Moving forward - Sunday Reflection
Posted: Tue, 17 Aug 2021 10:13
In our Gospel today we see the honest fall-out from Jesus' teaching: Jesus said to them, "if you do not eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you will not have life in yourselves' (Jn 6:53). John presents an unambiguous teaching on the 'bread of life'; he is pointing to the reality of crucifixion and death that cannot be hidden or brushed under the carpet. As Christians, we often want to pick and choose the bits of the Gospel and the Bible narrative that appeal to us. We would rather gloss over the hard bits and fast-forward to Easter Sunday missing out on the challenge of Holy Week. Jesus made it clear even to his best friend Peter who wants him to avoid going up to Jerusalem to meet suffering and heart ache (see Mt 16:21-23): 'get away from me, Satan! You are an obstacle in my way, because these thoughts of yours don't come from God, but from human nature' (Mt 16:23). He saw Peter as the stumbling block who was going to block the way to the Father.
We are told that 'many of his followers' (Jn 6: 60) find his teaching on the Eucharist unacceptable. Each Sunday, the early Christians would meet in secret to celebrate the life, death and resurrection of Jesus. They would take bread as the President of their liturgy said, 'take and EAT this is my body...take and DRINK this is my blood...do this in MEMORY of me.' John is pointing to the reality of the early Church: some could not follow the Way because they cannot accept His teaching.
Because of this, many of Jesus' followers turned back and would not go with him anymore. (Jn 6:66).
Perhaps we need to ask ourselves if our own following of Jesus can be compromised. The events of these past eighteen months have forced many of us to question the goodness of God, while many others have turned to God, realising that humanity is not in total charge. Covid-19 has forced all of us to face up to the reality of our own existence; as follower of Jesus we have all become well aware that bad things happen to good people. The global pandemic has forced us all to question the meaning and purpose of life: we were all forced to endure closures and lockdown. Jobs were lost, finances were stretched, and the family dynamic challenged. Our younger generation were forced to discover 'distance learning', as we had to come to grips with the likes of Zoom, Skype and Microsoft Teams.
I strongly recommend the writing of my Salesian friend, David O'Malley SDB; he can help our children and families to fully reflect on the experience of pandemic. Much praise is rightly heaped on our NHS heroes for their dedication and self-sacrifice during these times. As we prepare to begin another school year, it is good to spare a thought for our teachers. Schools were NEVER closed throughout the crisis, with modern technology being used to ensure lessons could be delivered. Teachers and school staff went the extra mile to ensure lessons were delivered in classrooms, online and even by slow mail! They even delivered meals to homes to ensure that children did not go hungry. Spare a thought for those other heroes who ensured that our children and young people could have some sense of normality in strange times that they could not fully understand. They were given a sense of purpose and hope, as David O'Malley reminds us:
(Teachers) focus on journeys of hope and not despair. They uncover the deeper motivation to manage real loss with the trust that Jesus showed in the abiding presence of something larger, kinder and wiser at the centre of his life and all our own lives too. We need to look at the Gospels for stories of resilience and awakening to inspire young people and lead them into the trust that Jesus had in his Father. ('PANDEMIALS: NOT LOST BUT MOVING FORWARD' 30/06/2021)
Today's gospel offers us that chance to move forward in our doubts. We see Jesus turning to his closest friends and wondering if they have lost trust and hope too. In our wonderment and times of challenge, we can look to Peter and make his prayer ours, especially in these times:
'Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe and to know that you are the Holy One of God' (Jn 6:68-69).
In his typical spontaneous way, Peter sees beyond the miracle of feeding— he shows a deep faith in the One who can offer him much more than just free fish sandwiches. As our new school year opens, we need to support our schools and ALL who work there: teaching, support, catering and cleaning staff all work together, with children, families, Governors and parishes, to offer young people not just quality education, but a reason to be hopeful. What does your parish do to offer support our schools; it is not good enough to complain that we never see many young people in church, if we do nothing to encourage and help them. David O'Malley reminds us:
As schools rooted in Gospel values, we have a duty to open up the treasures of (the Jesus Story) to support the healthy growth and resilience of our pupils. That growth is not just in academic excellence, important as that is for their future, it is also a growth in self-awareness, relational skills and the whole world of inter-connectivity into which they are already woven.
The Gospel message will not always be easy to follow; we will be challenged, we will find it hard, but we follow the one who can offer us hope. He has experienced rejection, pain and hurt to achieve glory; He has been that way before.
Watch and reflect:
For I've been released
And I've been regained
And I've sung my song before
And I'm sure to sing my song again
Once again. (Neil Diamond)
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