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Reflections on the Gospel – 18th Sunday in Ordinary Time Year B

Veronica M Lawson RSM
2 August 2012

18th in Ordinary Time Year B

John 6:24-35
‘What must we do…?’

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Veronica Lawson

In John’s gospel, Jesus makes some remarkable claims for himself: ‘I am the light of the world’; ‘Before Abraham was, I am’; ‘I am the gate for the sheep’; ‘I am the good shepherd’; ‘I am the way, the truth and the life’; ‘I am the resurrection and the life’.

All of these claims tease us into active thought. They draw us into the mystery of the God of Israel who was revealed in the burning bush as YHWH, meaning ‘I Am who I Am’ or ‘I will be who I will be’ or ‘I cause to be what I cause to be’.

The God of Israel is the God of all creation who cannot be manipulated. Of all the gospel writers, John comes closest to identifying Jesus as the human face of the God of Israel.

Every metaphor or image reveals something of the mystery, but no metaphor or image on its own can fully capture the reality of Jesus, the Word of God made Flesh, who is presented to us in the Gospel of John.

The claim of Jesus in today’s gospel, ‘I am the bread of life’, invites us to reflect on one aspect of the person and mission of Jesus. The disciples always seem to misunderstand the Johannine Jesus.

Their misunderstanding gives Jesus the opportunity to deepen their appreciation of who he is and what he is about. They have participated in the feeding of the 5000. They know that Jesus can work wonders in their midst, that he has the capacity to draw out the goodness of people and lead them beyond themselves in addressing the needs of a hungry world.

They remain impressed by his ability to respond to material need. They have yet to understand the source of the spiritual sustenance they so sorely need.
At least the disciples ask the question: ‘What must we do…?’ and their question elicits the answer: not doing, but rather accepting Jesus as the one sent by God, ‘the true bread from heaven that gives life to the world’. As we approach the 67th anniversary of the bombing of Hiroshima, we might well ask the question again:

‘What must we do to bring the Bread of Life rather than the means of death and destruction to our world in these troubled times?’