In the readings this weekend, we arrive at a very pivotal moment in the great bread of life discourse. Until now, Jesus has only required belief in him as the one sent by the father, a belief difficult enough in itself. He has done many things to merit our belief, like feeding the 5,000 and walking on water. But in the Scripture for Aug. 16, he challenges us to put our belief into action in a very unpalatable way: to eat his body and drink his blood.
Living in one of the wealthiest countries in the world, it’s easy to place our confidence in a well-stocked pantry, or ultimately, a healthy bank account. It is easy to place our confidence in the things we have, rather than in God, who has given them to us.
The Sea of Galilee is below sea level, within a bowl of hills, and very subject to unpredictable storms. After a hard day’s preaching, Jesus, who governs the universe, is stretched out, asleep in a boat during a violent storm. The apostles’ maritime skills were not enough to endure the waves, so as a last resort, they turn to Jesus to calm the sea.
“Sing, my tongue, the Savior’s glory, of His Flesh, the mystery sing; of the Blood, all price exceeding, shed by our Immortal King, destined, for the world’s redemption, from a noble Womb to spring” (Hymn Pange Lingua, St. Thomas Aquinas).
The Roman soldiers, who among their other acts of violence against Jesus placed a crown of thorns on his head, were correct about one thing: He is a king. This painful irony is not lost on us, especially when we pray the third sorrowful mystery of the rosary.
As I came to know more about Catholicism, I discovered that the Church spoke to all aspects of humanity — holiness, personal relationships, family life, social justice, the economy and issues of war and peace, among them. The Scriptures for Feb. 1 remind me of that spiritual reawakening.
We are celebrating the Fourth Sunday of Advent. Today’s reading reminds us of three important aspects about understanding God’s presence through history: first, salvation occurs within history; second, the mystery has been revealed; and third, God works the impossible.