Thursday, August 25, 2016

Do not judge according to appearance, but judge with righteous judgment


 Now about the middle of the feast Jesus went up into the temple and taught.  And the Jews marveled, saying, "How does this Man know letters, having never studied?"  Jesus answered them and said, "My doctrine is not Mine, but His who sent Me.  If anyone wills to do His will, he shall know concerning the doctrine, whether it is from God or whether I speak on My own authority.  He who speaks from himself seeks his own glory; but He who seeks the glory of the One who sent Him is true, and no unrighteousness is in Him.  Did not Moses give you the law, yet none of you keeps the law?  Why do you seek to kill Me?"  The people answered and said, "You have a demon.  Who is seeking to kill You?"  Jesus answered and said to them, "I did one work, and you all marvel.  Moses therefore gave you circumcision (not that it is from Moses, but from the fathers), and you circumcise a man on the Sabbath.  If a man receives circumcision on the Sabbath, so that the law of Moses should not be broken, are you angry with Me because I made a man completely well on the Sabbath?  Do not judge according to appearance, but judge with righteous judgment." 

Now some of them from Jerusalem said, "Is this not He whom they seek to kill?  But look!  He speaks boldly, and they say nothing to Him.  Do the rulers know indeed that this is truly the Christ?  However, we know where this Man is from; but when the Christ comes, no one knows where He is from."  Then Jesus cried out, as He taught in the temple, saying, "You both know Me, and you know where I am from; and I have not come of Myself, but He who sent Me is true, whom you do not know.  But I know Him, for I am from Him, and He sent Me."  Therefore they sought to take Him; but no one laid a hand on Him, because His hour had not yet come.  And many of the people believed in Him, and said, "When the Christ comes, will He do more signs than these which this Man has done?"

The Pharisees heard the crowd murmuring these things concerning Him, and the Pharisees and the chief priests sent officers to take Him.  Then Jesus said to them, "I shall be with you a little while longer, and then I go to Him who sent Me.  You will seek Me and not find Me, and where I am you cannot come."  Then the Jews said among themselves, "Where does He intend to go that we shall not find Him?  Does He intend to go to the dispersion among the Greeks and teach the Greeks?  What is this thing that He said, 'You will seek Me and not find Me, and where I am you cannot come'?"

- John 7:14-36

Yesterday, we read that after the events following the teachings on His Body and Blood, Jesus walked in Galilee; for He did not want to walk in Judea, because the Jews sought to kill Him.  Now the Jews' Feast of Tabernacles was at hand.  His brothers therefore said to Him, "Depart from here and go into Judea, that Your disciples also may see the works that You are doing.  For no one does anything in secret while he himself seeks to be known openly.  If You do these things, show Yourself to the world."  For even His brothers did not believe in Him.  Then Jesus said to them, "My time has not yet come, but your time is always ready.  The world cannot hate you, but it hates Me because I testify of it that its works are evil.  You go up to this feast.  I am not yet going up to this feast, for My time has not yet fully come."  When He had said these things to them, He remained in Galilee.  But when His brothers had gone up, then He also went up to the feast, not openly, but as it were in secret.   Then the Jews sought Him at the feast, and said, "Where is He?"  And there was much complaining among the people concerning Him.  Some said, "He is good"; others said, "No, on the contrary, He deceives the people."   However, no one spoke openly of Him for fear of the Jews.

 Now about the middle of the feast Jesus went up into the temple and taught.  We recall that Jesus is in Jerusalem for the Feast of Tabernacles (Hebrew Sukkot), an autumn harvest festival.  The events in these next few chapters of John's Gospel concern things that happened at this festival, which covers eight days, and is the feast of the coming Kingdom, commemorating the time Israel lived in tents (or booths or tabernacles) following Moses toward the promised land.

 And the Jews marveled, saying, "How does this Man know letters, having never studied?"  Jesus answered them and said, "My doctrine is not Mine, but His who sent Me.  If anyone wills to do His will, he shall know concerning the doctrine, whether it is from God or whether I speak on My own authority.  He who speaks from himself seeks his own glory; but He who seeks the glory of the One who sent Him is true, and no unrighteousness is in Him.  Did not Moses give you the law, yet none of you keeps the law?  Why do you seek to kill Me?"  The people answered and said, "You have a demon.  Who is seeking to kill You?"  Jesus answered and said to them, "I did one work, and you all marvel.  Moses therefore gave you circumcision (not that it is from Moses, but from the fathers), and you circumcise a man on the Sabbath.  If a man receives circumcision on the Sabbath,so that the law of Moses should not be broken, are you angry with Me because I made a man completely well on the Sabbath?  Do not judge according to appearance, but judge with righteous judgment."   Once again we remember that the term the Jews is used to denote the religious leadership (all the people here are Jews, including Jesus).  My study bible says of Jesus' teachings here that the simple desire to know and follow God's will is the key to understanding it.  Spiritual blindness comes from the unwillingness to truly know God or to recognize God's authority.   My study bible cites St. John Chrysostom here, who paraphrased the words of Christ as follows:  "Rid yourselves of wickedness:  the anger, the envy, and the hatred which have arisen in your hearts, without provocation, against Me.  Then you will have no difficulty in realizing that My words are actually those of God.  As it is, these passions darken your understanding and distort sound judgment.  If you remove these passions, you will no longer be afflicted in this way."  Jesus refers here to a quarrel with the authorities which began when Jesus was in Jerusalem at the Passover, and healed a man near the pool at the Sheep Gate.  He was subsequently accused by the leadership of breaking the Sabbath.

Now some of them from Jerusalem said, "Is this not He whom they seek to kill?  But look!  He speaks boldly, and they say nothing to Him.  Do the rulers know indeed that this is truly the Christ?  However, we know where this Man is from; but when the Christ comes, no one knows where He is from."  Then Jesus cried out, as He taught in the temple, saying, "You both know Me, and you know where I am from; and I have not come of Myself, but He who sent Me is true, whom you do not know.  But I know Him, for I am from Him, and He sent Me."  Therefore they sought to take Him; but no one laid a hand on Him, because His hour had not yet come.  And many of the people believed in Him, and said, "When the Christ comes, will He do more signs than these which this Man has done?"  My study bible tells us that these crowds here are mistaken, both in an earthly sense and in a divine sense.  Humanly speaking, they think Jesus is from Nazareth in Galilee.  But they're mistaken, as He was actually born in Bethlehem.  But beyond worldly birth, they can't understand that He has come from the Father in Heaven, eternally begotten before all ages, and therefore His divine origin is also unknown to them.  His hour referred to here is the time of His suffering and death on the Cross.  My study bible says that Christ is the Lord over time, which is an authority that is possessed by God alone.  He comes to the Cross of His own free will and in His time, not in accordance with the plots of human beings (see also 8:20; 10:39).  Jesus makes clear statements here of His relationship to the Father, for which they seek to seize Him.

The Pharisees heard the crowd murmuring these things concerning Him, and the Pharisees and the chief priests sent officers to take Him.  Then Jesus said to them, "I shall be with you a little while longer, and then I go to Him who sent Me.  You will seek Me and not find Me, and where I am you cannot come."  Then the Jews said among themselves, "Where does He intend to go that we shall not find Him?  Does He intend to go to the dispersion among the Greeks and teach the Greeks?  What is this thing that He said, 'You will seek Me and not find Me, and where I am you cannot come'?"  Here Jesus refers to His death, Resurrection, and Ascension into heaven -- clearly giving us a picture that He knows what is to come.  It is all, in some sense, in His and the Father's hands, and will be a voluntary "exodus" on the Cross (see translation footnote at Luke 9:31).  To go among the Greeks is to go to teach among the Gentiles; that is, Greek-speakers, as the lingua franca of the time was Greek.  This is an unwitting prophecy.  It points to the time after His Ascension, when Christ's name will be preached among the Gentiles by the apostles.  Indeed, all the books of the New Testament (and at Christ's time, as well as for many centuries afterward, even the Old Testament Scriptures) were written and studied in Greek.

Jesus takes the traditions of the past, and something new is born as fulfillment of Old Testament prophecies.  Many of the people believe in Him, but the leadership -- although He does have followers among them -- firmly is against Him.  He is a threat to their place, and they will use the Law against Him, to charge Him with blasphemy.  Here in today's passage we see a common sort of development in John's Gospel.  Jesus' words are hard to understand, and hard to interpret.  A literal reading of His words will not allow one the insight to know what He's talking about.  Like the insistence upon the literal holding of the traditions that were developed around the Law, a literal understanding only of His words will not get anyone very far, because Jesus' words have meanings on many levels.  It requires an opening of the heart to perceive, an act opening to the possibility of faith.  The leadership clings to a worldly perspective, concerned as they are about their own authority and their places.  But Jesus teaches by example, and as we can see from His words, He clings over and over again to His relationship to the Father and His mission given in such relationship.  There is no separation between Father and Son.  That is, even on the Cross, as Jesus teaches, His Father is with Him (see 8:29, 16:32).  Jesus shows us the importance of clinging to this relationship, and that all things come in relation to God, even His identity as well as our identity.  He seeks the glory of the One who sent Him.  Throughout misunderstanding, throughout persecution, through all difficulties, it is the one thing necessary that Jesus clings to -- and by doing so, sets the example for all of us.  How does your relationship to Christ shape you?  How does it shape your decisions?  Does it define you when others would define you otherwise?  This is the key to Christ, and to true faith.  Who are we as we abide in Him?  What does it mean not to judge according to appearance, but to truly judge with righteous judgment?




Wednesday, August 24, 2016

The world cannot hate you, but it hates Me because I testify of it that its works are evil


 After these things Jesus walked in Galilee; for He did not want to walk in Judea, because the Jews sought to kill Him.  Now the Jews' Feast of Tabernacles was at hand.  His brothers therefore said to Him, "Depart from here and go into Judea, that Your disciples also may see the works that You are doing.  For no one does anything in secret while he himself seeks to be known openly.  If You do these things, show Yourself to the world."  For even His brothers did not believe in Him.  Then Jesus said to them, "My time has not yet come, but your time is always ready.  The world cannot hate you, but it hates Me because I testify of it that its works are evil.  You go up to this feast.  I am not yet going up to this feast, for My time has not yet fully come."  When He had said these things to them, He remained in Galilee.

But when His brothers had gone up, then He also went up to the feast, not openly, but as it were in secret.   Then the Jews sought Him at the feast, and said, "Where is He?"  And there was much complaining among the people concerning Him.  Some said, "He is good"; others said, "No, on the contrary, He deceives the people."   However, no one spoke openly of Him for fear of the Jews.

- John 7:1-13

After Jesus taught, He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood abides in Me, and I in him (Monday's reading), we read (in yesterday's reading) that many of His disciples, when they heard this, said, "This is a hard saying; who can understand it?"  When Jesus knew in Himself that His disciples complained about this, He said to them, "Does this offend you?  What then if you should see the Son of Man ascend where He was before?  It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing.  The words that I speak to you are spirit, and they are life.  But there are some of you who do not believe."  For Jesus knew from the beginning who they were who did not believe, and who would betray Him.  And He said, "Therefore I have said to you that no one can come to Me unless it has been granted to him by My Father."  From that time many of His disciples went back and walked with Him no more.  Then Jesus said to the twelve, "Do you also want to go away?"  But Simon Peter answered Him, "Lord, to whom shall we go?  You have the words of eternal life.  Also we have come to believe and know that You are the Christ, the Son of the living God."  Jesus answered them, "Did I not choose you, the twelve, and one of you is a devil?"  He spoke of Judas Iscariot, the son of Simon, for it was he who would betray Him, being one of the twelve.

  After these things Jesus walked in Galilee; for He did not want to walk in Judea, because the Jews sought to kill Him.  Once again, we remember that in John's Gospel, the term "the Jews" is used as akin to a political affiliation, and most often refers to the leadership of the Council.  At this point, His renown has spread, He has already had confrontations regarding healing and the Sabbath rest (at the previous Feast, the second Passover recorded in John's Gospel), and given controversial teachings at the synagogue in Capernaum for which many disciples turned away.  He remains in Galilee, away from the powerful rule of the religious leadership in Judea at the temple in Jerusalem.

Now the Jews' Feast of Tabernacles was at hand.  The following several chapters involve our Lord's visit to Jerusalem for the Feast of Tabernacles, and the entire section will cover eight days.  This is the last year of Jesus' life as Incarnate Man.  Here at this Festival, Jesus taught in the temple at Jerusalem and attracted a great deal of public attention.  y study bible says that some thought Him mad, and others believed Him to be the Messiah.  There are still others (such as the Sadducees and Pharisees, chief parties making up the Council) who consider Him to be a threat.  Those who seek to kill Him (verse 1, above) are the religious leadership, not the people in general. The Feast of Tabernacles (Hebrew Succoth or Sukkot) is an eight-day festival occurring in autumn.  It is an autumn harvest festival, but commemorates the time when Israel wandered in the wilderness of Sinai, and people lived in tents (or booths or tabernacles), rather than permanent dwellings.  Together with Passover and the Jewish Pentecost (Feast of Weeks), this was one of the most important festivals of the ancient Jews.  It included many sacrifices and celebrations (Leviticus 23:33-43).  In later times, says my study bible, the final day of this feast also included drawing water from the pool of Siloam to be mixed with wine and poured at the foot of the altar, both as purification and also commemoration of the water flowing from the rock that was struck by Moses (Exodus 17:1-7).  Further, the ceremonies included lighting of the great lamps in the outer court of the temple (see 2 Maccabees 10:5-9).  All of these elements will be reflected in Jesus' acts and teachings through this next section of John's Gospel.

His brothers therefore said to Him, "Depart from here and go into Judea, that Your disciples also may see the works that You are doing.  For no one does anything in secret while he himself seeks to be known openly.  If You do these things, show Yourself to the world."  For even His brothers did not believe in Him.  Then Jesus said to them, "My time has not yet come, but your time is always ready.  The world cannot hate you, but it hates Me because I testify of it that its works are evil.  You go up to this feast . I am not yet going up to this feast, for My time has not yet fully come."  When He had said these things to them, He remained in Galilee.  Jesus' brothers are extended family, perhaps either children born to Joseph in an earlier marriage or cousins or other extended relations, for whom it is still common to use the term "brothers" throughout the Middle East today.  Jesus articulates the importance of time and also His complete awareness of His mission ("My hour has not yet come").  He articulates a difference between the world, or a "worldly" point of view, and one that is capable of receiving Him in faith.  He says, "I testify of [the world] that its works are evil."  There is a clear difference here in how one views Christ and His works, between a worldly and a faithful perspective.

But when His brothers had gone up, then He also went up to the feast, not openly, but as it were in secret.   Then the Jews sought Him at the feast, and said, "Where is He?"  And there was much complaining among the people concerning Him.  Some said, "He is good"; others said, "No, on the contrary, He deceives the people."   However, no one spoke openly of Him for fear of the Jews.  Jesus goes to the feast without a grand sort of appearance, such as the one He will make on Palm Sunday (12:12-16).  The text gives us the setting among the people:  they argue and dispute among one another about Jesus, but none will speak openly, for fear of the leadership in the temple, who seek Jesus.

John's Gospel gives us many personal hints about Jesus' life, scattered here and there in its details.  Here we're told that Jesus' "brothers" ridicule Him.  They don't believe He's who He says He is.  They're not His disciples as are Peter and the rest of the Twelve.  In our last reading, we've been told that many disciples have fallen away from Christ, because of His "hard saying" about eating His flesh and drinking His blood.  What on earth can that mean?  The leadership in the synagogue at Capernaum is also perplexed and argue among themselves about what He can possibly mean.  And furthermore we've just been told that Jesus knows that even one among the Twelve chosen by Him will betray Him.  Far from things going well from a worldly perspective, we see elements that go against Him.  We see the "worldly" perspective at work that cannot accept His words in faith, even one personally chosen who will betray Him.  His own kin are against Him.  A "worldly" perspective we often seem to hear is one that would say that whatever Jesus did would be so acceptable, so good, so "perfect" that all must completely be drawn to Him and fawn upon Him.  Somehow we have it in our given knowledge, so to speak, or cultural understanding, that one as "good" as Christ is going to have a perfect life -- or that a person favored by God will find no obstacles or even no hatred in life.  But in Jesus' life, there is nothing that could be further from the truth.  On the contrary, it's His very goodness that sets up so much -- in the perspective of the Gospel -- that goes against Him.  It's His very goodness, and particularly the power of that absolute Good that He is in the world, that occasions opportunity and motive for betrayal, for envy, for those who want to do Him in, for all kinds of reasons.  We may even suspect that is the case among His relatives who make fun of Him and taunt Him that He must go to Jerusalem, the center of all things, and show Himself, if He really is Who He says He is.  This is a different kettle of fish, so to speak, from what a sort of conventional "worldly" perspective might tell us about Jesus, the Son of Man.  Everything is not smooth sailing, and this will also play as a great stumbling block to faith in and of itself.  Jesus says that He testifies of the world that its works are evil.  We have to think closely about what this means and what it implies about a "worldly" perspective.  People can worship all kinds of things:  power, money, fame, pride of place, the appearance we make toward others.  But Jesus cuts through all of that.  Even His power isn't a worldly power and doesn't work in the ways that worldly power does.  Everything depends on how we "see" Him, how we see the Cross, the perspective that faith or the capacity for faith will give us.  A worldly perspective would teach us that everything is about the appearance we make, the praise of men, as Jesus puts it (12:43).  But Christ sets our goals in a deeper place, one of the heart, in which we abide in Him and He in us -- and in which it is the praise of God that counts and makes us who we truly are. 









Tuesday, August 23, 2016

The words that I speak to you are spirit, and they are life


 Therefore many of His disciples, when they heard this, said, "This is a hard saying; who can understand it?"  When Jesus knew in Himself that His disciples complained about this, He said to them, "Does this offend you?  What then if you should see the Son of Man ascend where He was before?  It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing.  The words that I speak to you are spirit, and they are life.  But there are some of you who do not believe."  For Jesus knew from the beginning who they were who did not believe, and who would betray Him.  And He said, "Therefore I have said to you that no one can come to Me unless it has been granted to him by My Father."

From that time many of His disciples went back and walked with Him no more.  Then Jesus said to the twelve, "Do you also want to go away?"  But Simon Peter answered Him, "Lord, to whom shall we go?  You have the words of eternal life.  Also we have come to believe and know that You are the Christ, the Son of the living God."  Jesus answered them, "Did I not choose you, the twelve, and one of you is a devil?"  He spoke of Judas Iscariot, the son of Simon, for it was he who would betray Him, being one of the twelve.

- John 6:60-71

In recent readings in John's Gospel, the current theme began after Jesus fed 5,000 in the wilderness.  The people wanted to make Him King by force, but He escaped them, eventually coming to Capernaum.  The people followed Him there.  He spoke in the synagogue about the food which endures to everlasting life.  He taught them that He is that bread of life. The religious leadership quarreled among themselves, asking, "How can this Man give us His flesh to eat?"  Jesus taught, "The bread that I shall give is My flesh, which I shall give for the life of the world."  In yesterday's reading, He said to them, "Most assuredly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in you.  Whoever eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day.  For My flesh is food indeed, and My blood is drink indeed.  He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood abides in Me, and I in him.  As the living Father sent Me, and I live because of the Father, so he who feeds on Me will live because of Me.  This is the bread which came down from heaven -- not as your fathers ate the manna, and are dead.  He who eats this bread will live forever."  These things He said in the synagogue as He taught in Capernaum.

 Therefore many of His disciples, when they heard this, said, "This is a hard saying; who can understand it?"  When Jesus knew in Himself that His disciples complained about this, He said to them, "Does this offend you?  What then if you should see the Son of Man ascend where He was before?  It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing.  The words that I speak to you are spirit, and they are life.  But there are some of you who do not believe."  For Jesus knew from the beginning who they were who did not believe, and who would betray Him.  And He said, "Therefore I have said to you that no one can come to Me unless it has been granted to him by My Father."  From that time many of His disciples went back and walked with Him no more.   Jesus' difficult sayings have an effect, and He loses disciples:  many of His disciples went back and walked with Him no more.  Even His disciples feel this is a hard saying, impossible to understand.  The sacrament of the Eucharist, of the Body and Blood of Christ remains a profound Mystery that is still disputed in different ways, be it with rational explanations for the saying or making His teachings purely metaphorical.  The ancient early Church had instituted the Eucharist right away; by the time of the mid-second century Church writings show that it was a core of worship.  It was considered a sacrament and a Mystery, and remains so.  Throughout history, it is part of the witness of Scripture and the unanimous teaching of the Church.

Then Jesus said to the twelve, "Do you also want to go away?"  But Simon Peter answered Him, "Lord, to whom shall we go?  You have the words of eternal life.  Also we have come to believe and know that You are the Christ, the Son of the living God."  Jesus answered them, "Did I not choose you, the twelve, and one of you is a devil?"  He spoke of Judas Iscariot, the son of Simon, for it was he who would betray Him, being one of the twelve.  Here is Simon Peter's answer to the ultimate question about Christ's identity.  There is nowhere else to turn, nowhere else to go: He is the one whose words have eternal life.  This is the answer of faith, and the confession of faith.  In the Gospels, it is Peter who speaks for all the disciples.  It is Jesus who brings up -- here at this juncture of a crucial question of faith -- the one who will betray Him, the one without such faith, even one chosen by Himself.

Here we come to a crux in Jesus' teaching, a turning point.  His saying is hard, how are they to understand it?  The sacrament of the Body and Blood of Christ, of the Eucharist, is still a hard saying, so to speak.  It remains a disputed Mystery.  But perhaps that is just the point.  Faith is not concerned only with the purely rational, but rather with information from Sources far beyond what our understanding of the rational, and of facts at hand, can explain away.  Faith, we remember, really means that we put our trust in something -- or rather in Someone.  And faith works at such a depth in us that it becomes not about choosing which brand of soap we want to use based on "information" we have about its ingredients, but rather about trust, a deeper level of knowledge or information that can't come through purely intellectual understanding.  It involves the heart, the center of who we are.  Moreover it involves our capacity for relationship with Persons who are not 'only' human beings who live on our level of comprehension, but of Divine Persons.  God's full substance or essence isn't comprehensible to us.  We can't understand what it is to be the Son or the Father or the Holy Spirit in the same way we can understand, for instance, who our brother is, or our spouse.  (And here's a mystery about what it really means to be a person:  if you think carefully, you will find that you don't fully know the depth of another person either, no matter how deeply you know them.  As persons, we're not completely quantifiable.  This is part of the nature of personhood which makes us something "like" God and created in God's image.)  Just as we choose to put faith in or trust in certain people, so we have faith in Christ and faith in what He teaches.  Here are His words about eating His flesh and drinking His blood.  We know how He will give His flesh for the life of the world.  We know of His voluntary death on the Cross, and we know of His Resurrection.  But the depth of these mysteries, the mystical reality of the work of God, isn't something we can know fully and rationally.  It isn't something we can prove in a lab -- and it's not something whose meanings and myriad values in our own lives, touching on all kinds of circumstances in which we may find ourselves, we are ever going to exhaust.  This is the nature of Mystery:  it continues to unfold on depths we hadn't suspected even existed.  Even within ourselves and in our own experience of our faith, we won't exhaust the possibilities, for instance, of just how the Cross may uplift us or give us life when we experience something of "death."  Mystery is a crucially important reality to accept even though we can't fully understand it.  There are simply things that any educated and intelligent person of faith must accept to which the answer really is, "I don't know."  It's an important answer that acknowledges not only the limits of our knowledge, but in fact the only answer that acknowledges the fullness of the things we don't know.  It is the only truly wise answer to the fullness of life and existence.  But in faith, we find we're on a voyage of discovery.  It is an internal journey that will involve all the things we experience outside of ourselves as well.  In this Mystery of sacrament we find a depth of relatedness that touches on all things in ourselves:  past, present, and future.  We may find ourselves reviewing old hurts in light of the Cross, and resolving conflicts we hadn't managed to deal with that are years old.  We may find ourselves with the courage to face something we've hidden from ourselves or others.  That is just the nature of Mystery:  it keeps giving what we don't know; it is inexhaustible in its Truth.  Let us accept His words of spirit and life without limiting them.  Let us know and experience the truth of faith, the perception of something so deep within us we don't really know its Source.


Monday, August 22, 2016

He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood abides in Me, and I in him


 The Jews therefore quarreled among themselves, saying, "How can this Man give us His flesh to eat?"  Then Jesus said to them, "Most assuredly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in you.  Whoever eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day.  For My flesh is food indeed, and My blood is drink indeed.  He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood abides in Me, and I in him.  As the living Father sent Me, and I live because of the Father, so he who feeds on Me will live because of Me.  This is the bread which came down from heaven -- not as your fathers ate the manna, and are dead.  He who eats this bread will live forever."  These things He said in the synagogue as He taught in Capernaum.

- John 6:52-59

In recent readings in John's Gospel, events have unfolded after Jesus fed 5,000 in the wilderness.  The people wanted to make Him King by force, but He escaped them, eventually coming to Capernaum.  The people followed Him there.  He began to speak to them about the food which endures to everlasting life.  He taught them that He is that bread of life.  As He continued this discourse in the synagogue at Capernaum, the religious leaders then complained about Him,  because He said, "I am the bread which came down from heaven."  And they said, "Is not this Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know?  How is it then that He says, 'I have come down from heaven'?"  Jesus therefore answered and said to them, "Do not murmur among yourselves.  No one came come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up at the last day.  It is written in the prophets, 'And they shall all be taught by God.'  Therefore everyone who has heard and learned from the Father comes to Me.  Not that anyone has seen the Father, except He who is from God; He has seen the Father.  Most assuredly, I say to you, he who believes in Me has everlasting life.  I am the bread of life.  Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and are dead.  This is the bread which comes down from heaven, that one may eat of it and not die.  I am the living bread which came down from heaven.  If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever; and the bread that I shall give is My flesh, which I shall give for the life of the world."

 The Jews therefore quarreled among themselves, saying, "How can this Man give us His flesh to eat?"  Then Jesus said to them, "Most assuredly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in you.  Whoever eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day.  For My flesh is food indeed, and My blood is drink indeed.  He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood abides in Me, and I in him.  As the living Father sent Me, and I live because of the Father, so he who feeds on Me will live because of Me.  This is the bread which came down from heaven -- not as your fathers ate the manna, and are dead.  He who eats this bread will live forever."  These things He said in the synagogue as He taught in Capernaum.  As Jesus is teaching in the synagogue at Capernaum, we recall that in John's Gospel the term "the Jews" is most often used in order to denote the religious leadership (all the people in this story, including Christ Himself, are Jews).  My study bible says that the eucharistic significance of this passage is indisputable.  Out Lord's declaration that He is Himself the living bread that gives life is a revelation of the Mystical Supper of the Church.  It notes that John does not include in His Gospel the details of the Last Supper such as the "words of institution" (Luke 22:19-20).   However, John reveals the significance and truth of these events.  We keep in mind as we progress through that the readers of this Gospel already knew these events.  To do so, here John reports Christ's own words.

As often happens in John's Gospel, Jesus moves from words that, interpreted literally, will miss the mark, to an understanding of those words that gives spiritual truth.  He says, "My flesh is food indeed, and My blood is drink indeed."  We can well imagine that some of His listeners would have been beside themselves to hear this.  How could they comprehend this mystery?  And then He goes far further.  He says, "He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood abides in Me, and I in him."  What we understand in terms of true religious or spiritual significance here is participationJesus is talking about the fullness of relationship with Him, and participation in Holy Mysteries via this fullness.  We don't just share His life in some symbolic way.  Rather we are truly invited to this Mystical Supper in which we participate in relationship, and grow in likeness to Him in all kinds of ways, including the keeping of His commandments and the understanding of His teachings.  As the depth of relationship indicated by such words (as that who does so "abides in Me and I in him") would teach, this extends to life itself.  Jesus says, "He who feeds on Me will live because of Me."  So we have to ask ourselves, what is this eternal life?  What is this life itself that is on offer?  Surely we would look around ourselves -- as would His immediate hearers there in the synagogue at Capernaum -- and see that there are those "living" among us without eating His flesh and drinking His blood!  So the question we must ask ourselves is, if Christ is not a crazy person speaking, to what life is He alluding here?  He has already spoken of this life as everlasting.  It's also a life in which relationship runs so deeply that He lives in us and we in Him.  Here's a deeper clue to this reality of life "As the living Father sent Me, and I live because of the Father, so he who feeds on Me will live because of Me."  This life has a kind of dependency; Christ is sent by the Father and lives because of the Father -- so will the relationship be between those who feed on Him and Himself.  This is meant by abiding in Him and He abiding in us.  It is a kind of life on offer that is conferred through this depth of being one in another, and therefore the kind of life He's talking about is more than physical life in the world.  It is a depth of spiritual life, and a life that doesn't have limits put onto it.  Not only is it about a life that is forever and is therefore outside of time and its effects, but it is about a kind of life that confers an inner reality in which Christ accompanies all that we are and do.  It's as if He lays down the fullness of a foundation, a mystical conjoining, within ourselves that allows us to grow in this "abiding" -- and will therefore come to affect all that we think, that we are, that we know.  That means our relationships to the world will change, the meanings and significance of our lives will grow in this abiding, and so will our understanding of our own identities and even of ourselves as persons.  It is a lifelong sort of a growing, abiding, learning -- particularly if we take into context all the teachings in the Gospels regarding His mission, His commandments, His Way.  This relationship becomes the essence of Truth, as it confers Himself to us, and we live in Him.  That is the core of the faith and of the Eucharist.  This is a true mystical reality, a mystical substance conferred in the bread and wine that is "body and blood" and not mere symbolism in the colloquial use of that term.  It is a mystical reality that links us also with the Father and the Holy Spirit, and it is meant to be a kind of journey throughout our lives, as is indicated by the words "everlasting" and "forever."  This is far more than simply doing good things or working for the "progress" of the world.  It is about a change that affects even what we see as good, or as progress.  It is about growing and learning and maturing in spiritual understanding, in relationship, and in the practice and participation in love.  That is, a long road from a worldly point of view, and one in which our own understanding will be examined and subject to pruning and growth.  Let us be attentive to the Gospel.


Saturday, August 20, 2016

The bread that I shall give is My flesh, which I shall give for the life of the world


 The Jews then complained about Him,  because He said, "I am the bread which came down from heaven."  And they said, "Is not this Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know?  How is it then that He says, 'I have come down from heaven'?"  Jesus therefore answered and said to them, "Do not murmur among yourselves.  No one came come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up at the last day.  It is written in the prophets, 'And they shall all be taught by God.'  Therefore everyone who has heard and learned from the Father comes to Me.  Not that anyone has seen the Father, except He who is from God; He has seen the Father.  Most assuredly, I say to you, he who believes in Me has everlasting life.  I am the bread of life.  Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and are dead.  This is the bread which comes down from heaven, that one may eat of it and not die.  I am the living bread which came down from heaven.  If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever; and the bread that I shall give is My flesh, which I shall give for the life of the world."

- John 6:41-51

In yesterday's reading, Jesus continued His discourse to the people in Capernaum who had wanted to make Him King after being fed in the wilderness.  "Do not labor for the food which perishes, but for the food which endures to everlasting life, which the Son of Man will give you, because God the Father has set His seal on Him."  Then they said to Him, "What shall we do, that we may work the works of God?"  Jesus answered and said to them, "This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He sent."  Therefore they said to Him, "What sign will You perform then, that we may see it and believe You?  What work will You do?  Our fathers ate the manna in the desert; as it is written, 'He gave them bread from heaven to eat.'"  Then Jesus said to them, "Most assuredly, I say to you, Moses did not give you the bread from Heaven, but My Father gives you the true bread from heaven.  For the bread of God is He who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world."  Then they said to Him, "Lord, give us this bread always."  And Jesus said to them, "I am the bread of life.  He who comes to Me shall never hunger, and he who believes in Me shall never thirst.  But I said to you that you have seen Me and yet do not believe.  All that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will by no means cast out.  For I have come down from heaven, not to do My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me.  This is the will of the Father who sent Me, that of all He has given Me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up at the last day.  And this is the will of Him who sent Me, that everyone who sees the Son and believes in Him may have everlasting life; and I will raise him up at the last day."

The Jews then complained about Him,  because He said, "I am the bread which came down from heaven."  And they said, "Is not this Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know?  How is it then that He says, 'I have come down from heaven'?"  Jesus is in Capernaum, in Galilee, where there are those who know Him and His family.  We remember that the term "the Jews" in John's Gospel most often refers to the religious leadership, a term denoting a kind of political party affiliation.

Jesus therefore answered and said to them, "Do not murmur among yourselves.  No one came come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up at the last day.  It is written in the prophets, 'And they shall all be taught by God.'  Therefore everyone who has heard and learned from the Father comes to Me.  Not that anyone has seen the Father, except He who is from God; He has seen the Father."  In Matthew's Gospel, when Peter confesses that Jesus is the Christ, Jesus says, "Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah, for flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but My Father who is in heaven" (Matthew 16:17).  Here, He's giving us a similar teaching, that "everyone who has heard and learned from the Father comes to Me."  He quotes from Isaiah 54:13

"Most assuredly, I say to you, he who believes in Me has everlasting life.  I am the bread of life.  Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and are dead.  This is the bread which comes down from heaven, that one may eat of it and not die.  I am the living bread which came down from heaven.  If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever; and the bread that I shall give is My flesh, which I shall give for the life of the world."  Jesus once again compares Himself in this discourse to the bread given in the wilderness with Moses.  Those who ate died the death that is natural to humans; but this bread that is His flesh, confers an eternal life.  In the next reading, Jesus will continue in a clear allusion to the Eucharist.  The significance is unmistakable; the flesh He will give (on the Cross) is for the life of the [whole] world.

John's Gospel was written at a time when those who heard it would know the events of the crucifixion and Resurrection, and be familiar with the Eucharist.  But that Jesus' sacrifice is for the life of the whole world is something we must continue to ponder.  There is no mincing words here.  He doesn't just say it's for His followers, or for those who understand it.  His sacrifice is for the life of the world.  It is for the transfiguring power of life coming into the world and touching all the world.  But it's more than that.  This word in Greek for "world" isn't just the word for "earth."  The word is kosmos, meaning the whole universe, for creation.  Clearly, the power of the Cross is something that extends beyond what we know, beyond our own lives and even our world, but something that shakes up an entire created order of things and gives new meaning, and new life, to all.  The bread of life is more than the life we know.  Therefore it is a promise for us of participation in something much more than we can understand, a life that is more than life as we know it.  The very fact that faith itself seems to come from the Father and is a part of a relationship with the Father tells us the depth of the life He's talking about, and it indicates a depth of the life in us that is transformed by the power of the Cross, the flesh that He will give changing the world and giving us a kind of abundance of life we don't fully understand.  What we can infer is that the bread of life He promises is something that allows us to participate in this life that goes beyond worldly life, that extends deeper into us than all the relationships we know.  Resurrection is more than a promise of "life after death."  It's a promise of life amongst all the things that seem to "kill" us in this life, the losses and sorrows, the lost dreams, the hopes that vanish.  Jesus' transfiguring death and Resurrection, the flesh that He will give, is something that guarantees us life within ourselves when all else seems God, a very relationship to the root of all that is, the Father Himself.  This is faith and its power, and the life He promises beyond what we know.  Can we put our trust in it, in Him?






Friday, August 19, 2016

I am the bread of life. He who comes to Me shall never hunger, and he who believes in Me shall never thirst



"Do not labor for the food which perishes, but for the food which endures to everlasting life, which the Son of Man will give you, because God the Father has set His seal on Him."  Then they said to Him, "What shall we do, that we may work the works of God?"  Jesus answered and said to them, "This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He sent."

Therefore they said to Him, "What sign will You perform then, that we may see it and believe You?  What work will You do?  Our fathers ate the manna in the desert; as it is written, 'He gave them bread from heaven to eat.'"  Then Jesus said to them, "Most assuredly, I say to you, Moses did not give you the bread from Heaven, but My Father gives you the true bread from heaven.  For the bread of God is He who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world."

Then they said to Him, "Lord, give us this bread always."  And Jesus said to them, "I am the bread of life.  He who comes to Me shall never hunger, and he who believes in Me shall never thirst.  But I said to you that you have seen Me and yet do not believe.  All that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will by no means cast out.  For I have come down from heaven, not to do My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me.  This is the will of the Father who sent Me, that of all He has given Me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up at the last day.  And this is the will of Him who sent Me, that everyone who sees the Son and believes in Him may have everlasting life; and I will raise him up at the last day."

- John 6:27-40

Yesterday we read that when evening came (on the day Jesus fed 5,000 in the wilderness), Jesus' disciples went down to the sea, got into the boat, and went over the sea toward Capernaum.  And it was already dark, and Jesus had not come to them.  Then the sea arose because a great wind was blowing.  So when they had rowed about three or four miles, they saw Jesus walking on the sea and drawing near the boat; and they were afraid. But He said to them, "It is I; do not be afraid."  Then they willingly received Him into the boat, and immediately the boat was at the land where they were going.  On the following day, when the people who were standing on the other side of the sea saw that there was no other boat there, except that one which His disciples had entered, and that Jesus had not entered the boat with His disciples, but His disciples had gone away alone -- however, other boats came from Tiberias, near the place where they ate bread after the Lord had given thanks -- when the people therefore saw that Jesus was not there, nor His disciples, they also got into boats and came to Capernaum, seeking Jesus.  And when they found Him on the other side of the sea, they said to Him, "Rabbi, when did You come here?"  Jesus answered them and said, "Most assuredly, I say to you, you seek Me, not because you saw the sign, but because you ate of the loaves and were filled. Do not labor for the food which perishes, but for the food which endures to everlasting life, which the Son of Man will give you, because God the Father has set His seal on Him."

"Do not labor for the food which perishes, but for the food which endures to everlasting life, which the Son of Man will give you, because God the Father has set His seal on Him."  Then they said to Him, "What shall we do, that we may work the works of God?"  Jesus answered and said to them, "This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He sent."  This is a profound truth, not easy to grasp without the experience of this faith.  Jesus is not denying that both "faith and works" are important to His mission and His followers.  But what is true here is that all things start with faith, with that place of relationship of love.  It is in that relationship that we learn and act in our lives in holy works of faith.  Faith itself can be a kind of work, as is prayer; all else comes from this.

Therefore they said to Him, "What sign will You perform then, that we may see it and believe You?  What work will You do?  Our fathers ate the manna in the desert; as it is written, 'He gave them bread from heaven to eat.'"  Then Jesus said to them, "Most assuredly, I say to you, Moses did not give you the bread from Heaven, but My Father gives you the true bread from heaven.  For the bread of God is He who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world."   The people now demand a sign, even suggesting the manna eaten in the desert by the Israelites led by Moses.  We note the irony:  these are the same people who wanted to forcefully make Him King because He has fed them with bread in the wilderness.  But with Jesus, all things start with relationship to God, all things begin with this faith -- including His and our identity.  The true bread from heaven isn't what Moses gave, but what God gives.  The bread of God is He who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.  Do they have eyes to see this? 

Then they said to Him, "Lord, give us this bread always."  And Jesus said to them, "I am the bread of life.  He who comes to Me shall never hunger, and he who believes in Me shall never thirst.  But I said to you that you have seen Me and yet do not believe.  All that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will by no means cast out.  For I have come down from heaven, not to do My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me.  This is the will of the Father who sent Me, that of all He has given Me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up at the last day.  And this is the will of Him who sent Me, that everyone who sees the Son and believes in Him may have everlasting life; and I will raise him up at the last day."  Jesus gets to core of faith:  the relationship to God.  He is the One sent from heaven, the bread of life for all.  He does not do His "own will, but the will of Him who sent Me."  My study bible says that since Christ has two natures, He has two wills -- the divine will and a human will.  The Sixth Ecumenical Council, held at Constantinople (AD 680-681),  proclaims these two wills of Christ do not work contrary to one another.  It declares:  "His human will follows, not resisting nor reluctant, but subject to His divinity and to His omnipotent will."  Christ speaks of gathering all that is His, and raising it up at the last day.  It is faith that confers the relationship of "all that is His" to Him.

We must think a lot about what it means to "work the works of God."  Jesus answer is that "this is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He sent."   What Jesus speaks about is a kind of mysterious work of God that works in us, that happens in us.  How do we have eyes to see the One who is standing before us?  How do these people have eyes to truly see Him, and ears to hear Him?  The Greek perhaps makes a little more sense of "work," in which to "believe" is more akin to "trust in."  The work of God is to trust in the One whom God has sent.  This makes a little more sense as an act, a work, an action.  We put our faith in Christ, we trust in what He says.  That is the first step, the true work of God that leads to all else, all fruit of faith.  It is an act, a choice, to trust His words and teachings and more, to trust in prayer, in an internal place of the heart.  This mysterious reality of faith is really about the heart and where we put our trust, allowing Him in to dwell with us and to change us.  It is from that core that all else flows, including the choices we make in life and all the rest of the "works" we do.  In Revelation 3:21, after proclaiming, "I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me," the Lord declares, "To him who overcomes I will grant to sit with Me on My throne, as I also overcame and sat down with My Father on His throne."  This is a declaration about the work of faith in us, "overcoming" the reality of this world, the things we learn from the world that are not compatible with what God would teach and how we would live His way.   In today's passage, Christ speaks of raising up at the last day all those who are His by faith, and it is a hint once again at the Cross, upon which He will be lifted up as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness.  So much depends upon how we see that act of overcoming, and understand it as a victory.  Not only do our works depend on this faith, but also our freedom as well as God's power working in us and through us, not as absolutely perfect people but rather as those who trust and love God.  Faith is a profound mystery, but to put trust in Christ is the beginning of all the rest.


Thursday, August 18, 2016

Do not labor for the food which perishes, but for the food which endures to everlasting life, which the Son of Man will give you, because God the Father has set His seal on Him


 Now when evening came, His disciples went down to the sea, got into the boat, and went over the sea toward Capernaum.  And it was already dark, and Jesus had not come to them.  Then the sea arose because a great wind was blowing.  So when they had rowed about three or four miles, they saw Jesus walking on the sea and drawing near the boat; and they were afraid. But He said to them, "It is I; do not be afraid."  Then they willingly received Him into the boat, and immediately the boat was at the land where they were going.

On the following day, when the people who were standing on the other side of the sea saw that there was no other boat there, except that one which His disciples had entered, and that Jesus had not entered the boat with His disciples, but His disciples had gone away alone -- however, other boats came from Tiberias, near the place where they ate bread after the Lord had given thanks -- when the people therefore saw that Jesus was not there, nor His disciples, they also got into boats and came to Capernaum, seeking Jesus.  And when they found Him on the other side of the sea, they said to Him, "Rabbi, when did You come here?"  Jesus answered them and said, "Most assuredly, I say to you, you seek Me, not because you saw the sign, but because you ate of the loaves and were filled. Do not labor for the food which perishes, but for the food which endures to everlasting life, which the Son of Man will give you, because God the Father has set His seal on Him."

- John 6:16-27

Yesterday, we read that Jesus went over the Sea of Galilee, which is the Sea of Tiberias.  Then a great multitude followed Him, because they saw His signs which He performed on those who were diseased.  And Jesus went up on the mountain, and there He sat with His disciples.  Now the Passover, a feast of the Jews, was near.  Then Jesus lifted up His eyes, and seeing a great multitude coming toward Him, He said to Philip, "Where shall we buy bread, that these may eat?"  But this He said to test him, for He Himself knew what He would do.  Philip answered Him, "Two hundred denarii worth of bread is not sufficient for them, that every one of them may have a little."  One of His disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter's brother, said to Him, "There is a lad here who has five barley loaves and two small fish, but what are they among so many?"  Then Jesus said, "Make the people sit down."  Now there was much grass in the place.  So the men sat down, in number about five thousand.  And Jesus took the loaves, and when He had given thanks He distributed them to the disciples, and the disciples to those sitting down; and likewise of the fish, as much as they wanted.  So when they were filled, He said to His disciples, "Gather up the fragments that remain, so that nothing is lost."  Therefore they gathered them up, and filled twelve baskets with the fragments of the five barley loaves which were left over by those who had eaten.  Then those men, when they had seen the sign that Jesus did, said, "This is truly the Prophet who is to come into the world."  Therefore when Jesus perceived that they were about to come and take Him by force to make Him king, He departed again to the mountain by Himself alone.

 Now when evening came, His disciples went down to the sea, got into the boat, and went over the sea toward Capernaum.  And it was already dark, and Jesus had not come to them.  Then the sea arose because a great wind was blowing.  So when they had rowed about three or four miles, they saw Jesus walking on the sea and drawing near the boat; and they were afraid. But He said to them, "It is I; do not be afraid."  Then they willingly received Him into the boat, and immediately the boat was at the land where they were going.  This is the fifth sign of seven in John's Gospel.  In yesterday's reading, we discussed the parallels in this chapter of John with the Exodus story of Moses.  Here there's a parallel between this sign of Jesus walking on the water and Israel's crossing of the Red Sea (Exodus 14:15-31).  Jesus sends His disciples across the sea, and then walks on it as if it were dry land. 

On the following day, when the people who were standing on the other side of the sea saw that there was no other boat there, except that one which His disciples had entered, and that Jesus had not entered the boat with His disciples, but His disciples had gone away alone -- however, other boats came from Tiberias, near the place where they ate bread after the Lord had given thanks -- when the people therefore saw that Jesus was not there, nor His disciples, they also got into boats and came to Capernaum, seeking Jesus.  And when they found Him on the other side of the sea, they said to Him, "Rabbi, when did You come here?"  Jesus answered them and said, "Most assuredly, I say to you, you seek Me, not because you saw the sign, but because you ate of the loaves and were filled. Do not labor for the food which perishes, but for the food which endures to everlasting life, which the Son of Man will give you, because God the Father has set His seal on Him."  We see the people still intent on making Jesus their King.  They are so desirous of this that they get into boats and come to Capernaum, still seeking Him.   Jesus will not be made King simply because they desire someone who will give them the "goods" they want, and God's blessings are not merely about material life.  But He will still teach them, and it's from compassion that He tells them, "Do not labor for the food which perishes, but for the food which endures to everlasting life, which the Son of Man will give you, because God the Father has set His seal on Him."  The question is whether or not they will consider that of value to them; if they have the capacity to see what it is He's really offering. 

Earlier in John's Gospel, Jesus has complained, "Unless you people see signs and wonders, you people will by no means believe."  Here, the complaint is on a seemingly new level.  He tells the people, "You seek Me, not because you saw the sign, but because you ate of the loaves and were filled."  Everything that happens is a way to lead into teaching.  Here, their seeking after the food He gave them becomes an occasion to teach not only about the Son, but about the food which endures to everlasting life, which the Son of Man (Christ) can give to them.  Everything becomes about mission, what He's doing in the world.  Everything comes down to teaching and leading the people to God and to the mission of the Son of Man, Christ.  And we observe once again, that everything comes down to the Cross, which uplifts to everlasting life.  We may well wonder what, in the end, happens with these people.  Do they all come to faith?  Do they have any idea what He is talking about?  Will they understand Him later?  One wonders, indeed, if all of these questions occur as well to Christ.  But nevertheless, the point is that He is always all about His mission.  He is here to give us something.  All the signs in the Gospel point to this one thing, this divine origin, this divine purpose, this earthly mission to uplift all with Him.  The people put tremendous energy into seeking Him and making Him King.  What of the labor we can put into the food which endures to everlasting life?  Do we put work into that?  Does it seem worthwhile?  What does it require of us?  In tomorrow's reading, Jesus will answer the question of just what kind of work He's talking about.  But we can stop to think about this question that Jesus is asking by teaching them not to labor for the food which perishes.  What are we willing to work for?  What do we hope to gain through our faith?  What's the main goal?  What do we put first?  What is real wholeness and health -- and how are we nurtured?  It's a question even of how we organize our lives and identity, and what we're willing to give up for this search, what priorities and goals we put first.  Something to think about, indeed.