This weekend we celebrate the Nineteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time. For five Sundays (17th to 21st Sundays of Ordinary Time) in a row during the summer of year B, we read from Chapter 6 of John’s Gospel including the “Bread of Life Discourse”. This week we read the third installment and the Gospel requires me to ask myself, “Am I murmuring in my heart or do I fully accept the revelation of God that Jesus brings?” The first reading gives us an example of God’s care for His servants in the form of food for the journey which an angel brings to a very discouraged Elijah. The angel provides food and water for Elijah’s journey to Mt. Horeb. In the second reading, Paul reminds the Ephesians of the unity among Christians that should be seen in their lifestyle and their interactions with each other. I must ask myself how is the unity of the Body of Christ expressed in my life and in my attitudes towards others.
First Reading: 1 Kings 19:4-8
4 [Elijah] went a day’s journey into the desert, until he came to a broom tree and sat beneath it. He prayed for death: “This is enough, O LORD! Take my life, for I am no better than my fathers.” 5 He lay down and fell asleep under the broom tree, but then an angel touched him and ordered him to get up and eat. 6 He looked and there at his head was a hearth cake and a jug of water. After he ate and drank, he lay down again, 7 but the angel of the LORD came back a second time, touched him, and ordered, “Get up and eat, else the journey will be too long for you!” 8 He got up, ate and drank; then strengthened by that food, he walked forty days and forty nights to the mountain of God, Horeb.
NOTES on First Reading:
* 4-8 Here Elijah is partly on a pilgrimage and partly in flight from Queen Jezebel and King Ahab who seek revenge against him for the deaths of the prophets of Baal. Elijah is on his way to Horeb (Sinai according to other threads of the Exodus tradition), the site of the theophanies which Moses experienced (Ex 3:1-4:31). He goes back to the place where God began the covenant relationship with the law giver in order to lay his complaint before God. In response God gives him a revelation and a commission. Elijah sees himself as continuing the work of Moses. Moses and Elijah share the experience of theophanies on Mt. Horeb (Sinai) and the theophany on Mt. Tabor at the transfiguration of Jesus (Matt. 17:1-9; Mark 9:2-10; Luke 9:28-36).
The angel here is a tangible expression of the care that God has for His servants as they carry on their task of bringing the message of God to all who will listen.
* 4:8 In the scriptures, the number forty appears often. Usually it occurs as a symbolic number which means as many as were needed or as long as was required. Seldom does it mean the actual number forty.
Second Reading: Ephesians 4:30-5:2
30 And do not grieve the holy Spirit of God, with which you were sealed for the day of redemption. 31 All bitterness, fury, anger, shouting, and reviling must be removed from you, along with all malice. 32 (And) be kind to one another, compassionate, forgiving one another as God has forgiven you in Christ.
1 So be imitators of God, as beloved children, 2 and live in love, as Christ loved us and handed himself over for us as a sacrificial offering to God for a fragrant aroma.
NOTES on Second Reading:
* 4:30 The community-centered nature of the exhortations suggests that any offense against a fellow member is an offense against the Holy Spirit, because all Christians together form a living temple in which the Spirit dwells. See Eph 2:21-22. The One Holy Spirit unites the One Body of Christ (4:4; 1 Co 12:13) and is grieved (Eph 4:30; Isa 63:10) by anything that harms the unity of that body. The sealing with the Holy Spirit makes salvation a present reality. See Eph 1:13.
* 4:31 Paul incorporated elements of a traditional list of vices in the parenesis. Such lists are common in Hellenistic moral tracts as well as elsewhere in the New Testament such as Rom 1:29-31, Gal 5:19-21.
The vices listed here are those that are disruptive of communal life and injure the unity of the body.
* 4:32 The thought expressed here is reminiscent of the petition in the Lord’s Prayer that God forgives those who forgive others, but the imperative and the conditions are reversed.
* 5:1 See 1 Cor 11:1, 1 Thes 1:6 There is a manner of life that characterizes membership in God’s household (Eph 2:19). One of the characteristics defining Christians as members of God’s household is love of neighbor modeled on the love that the Son of God manifested in His sacrificial death (Eph 5:2).
Gospel Reading: John 6:41-51
41 The Jews murmured about him because he said, “I am the bread that came down from heaven,” 42 and they said, “Is this not Jesus, the son of Joseph? Do we not know his father and mother? Then how can he say, ‘I have come down from heaven’?” 43 Jesus answered and said to them, “Stop murmuring among yourselves. 44 No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draw him, and I will raise him on the last day. 45 It is written in the prophets:
‘They shall all be taught by God.’
Everyone who listens to my Father and learns from him comes to me. 46 Not that anyone has seen the Father except the one who is from God; he has seen the Father. 47 Amen, amen, I say to you, whoever believes has eternal life. 48 I am the bread of life. 49 Your ancestors ate the manna in the desert, but they died; 50 this is the bread that comes down from heaven so that one may eat it and not die. 51 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.”
NOTES on Gospel:
* 6:41 The crowd murmurs like the Israelites in the desert whose complaints provoked the Mosaic gift of water and manna (Exodus 15:24, Exodus 16:2,7,12). It was an example of unbelief just as in this case (Isa 10:12, Psalm 106:24-25).
* 6:42 The rejection of Jesus because His “origins” are “known” is a traditional episode in the Synoptic tradition ( Luke 4:22, Mark 6:3). John uses that objection as the basis for saying that because of it Jesus cannot be “from heaven”. This is the same type of objection often lodged against the Johannine Christians as presented in John 7:27-28
* The traditions of Jesus’ birth in Bethlehem are irrelevant here even if they were known by John since the point is that Jesus has come from Heaven.
* 43-47 Jesus command to stop murmuring is followed by a series of sayings which encapsulate the Johannine theology of belief.
* Verses 44-45 reiterate the statement that only those “drawn by God” believe in Jesus.
Verse 44c like v 40c contains an editorial expansion that makes Jesus the agent of “resurrection on the last day.”
* 6:45 John may have conflated Isa 54:13, Jer 31:34 to demonstrate that God is responsible for the faith of those who believe in Jesus
* 6:46 There is no knowledge of God apart from Jesus (1:18, 3:33, 5:37). One cannot be taught by God apart from hearing and believing the word of Jesus.
* 6:47 The series ends with another affirmation that the believer has eternal life.
48-49 The reference to Israelites eating manna in the wilderness completes exposition of the Scripture citation in verse 31.
* 6:50 The life that comes through eating the bread of heaven is contrasted with the death of the wilderness generation. This sequence repeats the pattern of verses 32-33:
negative statement in reference to the Exodus tradition, “not Moses…”, “your fathers died”;
followed by a definition, “bread of God is…”, “bread which comes from heaven is…”
* 6:51a This completes the passage by picking up the sequence in v 35:
I Am saying;
Condition: “anyone comes…”; “anyone eats…”;
salvation: “not hunger…”, “live forever”.
Verse 51a makes it clear that what is implied by not hungering and not thirsting is eternal life.
* From v51b on the discourse takes on a more deliberately Eucharistic tone rather than referring simply to Jesus as the revealer of the Father as it does up to 51b.
* The suggestion (Bultmann) that verses 51b-59 were added during the final editing of the Gospel of John does not need to imply that they represent a “correction” to the Gospel to make it acceptable to the emerging sacramental theology of the developing orthodoxy. The language, “I will raise him up on the last day”, which appears to reflect later editing appears again in v 54.
Verses 57b and 58b speak of having life in the future tense but 54a and 56b use the language of realized eschatology. Verse 56 uses the language of remaining that appears in the farewell discourses (15:4-5; 17:21,23)
It has been suggested that this material may have originated in a Johannine last supper tradition that was recast to fit into the preceding discourse. </font