unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you do not have life within you." Jesus would later institute the Eucharist at the Last Supper. There he would definitively establish the sacramental reality in which bread and wine become substantially his own Body and Blood. We celebrate this sacrament in the Mass.READ MORE
Have you ever approached a hushed group and were certain they were talking about you? It's an uncomfortable feeling to catch people murmuring about what you did, said, or didn't do. It breeds division and exclusion.
In today's Gospel, Jesus invites us to just the opposite. The reading opens with the crowds "murmuring" their doubts about Jesus after he has proclaimed himself the Bread of Life. "Is this not Jesus, the son of Joseph? how can he say 'I have come down from heaven'?" In his response, Jesus brings up the Israelites and the manna God brought them in the desert. If you turn back to the story in Exodus, you'll see another similar word: murmuring. As the going got tough, the Israelites doubted Moses and God's plan to protect and care for them as a chosen people. Here, Jesus proposes a difficult theological concept. Jesus himself is "the living bread" and "flesh for the life of the world."READ MORE
In an on-demand society, it's not always easy to imagine life with less. The crowds of Jesus' day depended on the weather and successful growing seasons for their livelihood. For many of Jesus' listeners, even "food that perishes" would have been a welcome relief. Jesus acknowledges this but tries to draw them deeper. "You are looking for me not because you saw signs but because you ate the loaves and were filled." For people who have just witnessed a miracle, the response is strangely marked by ingratitude. "What can you do? Our ancestors ate manna in the desert." Jesus fed them for one day, but Moses interceded with God for 40 years of bread. "Jesus," they seem to say, "can't you just give us more?"READ MORE
Have you ever wanted to be part of something bigger? Even the most independent among us likes to make changes and have an impact on others. In this Sunday's Gospel reading, Jesus demonstrates one of his most iconic miracles - the multiplication of the loaves. It is a sign of the institution of the Eucharist, when we are fed not by bread but by the Body of Christ.READ MORE
"Now what?" It's a difficult thing to hear, isn't it? The train comes late, a child unexpectedly cries, and the latest public policy debate flares up in the news. Life throws us curveballs, and we have no choice but to adapt. Jesus and the Apostles find themselves in that exact situation in today's Gospel.
The Apostles have returned from their two-by-two missionary journey. As Jesus hears all of their stories, he knows they need time to recover and refresh. "Come away by yourselves to a deserted place and rest a while." Their wilderness retreat is short-lived, however, as eager crowds discover their location. Jesus is well aware of the needs of his disciples. Still, as he looks out at the crowd, "His heart was moved with pity for them, for they were like sheep without a shepherd." The rest break is over. "He began to teach them many things." For those of us who have experienced a taste of much-needed relaxation only to have it taken away abruptly, perhaps we surmise what the Apostles might have been feeling in that moment.READ MORE
"He summoned the Twelve and began to send them out two by two." This Sunday we read the first sending of the Apostles to preach, teach, and heal. For many of us, it can be easy to think we "just don't have enough" to be disciples and evangelists ourselves. We don't have enough education and training. We don't have enough experience talking to people about Jesus. We don't pray enough. We don't have enough faith.READ MORE
If you have been closely following the Sunday readings, today's gospel could sound a bit like a broken record. Four weeks ago, the Gospel told of Jesus visiting his home of Nazareth and being poorly received by his family members. Jesus had attracted a large crowd as he preached, and his concerned relatives came to bring him home. Jesus, they thought, was out of his league.READ MORE
Tiny fingers and toes. A little yawn. A loud cry. An infant wrapped in swaddling clothes. "What will this child be?" It is a question every parent asks time and time again. As first steps are taken, as personalities emerge, as a child shows interest in reading or drawing or climbing, the question is on our lips. "What will this child be?" This question is asked as John the Baptist is born. Will he be a priest like his father? Does his strange, unexpected name signal a departure from that inheritance? Could Elizabeth and Zechariah ever have predicted what would be?READ MORE
"This is how it is with the kingdom of God." What is a kingdom? Is it the brick and mortar that build up the castle? Is it the expanse of land a king can reasonably defend? Our notions of kingdoms may be romanticized in the modern era, but for the Israelites, a kingdom held deep historical meaning. Thousands of years before the birth of Christ, the Israelites had asked God for a king. After the reigns of David and Solomon, the united kingdom dissolved into factions, and the land was conquered by the Assyrians, Babylonians, and, finally, Romans. For the Israelites, a kingdom was something to build, both structurally and civilly. While this had ended in ruin for their ancestors, many of Jesus' contemporaries longed for the restoration of an earthly kingdom.READ MORE
Have you ever felt judged by your family? St. John Paul II noted that the family "is the cradle of life and love" (On the Lay Members of Christ's Faithful, 40). Yet unmet expectations and divergent priorities can cause tension in even the most loving family situations. This is true for us, and it was true for Jesus!READ MORE
In our modern times, symbols can seem to have lost its value. The most recognizable "signs" are ones we see on the road or the branding in advertisements. The logos for major companies don't do much more than perk our interest or disdain. They surely don't deliver on their promises for our lives to be happier, healthier, and easier.
On this feast of Corpus Christi, we hear the account of the Last Supper. This was Passover, an ancient sign of the covenant of Moses. The Hebrew people celebrated God's providential care for His people. To the listening disciples, Jesus makes a very bold claim. "This is my blood of the covenant." At the time of the first Passover -- the redemption of the Hebrew people from slavery to the Egyptians -- the blood of the sacrificial lamb was spread on the lintels of the doorpost. Tomorrow, some of the disciples would witness the blood of the new covenant spread across the wood of the cross.READ MORE