This Week’s Focus: The ADD Gospel
Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood abide in me, and I in them. Just as the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so whoever eats me will live because of me. This is the bread that came down from heaven, not like that which your ancestors ate, and they died. But the one who eats this bread will live forever." He said these things while he was teaching in the synagogue at Capernaum. When many of his disciples heard it, they said, "This teaching is difficult; who can accept it?" But Jesus, being aware that his disciples were complaining about it, said to them, "Does this offend you? Then what if you were to see the Son of Man ascending to where he was before? It is the spirit that gives life; the flesh is useless. The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life. But among you there are some who do not believe." For Jesus knew from the first who were the ones that did not believe, and who was the one that would betray him. And he said, "For this reason I have told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted by the Father." Because of this many of his disciples turned back and no longer went about with him. So Jesus asked the twelve, "Do you also wish to go away?" Simon Peter answered him, "Lord, to whom can we go? You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe and know that you are the Holy One of God." John 6:56-69
If current data is to be believed, we are all on our way to having the attention span of hummingbirds. That may be one reason why this is the fifth consecutive Sunday that we are working our way through the sixth chapter of John. True, this is by far John’s longest chapter. But does it really deserve almost 10% of the liturgical year to get the message? Apparently, it does.
In this week’s gospel, we see many followers of Jesus, who have been with him through miracles and revelations, turn away because this “Bread of Life” message is just too hard for them to accept. They had come along for the loaves and fishes. They had been awed by the miracles and fascinated by his command of the law and the prophets. They had their own ideas of what the Messiah should be. And they were expecting really big things. But not the big things that Jesus was revealing to them.
John devotes the first twelve chapters of his gospel to a revelation of Jesus. Who is he? Why is he here? What does that mean to us? On six occasions Jesus uses a “show & tell” technique that any kindergarten teacher would recognize. He captures the people’s attention by multiplying the loaves and fishes. Then he creates a metaphor linking the miracle with his mission of redemption. But there is nothing fancy about this transition. Having miraculously fed the multitude, he tells them directly: I am the bread of life. On five other occasions he uses this “I am” formula, linked to a miraculous event to reveal his divine make-up and his mission. Jesus, the teacher, is persistent and consistent.
And in the conclusion of this gospel we see the results of his instruction in a critical divide between the slow-learners and the no-learners. When questioned by Jesus, once again, it is plodding Peter who speaks the words of faith: We have come to believe that you are the Holy One of God. Peter’s intellect still struggles with it, but his heart has the will to believe. And that is the best that can ever be expected of poor fishermen or learned theologians.
Doubt is rarely conquered. We are too flawed for that. Doubt must be suspended. Our faith is a gift that must be constantly nurtured. We all suffer from a spiritual Attention Deficit Disorder. We are so easily distracted. It is part of the human condition that we are taken up with the here and the now. That it is why, in daily prayer and scripture, Jesus must live in our here and now, not in our there and then. And if that means taking five Sundays to conclusively understand and accept that Christ is the Bread of Life, it is time very well spent.
God love you!