Wednesday, Fourth Week of Easter

John 12:44-50

I, the light, have come into the world,
so that whoever believes in me
need not stay in the dark any more.

During my time in the monastery many people have asked me to pray for them. Sometimes they are seeking a way forward and might have the choice between two good things. I have found myself praying that they might have light enough for their paths.

When Jesus speaks of himself as light he is telling us that through him we will be able to see the path we should take. He is telling us that he will show us what is good and true. John’s Gospel presents us with a clear contrast between light and darkness. Often in our own lives the contrast isn’t quite so clear. We can find that we drift into ways that we wouldn’t necessarily describe as darkness, but we wouldn’t describe them as light either. This can be a hard place to navigate. Christ’s light can bring us to a place of acknowledgment and honesty.

Where in your life would you most like Christ’s light to shine?

St George

Romans 5:1-5
John 15:18-21

These sufferings bring patience, as we know, and patience brings perseverance, and perseverance brings hope, and this hope is not deceptive, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts by the Holy Spirit which has been given us.

We are now in our fourth week of celebrating Easter and St George enters our liturgical landscape as one who embodies the dynamic of the Paschal mystery. His ability to empty himself and to offer his life in the cause of love and truth mirrors Christ’s own self-emptying. Legend gives St George a particular place in our collective psyche.

Whatever we might think about the way in which St George has been co-opted into harmful right wing ideologies, his memory remains of one who was ready to have God’s love poured into his heart. This was the source of his chivalry and bravery.

When are you most aware that God’s love has been poured into your heart?

Monday, Fourth Week of Easter

John 10: 1-10

I am the gate.
Anyone who enters through me will be safe:
he will go freely in and out and be sure of finding pasture.

For the hearers of John’s Gospel the image of a shepherd will have invoked a whole world of meaning. Being in charge of a flock of animals and making sure they survived was not just a job but a way of life. The well-being of your flock and your own well-being were intimately connected.

Today’s Gospel speaks to me of the closeness of relationship that Jesus wants with each one of us. Like a shepherd, he is prepared to go to any lengths to ensure that we are safe and well fed. At its very best this is also a metaphor which the Church uses for leadership. It’s easy to hear this Gospel and see the ways in which the Church has failed in her leadership.

Perhaps today we could apply the metaphor to ourselves. How have we shepherded the people in our care? How have we ensured that people had the ‘food’ and ‘water’ that they needed? How have we brought them to safe pasture?

Fourth Sunday of Easter (B)

JOHN 10:11-18

I am the Good Shepherd: the good shepherd is one who lays down his life for his sheep.

Biblical scholars tell us that the shepherds of Jesus’ day took the safety of the sheep so seriously that they would lie themselves across the entrance to the sheepfold at night. This would stop both the sheep escaping and any predators entering. The shepherd really did lay down his life for his sheep.

When Jesus speaks of ‘laying down’ and ‘taking up’ we hear the dynamic of the Paschal mystery. In the Fourth Gospel we see Jesus as resolute in his mission and his ‘laying down’ is the means by which we are ‘taken up.’ As the Gospel unfolds we see what it means for Jesus to lay down his life.

Sometimes we encounter times in our lives when we too are called to lay down our lives. This can happen in a gradual way that we barely notice. Or it might be a sudden change of circumstances. Jesus has gone before us. Jesus was assured of the Father’s love when we laid down his life. We are too.

How have you ‘laid down your life’ in this past week?

Saturday, Third Week of Easter

John 6:60-69

Then Jesus said to the Twelve, ‘What about you, do you want to go away too?’ Simon Peter answered, ‘Lord, who shall we go to? You have the message of eternal life, and we believe; we know that you are the Holy One of God.’

Often in liturgy we are holding several time frames at once. I am very much aware of this today when I read Peter’s response to Jesus. The lectionary today has taken us back to the early chapters of John’s Gospel, but we last met Peter on the shores of Tiberias when he is invited eat breakfast by Jesus. Jesus will ask Peter three times if he loves him. We can read back and forth between today’s text and that scene. We know too that in between comes Peter’s denial.

Peter’s profession of faith roots him firmly in the thought world of both the Old Testament and New Testament. This promise of life runs through the whole of Biblical revelation. Peter recognises that the life he longs for has been promised to his ancestors and is now found in the person of Christ.   

Imagine Jesus asking you: ‘What about you, do you want to go away too?’

How do you respond?

Friday, Third Week of Easter

John 6:52-59

‘He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood lives in me and I live in him.’

When we gather together to give thanks to the Father and to share bread and wine we make a statement about who we are as individuals and who we are as community. We receive Christ’s broken body as a pledge of love and hope of healing for the world. Christ lives in and among us. At the end of the Eucharistic celebration you may hear these words: Go in peace, glorifying the Lord by your life. As we leave the church we are commissioned TO BE the Body of Christ.

The Church Fathers were quite clear about what this meant for believers:

Do you want to honor Christ’s body? Then do not scorn him in his nakedness, nor honour him here in the church with silken garments while neglecting him outside where he is cold and naked. For he who said: This is my body, and made it so by his words, also said: You saw me hungry and did not feed me, and inasmuch as you did not do it for one of these, the least of my brothers, you did not do it for me. [Mat 25:34ff].

( St John Chrysostom, Homily 50)

In our world today we don’t have to look far to see Christ’s broken body.

Where can you be the Body of Christ today?

Photo by Sylvain Brison on Unsplash

Thursday, Third Week of Easter

John 6:44-51

‘Your fathers ate the manna in the desert and they are dead; but this is the bread that comes down from heaven, so that a man may eat it and not die.’

It’s worth reading the whole of the Bread of Life discourse (John 6:22-66) in one sitting to get a sense of the flow of the argument. Some parts are very familiar and it is easy to miss them.

When Jesus speaks of manna he is reminding his hearers of the formative time in the desert when the Israelites relied directly on the providence of God. Jewish scholars say that the manna was thought to taste like whatever food one most craved. I like this detail. It speaks to me of a God who knows us and provides for our individual needs.

In the Eucharist Jesus offers us something even greater than manna. He offers us something that will sustain us now and always. While this is a gift which is personal to each of us, it is also a gift with a communal dimension. Benedictine, Godfrey Diekmann, sums this up in a sentence:

“What difference does it make if the bread and wine turn into the Body and Blood of Christ and we don’t?”

The Eucharist invites us to become what we receive. How can you do this today?

Wednesday, Third Week of Easter

Acts 8:1-8
John 6:35-40

I am the bread of life.
He who comes to me will never be hungry;
he who believes in me will never thirst.

We are so familiar with Jesus’ language when he refers to himself as ‘the Bread of Life’ that it is easy to miss just how bold a claim this was. In 1st Century Palestine the vast majority of people belonged to the peasant class. Many were tenant farmers and relied upon a favourable harvest and the integrity of the landlord to be able to survive. Bad fortune with either the harvest or the landlord threatened life. Having the means to make bread literally was a matter of life and death.

If you go in search of references to bread in the Bible you will find material from almost beginning to end. In Genesis we see the bread of Hospitality when Abraham and Sarah entertain their unexpected guests. In Exodus we learn of the Bread of the Presence when 12 loaves are kept on a golden table in the tabernacle. Those loaves symbolise God’s presence. In the New Testament Jesus multiplies the loaves and feeds a multitude. And at Emmaus it is in the breaking of bread that the disciples recognise Jesus. In all of these stories bread is the vehicle for communicating a truth.

So when Jesus says ‘I am the Bread of Life’ he is also saying that every truth that has been communicated through bread can be found in him. In Jesus we find the one who welcomes, the guarantee of God’s presence, the one who feeds and the one who opens our eyes.

How do you hear Christ’s promise that if you come to him you will never be hungry?

Tuesday, Third Week of Easter

John 6:30-35

‘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.’

These texts from John’s Gospel are so familiar that I often find myself letting them wash over me. Today I noticed something new. The disciples want to be assured that they will always be given the bread that Jesus is offering: ‘Sir, they said ‘give us that bread always.’ Something similar happens in the story of the Samaritan woman when we hear her say: ‘Sir, give me some of that water, so that I may never be thirsty or come here again to draw water.’ The disciples and the Samaritan woman have encountered Jesus in profound and personal ways and so it is natural that they want to hold onto that source of life.

In this desire to hold onto sources of life I am reminded of the excellent introduction to Ignatian Spirituality, Sleeping with Bread, a book by Dennis Linn, Sheila Fabricant Linn and Matthew Linn S.J. In the introduction they write:

‘During the bombing raids of World War II, thousands of children were orphaned and left to starve. The fortunate ones were rescued and placed in refugee camps where they received food and good care. But many of these children who had lost so much could not sleep at night. They feared waking up to find themselves once again homeless and without food. Nothing seemed to reassure them. Finally, someone hit upon the idea of giving each child a piece of bread to hold at bedtime. Holding their bread, these children could finally sleep in peace. All through the night the bread reminded them, ‘Today I ate and I will eat again tomorrow.’

The book is very worth reading just for the introduction alone. I find myself thinking about all the things that are sources of reassurance for me as an adult. Jesus as Bread of Life comes to me in many different ways.

How do you encounter Jesus, the Bread of Life?

Monday, Third Week of Easter

John 6:22-29

Today’s Gospel is the beginning of a long passage in which Jesus talks about himself as the ‘Bread of Life.’ We know at the outset that there will be confusion. Jesus is talking about much more than having physical hunger satisfied.

Today I can’t get passed the first level of meaning of these words:

‘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.’

So many in our world don’t have all the bread they need, never mind want. It’s likely that many who heard Jesus preach were living hand to mouth too. Their well-being wasn’t guaranteed and they lived with the demands of the occupying Romans. A significant percentage of the wheat they grew was sent to Rome. So when Jesus multiplies bread for them its both actual and symbolic. He feeds their physical hunger and gives them spiritual hope that God wants a world ordered by His ways and not the Emperor’s.

When you eat bread today take a moment to thank God and to a imagine a world where the values of the Kingdom prevail.