21st Sunday in Ordinary Time - 26th August, 2018

Liturgical Reflection

Joshua 24:1-2.15-18; Letter to the Ephesians 5:21-32; Gospel – John 6:60-69

The context for today’s Gospel is found in last Sunday’s reading from the “Bread of Life” discourse, in which Jesus declared that he is the living bread and that anyone who eats this bread will live forever (Jn 6:51).  When this claim is criticized as intolerable language (Jn 6:60), Jesus explains that it is the spirit that gives life, the flesh has nothing to offer (Jn 6:63).  That is, his words are to be understood according to their spiritual meaning. If they are interpreted in a material way, they are of no benefit.  Nevertheless, despite this clarification, many of his disciples left him (Jn 6:66).


Although the circumstances are different, we too live in a time of discontent and dissension.  If we are tempted to defect, we should heed Peter’s response: Lord, who shall we go to?  You have the message of eternal life (Jn 6:68).  Unfortunately the radical significance of this statement is often lost as the idea of eternal life is reduced to a promise of ‘pie-in-the-sky-when-you-die’.  However, as John Paul 2 insists:

When Jesus speaks of “eternal life”…. the adjective does more than merely evoke a perspective which is beyond time.  The life which Jesus promises and gives is "eternal" because it is a full participation in the life of the "Eternal One".  Whoever believes in Jesus and enters into communion with him has eternal life because he hears from Jesus the only words which reveal and communicate to his existence the fullness of life.

Immediate consequences arise from this for human life in its earthly state, in which… eternal life already springs forth and begins to grow.  The life which Jesus gives in no way lessens the value of our existence in time; it takes it and directs it to its final destiny (Gospel of Life, nn.37-38).

For those who are disillusioned by scandal and consider the possibility of saying Yes to Jesus but No to the Church, the second reading reminds us that we do not follow Jesus as isolated individuals but as living parts of his body, the Church, which he feeds (cf. Eph 5:29-30).

The Gospel uses food imagery in two complementary senses, which are reflected in the structure of the Liturgy.  We are fed at the table of God’s word and at the table of the Eucharist.

Vatican 2 reminds us that this food not only nourishes the parts but also ensures the integrity of the whole body: (I)n the sacrament of the Eucharistic bread, the unity of all believers who form one body in Christ is both expressed and brought about (Constitution on the Church, n.3).

Jim Wade, Dominican Laity, Canberra