The Eleventh Sunday after Pentecost
Readings – II Samuel 18: 5-9, 15, 31-33; Psalm 130; Ephesians 4: 25 – 5:2; John 6: 35; 41-51
My grandmother Donecker loved to cook for the family. When I was young Sunday dinner was at noon at her home in Philadelphia. A white tablecloth was always on. She said that it had to be white to remind us of God feeding the escaped slaves of Egypt during their wilderness wandering. Each morning they collected the manna from heaven that sustained them for forty years until at long last they entered the Promised Land.
And there was always sliced bread on the table, in addition to the potatoes that accompanied the main dishes. I loved the sliced bread with a stick of butter that your spread with our knife. My mother tried to discourage us from eating the bread, slice after slice, and at home, we never had sliced bread with our meals. My mother thought it unnecessary but my grandmother Donecker insisted it is on the table for Sunday dinner at her home. It was a reminder that Jesus is the bread of life given to sustain us in our day-to-day lives.
Manna from heaven sustaining the escaped slaves’ life in the wilderness.
Jesus is the bread of life, sustaining us in our day-to-day living and into the next life.
What gets you out of bed in the morning? Perhaps it is a family dog or cat. Perhaps it is the alarm announcing that it is time to go to work. Perhaps it is a grass-cutting day. Perhaps it is caring for the children. Perhaps it is to greet a new day and fill the bird feeders. Perhaps it is caring for a spouse or family member. There are many possible reasons for getting out of bed in the morning, but there is truly only one that can get you up day after day after day for a lifetime, and beyond. Jesus is what gives us life. There is teamwork with Jesus, ministry with Jesus, that can give us bread, that can give us purpose each and every day.
St. Francis lived his life seeking to be an instrument, seeking to be a tool, in the hands of Jesus for his mission in difficult, in demanding times. We, too, don’t need to look far in our challenging times for hatred, for injury, for discord, for doubt, for despair, for darkness, or for sadness.
When there is hatred, we respond as instruments of Jesus with love.
When there is injury, we respond as instruments of Jesus with forgiveness.
When there is dissension, we respond as instruments of Jesus with community.
When there is doubt, we respond as instruments of Jesus with trust.
When there is despair, we respond as instruments of Jesus with hope.
When there is darkness, we respond as instruments of Jesus with light.
When there is sadness, we respond as instruments of Jesus with joy.
We comfort, we seek to understand, we give of ourselves until we have no more to give.
Of course, in the midst of ministry and mission, there are times when we experience the depths, and when we wait for the strength of the Lord as the psalmist writes.
God knows that life is more than the beating of the heart and the inhaling and exhaling of air. To live is to act with loving purpose as instruments of love, and this is the life into which God guides us and sustains us. This is why Jesus proclaimed to those first disciples, “I am the bread of life”. His life, his death, his resurrection, and his spirit get us up every morning, propel us into ministry and mission, and feed us to be the instruments of grace and love each and every day.
So, let us not be tossed hither and yon by the storms that come our way. As we read in last week’s Gospel, with Jesus in the boat with his first disciples the wind ceased, the waves calmed, and they reached their destination.
So, too, it is for us. When Jesus is in the boat with us, we can proceed, despite our concerns, despite the winds, despite the waves, to our destinations. Jesus is the Way; Jesus is the Truth; Jesus is the Life for all the days to come, and for the life to follow. Jesus is the true bread that comes down from heaven for us and for our salvation.