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August 12, 1988     The Message
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August 12, 1988
 

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August 12, 1988 0000Commentary The Message -- for Catholics of Southwestern Indiana 5 Mass Readings By FATHER DONALD DILGER From bread of life as teaching to bread of life- Eucharist Gospel Commentary for Sunday, Aug. 14, 1988 John 6:51-58 In last Sunday's gospel, Jesus was the living bread or bread of life through whom we are drawn to the Father and are taught by the Father. The ac- ceptance of that teaching is the beginning of eter- nal life. That life needs nourishing. For that pur- pose Jesus gives his flesh for the life of the world. That is how today's gospel begins. This was a dif- ficult saying for "the Jews," the name which John usually gives to the Jewish opposition of his day and place. The Gospel of Matthew would call them the Pharisees and chief priests. What is meant by both is the religious leadership of the Jewish peo- ple. They respond with a question: "How can this man give us his flesh to eat?" To eat human flesh was as abhorent to those people as it is to us. Jesus gives no direct answer. They are thinking of eating flesh physically as Nicodemus thought of physical rebirth when he asked in John 3:4: "Can one enter a second time into his mother's womb and be born?" In 4:11 the Samaritan woman was also on a purely natural plane of thought when she asked Jesus to give her the living water, or running water, that would quench her thirst and she would never have to carry water again. To be reduced to eating human flesh was regarded among the Jews as the ultimate punishment. Jeremiah 19:9 speaks of the siege of Jerusalem by the Babylonians when "I will make them eat the flesh of their sons and daughters, and everyone shall eat the flesh of his neighbor." Ezekiel 5:10 regards cannibalism as the punishment which came upon the Jews for their sins. The first century historian, Flavius Josephus, gives an example of cannibalism during the siege of Jerusalem. But Jesus does not back away from the saying about giving flesh to eat. Instead he adds that they must eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood or they would have no life in them. The drinking or eating of all blood was strictly forbid- dento the Jews. In Genesis 9:4, the covenant with Nee, when the people were given animals as food, we read: "Only you shall not eat flesh with its life, that is, its blood." Leviticus 3:17; 7:26; 17:14 and Deuteronomy 12:23 all forbid the consumption of blood. This prohibition carries over into the New Testament-. In Acts 15:20, one of the conditions for the acceptance of non-Jewish people into the Church was that they abstain from blood. But Jesus emphasizes again: "The one who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life and I will raise up that person on the last day. My flesh is truly food and my blood is truly drink." The author of John may reflect here a struggle against the heresy called Docetism. According to this teaching, matter is evil. Therefore, Jesus could not have a material body. He only seemed to be flesh and blood but was not so in reality. Since Jesus' body was not truly material, neither did he die the shameful death on the cross. According to the Church Father, Irenaeus, the Docetists went so far as to say that Simon of Cyrene was crucified in place of Jesus while Jesus returned to heaven. The Gospel of John, however, insists on the reality of the flesh and blood of Jesus. The last part of today's gospel speaks of the unity between Jesus, the Father, and the individual receiver of the flesh and blood of Jesus: "The one who eats my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me and I in that person. As the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so the one who eats me will live because of me." The text does not say directly that we have union with the Father, but it is implied. Elsewhere in the Gospel of John this becomes clearer. The parable of the vine and the branches teaches the same idea in 15:1-10. In 17:23 we read: "I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one." I John 2:24: "... then you will abide in the Son and in the Father." II Peter 1:4 speaks of us becoming "sharers of the divine nature." In summary, we have seen the discourse of John 6 move from the manna with which the an- | ii cient Israelites were fed in the wilderness to the eucharistic flesh and blood of Jesus. According to Deuteronomy 8:3, the manna was itself more than mere physical food. It symbolized "every word that comes from the mouth of God," that is it sym- bolized the teaching of God. The author or Jesus himself then moved on to the TRUE BREAD from heaven, that is the teaching of Jesus through which people are drawn to God if they accept it in faith. The final point is that Jesus himself is the living bread which comes down from heaven and that living bread can be shared intimately in the eucharist by those who eat his flesh and drink his blood. The faith which is born when one accepts Jesus as Son and his teaching grows into everlasting life through its bbing nourished by the Eucharist. The Eucharist, the flesh and blood of Jesus, is the pledge of final resurrection for the one who eats and drinks it. As we read and study this long discourse or theological debate, we should bear in mind that we may not have the words exactly as Jesus spoke them since John has no intention of writing a biography. When we read the reaction of "the Jews" we are reading about the reaction of the Jews of John's day, presumably around the year 95 A.D., and probably the reaction of various groups of Christians within the community for which John was writing. This eucharistic discourse is his treat- ment of the subject and is meant as an answer and guide to his Christian community. It is a difficult subject for us today and it was difficult for the Christians of the end of the first century. That this is so can be seen by the reaction to the eucharistic discourse, the subject of next Sunday's gospel. Un- til then we must be satisfied with the words of Peter to Jesus, an act of faith: "Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life." Where understanding fails, faith takes over. Other readings for Sunday, Aug. 14: Proverbs 9:1.6; Ephesians 5:15.20. Vatican Letter Marian Year big news in some regions, no news in others By GREG ERLANDSON NC News Service VATICAN CITY (NC) -- As seen from Pope John Paul II's Vatican balcony, the Marian year he inaugurated on Pentecost in 1987 has succeed- ed in inspiring a flurry of activi- ty in Rome. Marian concerts, Masses, congresses, lectures and shows have packed Rome's religious agenda for the last 14 months. Gold-caped and white-bearded Eastern-rite church leaders have come to the "Eternal City" for joint celebrations with the pope, not to mention the countless pilgrimages passing through on their way to Lourdes, Fatima and other Marian shrines. But Rome, forever under the gaze of the Vatican and home to dozens of Catholic institutions and hundreds of priests and Religious, is nearly always an enthusiastic implementer of papal proposals. Beyond the city limits, in the rest of Europe, North America and the Third World, the Marian year has been more hit- or-miss, very much dependent on the leadership of local bishops or the enthusiasm of the laity. Father Timothy C]outier, a member of the Oblates of the Responsible for many of the has nearly sold out. In Curitiba, Brazil, 30,000 Virgin Mary and an official year's Marian celebrations, as Dioceses have played impor- Catholics celebrated the feast of with the Vatican's central com- well as for maintaining contact tant roles in celebrating the Our Lady of Light, while the mittee for the Marian year, said with local churches, the central Marian year, not always just in archbishop of Florianopolis, reports received by his office committee announced Aug. 5 the Third World. The New York Brazil, convinced the govern- suggest the most enthusiastic that it had ended its activities as Archdiocese "did a bang-up ment to issue a series of stamps implementation has been in the Marian year wound to a job" from the very beginning, commemorating the Marian Africa and South America. close, he said. year. Father Cloutier, from Min- Father Cloutiar attributes the The Archdiocese of San Fran- Shrines to the Madonna play neapolis, readily admits his of- year's successes to the church's cisco co-sponsored an interna- a more central role in mission fice doesn't hear about all the "grass roots," where Marian tional ecumenical conference dioceses, than they do in Marian year activities held devotion neverdied, on "Mary, Woman for All," Western dioceses, said Father around the world. Most of the Many individuals or small last June, and in May the Cloutier, so pilgrimages have information is received from in- groups have made their con- Diocese of San Jose held a series been a big feature of Marian dividuals and the reports of tributions, he said. One exam- of symposiums on Mary. veneration in Africa and Asia. papal diplomats, he said, but ple is Marist Brother John Activities in Africa, Asia and But Marian pilgrimages have the majority of these reports Samaha, who administers the South America oflen ran toward increased worldwide, and concern Third World activities. Shrine of Our Lady of Peace in p i 1 g r i m a g e s a n d b a s i c Marian sanctuaries are major The Marian year has inspired Santa Clara, Calif. Brother catechesis, Father Cloutier said. beneficiaries. Lourdes and 87 pastoral letters, and bishops' Samaha reprinted various In Angola, the Diocese of Fatima are two of the most conferences have translated the Marian documents from the Se- Nero Redondo used its limited popular pilgrimage spots, and pope's Marian encyclical, cond Vatican Council and resources to mimeograph a June 24 a vigil for thousands of "Redemptoris Mater" elsewhere as little booklets, regular Marian bulletin, using young people was held at ("Mother of the Redeemer"), which he distributed free to it as a catechetical tool. Lourdes. into all major languages as well visitors at his shrine. It might not seem like much Fatima also has inspired as such tongues as Ukrainian, B r o t h e r S a m a h a i m - compared to efforts in far many local efforts, including a Japanese, Catalan and Kinyar- plemented one of the objectives wealthier countries, Father series of presentations in wanda, of the year, Father Cloutier Cloutier said, but the little England called "A Day with Several major Marian said, because he encouraged bulletin was "filled with a fire Mary," described as days "of ecumenical theological con- devotion while also providing and a zeal" that made it stand instruction, devotion and in- gresses have been held, and "something solid" to deepen out. tercession based on the message ecumenical prayer celebrations spiritual development. The Jammu-Srinagar Diocese given at Fatima." have brought together Catholic In Australia, one lay group in India has used the year to The popular, still unap- and Orthodox leaders in Syria, distributed pamphlets on pray- teach Marian prayers to proved, apparition site at Turkey, Egypt and Greece. ing the rosary, while an children, sponsor Saturday Medjugorje has not only at- All told, the committee has Australian Christian Brother Marian celebrations and en- tracted pil8rlms, but stirred heard from 50 nations about named Christian Moe compos- courage the placement of academic interest as well. The various Marian activities in ed a "Primer of Mary,"a small Marian images in all Catholic San Francisco and San Jose local churches, he said. catechism whose first printing homes. ' ,.qVATIC, P, Npe 10