The 19th Sunday in Ordinary Time – 8 August 2021
Lectionary Readings: 1 Kings 19:4-8; Psalm 34: 2-3, 4-9; Eph 4:30-5:2; Jn 6:41-51
Theme: Drawn by the Father
The gift of ISPS-Ratisbonne is to study the Scriptures within its Jewish milieu. In doing so, one develops sensitivity and respect to incorporate dialogue in its interpretation. In today’s Gospel, we are invited to be more critical in our approach considering that the portion mentions “the Jews” and they are used as a foil for the story to unfold. AJ Levine suggests that we, “Avoid comments that create the picture of Jesus divorced from his own people. Jesus is not speaking against Jews and Judaism: He is speaking to Jews from within Judaism.” (p. 216)
The scene in the Gospel is after the story of the multiplication of the loaves. The conversations and dialogue that ensued happened in the synagogue in Capernaum. Naturally, as a Rabbi, Jesus would be using religious images and Scriptures to teach. In today’s Gospel, he used the symbolism of bread and quoted Isaiah 54:13. Through these, the Johanine Jesus gave a strong theological assertion, “I am the bread of life/I am the bread that came down from heaven”, which has Eucharistic overtones to the present-day Christians. We note that, “John’s Gospel does not provide an account of the memorial meal during the Last Supper.” (Levine and Brettler, pg. 171)
We hear the objections of “the Jews” when Jesus claimed, “I am the bread that came down from heaven.” They would be aware of the parentage of Jesus. (Levine and Brettler, pg. 171) This counter-argument is, most likely, a literary device of the Gospel writer in order to make a point that was already in the prologue of the Gospel of John, and that is, Jesus is the “Word-made-flesh.” Jesus’ response to them is simply that, “No one can come to me unless the Father draws him…” Jesus then, clarified what he meant by “bread”, which is his “flesh for the life of the world,” alluding to his death and resurrection. (Levine and Brettler, pg 171) These words lead us to the insight that, as Christians, we were drawn to the person of Christ Jesus and believe that we are nourished by our faith in Him. At the same time, we need to be aware that faith in Christ need not be imposed on others, especially, in this day and age when we are engaging in inter-religious dialogue with other faith traditions. God reveals God-self in various ways.
(It is interesting to note that the term, basar in Hebrew refers to both “flesh” and “good news.” Even though this may be an attractive idea to reflect on, we acknowledge that the Gospel was written in Greek!)
Reflection question: How do we share the message of Christ in an interreligious setting?
Bibliography: Levine, Amy-Jill. The Misunderstood Jew. HarperCollins: USA, 2007; Levine and Brettler, The Jewish Annotated New Testament. Oxford University Press: New York, 2011.
This week’s teaching commentary was prepared by
Sr. Petite Lao, RNDM, Bat Kol Alum 2010, 2014
Delesan Kailawan, Sultan Kudarat, Philippines