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Who He Says He Is
Nineteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time
The Jews murmured about Jesus because he said, “I am the bread that came down from heaven,” and they said, “Is this not Jesus, the son of Joseph? Do we not know his father and mother? Then how can he say, ‘I have come down from heaven’?” Jesus answered and said to them, “Stop murmuring among yourselves. No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draw him, and I will raise him on the last day. It is written in the prophets: They shall all be taught by God. Everyone who listens to my Father and learns from him comes to me. Not that anyone has seen the Father except the one who is from God; he has seen the Father. Amen, amen, I say to you, whoever believes has eternal life. I am the bread of life. Your ancestors ate the manna in the desert, but they died; this is the bread that comes down from heaven so that one may eat it and not die. I am the living bread that came down from heaven; whoever eats this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give is my flesh for the life of the world.”
Opening Prayer: Holy Spirit, open my heart that I may enter this time of prayer with you, hear your voice, and let your grace give me new life today.
- Murmurs of Doubt or Whispers of Faith?: The Jews listening to Jesus’s words murmured their questions: How could this be? Is he really saying what we are hearing? We are reminded of two others who asked questions when perplexed by what God was proposing. Zechariah, upon hearing the announcement that his son John would be born, asked, “How shall I know this?” (Luke 1:18). Mary, too, asked the angel, “How can this be?” (Luke 1:34). With Zechariah and Our Lady, as with the crowds and the response God desires from us, we find there is a great difference between murmured doubts or complaints and pondered whispers of faith seeking understanding. Wherever our faith is being tested, instead of siding with the doubting crowd, let us offer our questions with faith and great trust.
- Drawn by the Father: The Catechism, in its section on prayer, affirms that every time we turn to God, it is because he has invited us first. The initiative is always his, and even the grace to respond comes from him (CCC 2567). The key is belief, that is, the open, welcoming acceptance of God’s inviting gesture. This is what it means to listen to the Father and come to Christ; our job is to listen; God’s is to make what he promises come to fulfillment. Catholic faith in the Eucharist affirms and expresses this truth: we come to his Real Presence to receive grace, and he makes that grace fruitful and effective in our lives. Though his action is often in ways unseen, our faith affirms it and helps it grow.
- The Bread of Life: In this passage, we hear echoes of God’s revelation to Moses (Exodus 3:14). When he spoke to Moses in the burning bush, he revealed his name: I AM who am. God is the One who is, who holds all existence in his hands and whose word is effective: it does what it says. This reference would not have been lost on Jesus’s listeners. Twice he repeated in this passage, “I am the bread of life.” Where in my own heart do I need to let Jesus speak these words of truth and life? Into what dusty corners, closed depths, or discouraged heartaches does he wish to breathe his life and draw me to him?
Conversing with Christ: Lord Jesus, you come to me in the Eucharist and you come to me in these moments of prayer. I know that it is your Father who draws me to you. Help me to renew my faith in you. You know each of my doubts and struggles. Yet, rather than harbor them in my heart, I name each of them before you and place them at your feet, knowing you want me to and you wait for me. You wish to bring me life by giving me your own Body and Blood. Help me to receive your grace in this and each moment of prayer, and in every reception of Holy Communion.
Resolution: Lord, today by your grace I will begin to prepare my heart with openness, faith, and longing for the next opportunity I have to receive Holy Communion.
For Further Reflection: Read some numbers of the Catechism of the Catholic Church on prayer, available on the Vatican Web Page through this link.
Beth Van de Voorde is a Regnum Christi Consecrated Woman, currently serving in pastoral ministry to families in Madrid, Spain. When she’s not reading Ratzinger or humming along to some song or another, you may find her making her pilgrim way through Spain’s timeless history of faith, walking alongside the beautiful families she’s there to serve.