Strength of Faith

The Jews then disputed among themselves, saying, ‘How can this man give us his flesh to eat?’ So Jesus said to them, ‘Very truly, I tell you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you.’

Over the months of Ordinary Time, a time dedicated to growth, we focus on how we live out the Christian faith, how we walk in Strength of Faith. Remember, we are focusing on our Strength of Faith.

Over these past few weeks, in John’s gospel account, we see a steady progression from a feeding with the day’s bread as Jesus multiplies and distributes it, to a teaching on the true meaning of our daily bread, an everlasting feeding with the bread that came down from heaven.

See the change in tone from the day’s bread to our daily bread. See the power of the food Jesus provides – a food that does not perish or waste, a food so abundant that no one who wants it will go hungry. A food so powerful it gives us life.

A day’s bread, the stuff we put on our tables, the ordinary food needed for life will sustain us for a period. Our daily bread however is all that comes forth from God, and most particularly He Who came forth from the Father, Jesus, the Son of God. It has eternal power and life in it.

Who doesn’t love a banquet invitation? We get them for weddings, anniversaries, our parish centennial, and special birthdays. We send our RSVP in the mail and make our food choices. We anticipate the celebration and the exquisite hors d’oeuvres and main course. We go to celebrate and receive a portion of the day’s bread. I’ve eaten great bread of the day and I’ve had some doozy rubber chickens at banquets. Funny how I can remember the bad day’s food so clearly. Better that I remember the great food here at the Lord’s table. Here I have life.

Proverbs tells us that God has prepared a banquet and in Jesus that is true. He is the banquet. What He feeds us on is certainly the Holy Eucharist, the flesh and blood we eat and drink in communion, but not just limited to that. That would make His bread too small. His daily bread is the complete food we need. It is His complete self – flesh, blood, words, teaching, and way of living.

Jesus echoes Proverbs when He invites us to RSVP and show up for His daily bread. Answering yes on the RSVP and showing up has broad consequences for our whole lives. Those who accept the invitation must eat and drink of the entire daily bread, thereby choosing to “live.” We chose to live now and eternally by walking the gospel path in strength of faith.

In the Our Father we ask for our daily bread. The Father gives us Jesus, the perfect daily bread. As we partake of Jesus, Who gives us true life, let us open ourselves to share Him with a world that is so very hungry for life. As Jesus withheld nothing, so let our faith be so strong we never hesitate to proclaim and share Jesus – our daily bread.

Strength of Faith

So be imitators of God, as beloved children, and live in love, as Christ loved us and handed himself over for us as a sacrificial offering to God for a fragrant aroma.

Over the months of Ordinary Time, a time dedicated to growth, we focus on how we live out the Christian faith, how we walk in Strength of Faith. Remember, we are focusing on our Strength of Faith.

We have heard various examples of strength of faith among those whom Jesus encountered, and in Jesus Himself. I cannot stress strongly enough that our call is to walk the gospel way, to follow in Jesus’ footsteps, to encounter Him over and over because in living His way we receive ever greater grace to do so.

Grace is this, an encounter in the eternal and heavenly doorway where Jesus stands opposite us and hands over all we need to be powerfully successful in our mission and ministry.

As we experience today, this encounter begins at baptism. We meet Jesus in that doorway for the first time and He says, you are now a member of my body, the Church. You now have access to this doorway anytime and every time you approach. Come back a lot.

The catch, we must show up, certainly in church every Sunday for the particularly strong encounter we have for Jesus said: I am the living bread that came down from heaven; whoever eats this bread will live forever. That is the bread we need, the sharing in the heavenly bread that gives us the victorious eternal life Jesus won for us and that renews us for the work we need to show up for every day.

The catch, we who are called by the Father must return to the doorway again and again, each day, asking Jesus to meet us there is prayer so we become better and better outfitted for walking in strength of faith, for living the gospel way, walking the gospel path. Then speaking, proclaiming, and sharing Jesus.

Living Jesus’ way is not easy. This week Renee and I were up in Maine for Carly and Dom’s wedding – a truly beautiful event. We walked the streets of York and visited the Kittery Trading Post on our way back. We encountered people totally dedicated to readiness, spending the time needed. They were ready for the sea. They were ready to hike the highways and byways. They were prepared against dehydration and hunger. Their lesson to us – be ready. Like they do, let us be dedicated to readiness by strengthening our faith in the doorway every day.

Like anyone dedicated, we must spend the time needed to encounter the deep sea of grace, to walk the highways and byways proclaiming the Word of God and partake of the Body and Blood of Jesus so that we may never hunger or thirst. 

We the baptized, and today, Cameron, pledge to be imitators of God, as beloved children, and live in love by strengthening our faith and living it out in strong active witness to Jesus.

Strength of Faith.

“Sir, give us this bread always.” Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me will never hunger, and whoever believes in me will never thirst.”

Over the months of Ordinary Time, a time dedicated to growth, we focus on how we live out the Christian faith, how we walk in Strength of Faith. Remember, we are focusing on our Strength of Faith.

In Exodus 16 we join the children of Israel just six weeks into their wilderness journey. They witnessed the ten plagues visited on Egypt for her disobedience. They experienced the first Passover, the deliverance out of literal death and out of Egypt. They walked dry shod through parted sea. Yet now, here in the wilderness, they allowed fear and doubt take over. They grumble against Moses and through him at God. God is not a saving god; we’d rather go back to Egypt. We would rather sell ourselves back into slavery over trusting in God, over living in strength of faith.

God, in His mercy, responds to their grumbling by giving them food. If we were to read on to Exodus 17, we would find them grumbling again, this time about water.  That event was at Meribah and Massah, names which mean “testing,” and “quarrelling.” The people when tested, quarreled with God.

For the people of Israel, immediate need, and in the face of that need, doubt and worry, won over strength of faith and complete reliance on God. How could one see the great works of God and doubt? How could one worry when God has them in His hand? Yet we do too.

The model for what Jesus would face is right there – the people are fed in the wilderness and yet they ask: “What sign can you do, that we may see and believe in you? What can you do?” They saw a great work of God, yet still doubt and question. They still quarrel when tested. 

God sent His Son to once and finally free us from all captivity. He gave us an eternal Passover from death. He gave us bread that lasts forever, the food of eternal life. All we need to do is “believe in the One.

Jesus told us that He is “the bread of life;” and He added: “whoever comes to me will never hunger, and whoever believes in me will never thirst.”

God knows our needs. He knows them before we even realize them. He also knows that we need a provision that is complete and whole – so in Jesus we have assurance of a life that is eternal and perfect. We who believe in strength of faith receive not only food for today, but food everlasting!

As St. Paul states, we must live and think differently, no longer in the futility of our minds. The Galileans were thinking in earthy terms when they confronted and quarreled with Jesus. Let us not sell ourselves back into slavery over trusting in God, over living in strength of faith as we continue to become new selves.

rs-wonder-bread-of-life

The slow, long
slide.

I declare and testify in the Lord that you must no longer live as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their minds; that is not how you learned Christ, assuming that you have heard of him and were taught in him, as truth is in Jesus, that you should put away the old self of your former way of life, corrupted through deceitful desires, and be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and put on the new self, created in God’s way in righteousness and holiness of truth.

We have reached the mid-point of summer vacation – at least for our youth. As they and their brave parent rush down rollercoasters and waterslides, we have to wonder if they wish it might slow down – slow down so it might last longer.

Two opposing forces become more and more evident in our gospel messages. This gets to the message St. Paul is trying to convey in his letter telling the people to put away the futility of your minds; remember how you learned Christ. Put away the old self, your former way of life, and put on the new self, created in God’s way.

The people came searching for Jesus because they were fed and had seen a great miracle. They had wanted to proclaim Him King of Israel right there in the wilderness. Now they wanted more bread and circuses – show us another miracle. They were thinking in purely human terms and from worldly desires. They were caught up in the futility of their minds.

Jesus does not change His message – but now makes it much more evident. The Kingdom of God is not a kingdom focused on fulfilling whatever the world may wish – but rather a kingdom where God and His faithful live in joyful union – focused on fulfilling the entirety of His potential that is already in us. We are renewed in Him, made new, to live in righteousness and holiness of truth.

Over the next few weeks we see the slow, long slide toward the cross. The people caught up in the futile desires of their minds – power, success, and greed become more and more aware that Jesus has come to call them to a completely new and greatly different life. It is a life that eschews the former way of life, corrupted through deceitful desires. It is a life that offers the ultimate in rewards – eternal life with God in perpetual bliss and joy.

The people trapped in the futile desires of their minds wished that their “summer” would last forever. Jesus would feed, entertain, heal – give them all that the moment desired. Jesus offers the better alternative, the more perfect gift when He says: “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me will never hunger, and whoever believes in me will never thirst.”

Lord, I choose this bread! It lasts forever and will not slide away!