Those of us who watched the Republican candidates on Fox Thursday evening listened to quite a mix of voices, opinions, challenges and grumbling. That is pretty much what John describes today as the reactions to Jesus by the crowd listening to his teaching. Murmuring is a mild term in English since what John wrote is that they were grumbling and complaining and offering up reasons not to listen to him.
Important as the choice of a president will be for us in 2016, the message of Jesus that caused so much grumbling is much more important because it has to do not with political leadership but with life, our lives, our lives here and now, and how our lives can bring us, or not bring us to a life of happiness and joy in this world as the way to the joy and peace of life in the next.
There are three steps in our readings for today. Pope Francis today sets out the first one when he said today: The people loved the miracle of the loaves that fed them but are scandalized when Jesus claims to have come down from heaven and then adds; whoever believes in me has eternal life. The context for true life is the dynamic of the faith which is a relationship, relationship between the human person all of us here and the person of Jesus. In this relation the Father plays the decisive role! Here is the first challenge for us today: Will we open ourselves today and renew within us an eagerness to be taught by God? As Jesus tells us, everyone who listens to my Father and learns from Him comes to me. This is more than lip service. This is a challenge from Jesus himself. If we all are taught by God, then how much do we let what HE teaches us influence the choices we make, the actions we perform, the words we speak? In short can people know we are Christians by the concrete living out of our faith?
That will not be easy but it brings us to the second step. The example for that is Elijah. He is our model because of what he learned from God and how he responded to the angel. Worn out by being a prophet who was rejected and hounded and threatened by death, he wanted only to die. But God had plans for him as he does for us. The key words are the order from the angel. Get up and eat, else the journey will be too long for you! Jesus tells us the same thing today. Jesus is the bread of life. I am the living bread that came down from heaven; whoever eats this bread will live forever and the bread that I will give is my flesh for the life of the world! Our lives are all journeys, journeys of faith. By ourselves they will be too long and how often we can stumble and fall. Our beautiful Church is the ever present angel telling us to get up and eat else the journey WILL BE too long. The Eucharist is our journey bread. And we must make it the food of our daily lives. We do not and should not come to Mass just to receive the Eucharist and run. We come first to profess our faith by worshipping God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Only after hearing His Word and affirming his death and resurrection, can we receive the bread of life as the gift from the Father who calls us, the Son who redeems and the Spirit that unites making us one Body, The Church of Jesus Christ.
The dynamic of the faith nourished by the bread of life cannot leave us indifferent. It is the gift that invites us to an ongoing conversion of heart. That may sound nice but it is meant to be very concrete. If you believe in God and are conscious of no grave sin you may receive the Eucharist. But then, you have to show it by way we live day by day. The third element of today's lesson from God is given to us by St. Paul. You and I have been gifted. The Holy Spirit dwells in this one, holy Church of which we are the members. But members can be good members or not. We can be grumblers or we can be enthusiasts. We can grieve the Holy Spirit. Paul speaks of bitterness, fury, anger, shouting and reviling along with all malice. Sounds at times like what we see and hear all around us! But do others hear it FROM US? If so, we can change. And we are called to a serious look at ourselves and make those changes! Here again Paul helps us. Be kind to one another, compassionate, forgiving one another as God has forgiven you in Christ.
Three points. One goal. In the dynamic living out of the faith we profess, we have the bread of life for the journey of life that we live by being Imitators of God and so live in love as Chris loved us and offered Himself to the Father so that we might have life and life eternal.