CHOICE OF THE DAY

Life is full of choices. If you’d like to speak to a customer service adviser press *1. If you’d like to listen to some awful music while you wait press *2. If you’ve dialled the wrong number then this call is costing you an arm and a leg per minute. We’ve all experienced it!

 Our Old and New Testament readings today confront us with more choices. Joshua gathers all the people together for a ceremony to renewor ratify the agreement (the covenant) they had made with God when they agreed to be his people. From time to time it is useful to be reminded of just what you have signed up for.

 And Jesus, too, offers the disciples and us a choice. You’ve heard what I’ve had to say about eating and drinking my flesh and blood; so are you going to follow me or are you going to look for someone else?

 Following Jesus, making the decision to model your life on his teaching, is not a maintenance-free choice. It’s not as if we make it and then fly on automatic pilot for the rest of our journey in faith. It’s something that needs to be renewed constantly. It’s not a static decision; it’s a dynamic choice.

 We’re constantly renewing this choice for Jesus. We’re tempted and have to make conscious decisions. We’re faced with doubt and have to summon up the vestiges of faith. Under mockery from family or friends we choose to keep our Christian heads held high. When we struggle with prayer we try to keep on going.

 But the greatest sign we can give that we are persevering in our choice to opt for Jesus’ promises is when we gather together each Sunday to share communion with God and each other. For the liturgy is our way of ratifying the new covenant which Jesus offers through his death and resurrection.

 Just as Joshua and the Israelites renewed their covenant in today’s scripture reading, so too we take part in a weekly renewal of our agreement with God. Our “Amen” makes it clear that there is no one other than Jesus to whom we would wish to go.

 

FAST FOOD FOLLY

Dame Wisdom and Dame Folly are two characters in the book of Proverbs. Dame Wisdom offers good advice on how to get on in life, while Dame Folly’s suggestions are not only disastrous but they lead to complete ruin.In today’s scripture readings we see the result of this alongside Jesus’ teaching about the bread of life.

 So it’s not surprising that Dame Wisdom is inviting people to enjoy a banquet of bread and fine wines that she has prepared. Come and eat, she says, and you will gain insight into what really matters.

 Meanwhile Dame Folly (in a passage that follows today’s scriptures) invites people to drink stolen water and to eat their bread in secret. Not exactly the recipe for a festive social gathering!

 These two Dames are the backdrop for what Jesus is telling the crowd. He has fed the 5000 with bread and fishes. He has told them that in future they will be able to eat a bread that will never leave them hungry. And now he comes straight out with it and says that he himself is that bread. Whoever eats his flesh and drinks his blood will live for ever.

 For the crowd the choice is stark. Eating the flesh and drinking the blood of Jesus: is this wisdom or is it folly? What are they to make of it? If they go along with it, they will be considered fools in the eyes of the world, but if it turns out to be true then they will have cashed in on the most incredible promise: to live for ever!

 In a sense each one of us today is part of that 5000-strong crowd. What Christians believe about the eucharist is considered foolishness by others. We too are asked by Jesus whether we are prepared to accept his teaching, to follow in his steps, to eat and drink his flesh and blood. Like the crowd, we are faced with the stark choice. Do we go for Dame Wisdom’s sumptuous spread or do we settle for Dame Folly’s fast food?

 

HEALTHY EATING

We live in an age of food awareness. We’ve become accustomed to looking at the jar before buying it, to see if it contains artificial colorants, e-numbers, too much salt or an overdose of caffeine. And we’re not averse to diet supplements either, pouring dozens of pills down our throats each week to ensure that we’ve got all the right levels of vitamins and are not iron deficient.

 Perhaps more than any other generation we have the medical knowledge about the relationship between what we put inside ourselves and our corresponding physical and mental health. And, of course, we want to live for ever!

 In today’s gospel Jesus tells us that our spiritual health centres around the eucharist. Eating and drinking the body and blood of Christ is the Christian’s principal sustenance, what keeps us going in faith.

 There are those who act as if the eucharist were simply a ritual that we perform, a sort of social, religious action. Others view it from afar. They see communion as the sacrament reserved for those who are already holy, for good people. So they go only rarely. Both of these viewpoints give the impression that we can do without the eucharist.

 In fact, the eucharist is the indispensable diet for Christians. For communion is the climax of a wider action in which we gather as the Church to listen to God’s word informing our way of life, in which we bring all our needs and those of our world before God that they may be transformed by the Holy Spirit, and then we enjoy the most intimate union possible with God and each other by sharing in the food and drink of life.

 If we eat nothing but chips and hamburgers, we become what we eat: we become fat. If we are people of the eucharist, we become what we eat: the Body of Christ, the Church. For the eucharist is the action by which the Church is brought into being. It moulds us into God’s people and as such can never be a mere optional extra.

 As Jesus might have said, “Your fathers took diet supplements, yet they are dead. But whoever eats the living bread will live for ever.”

 

STILL HUNGRY?

A group of pilgrims arrived at their hotel inRome in the early hours of the morning, because their plane was delayed. Feeling sorry for them and wanting to get their stay off to a good start, the hotel manager provided them with Parma ham and melon for breakfast. He was dismayed when some of them sent it back to the kitchen complaining that “this bacon isn’t cooked properly”.

 

You could argue that whatever the manger gave them would not have been enough to assuage their annoyance at arriving late. There was just no pleasing them. Just like the Israelites in the desert. Moses and Aaron had led them to freedom from the Pharaoh and all they could do was moan about the food: it was better when they were in Egypt. So God provides them food to satisfy them: manna and quails.

 

Before we point the finger at other people, we could stop and ask ourselves a few questions. Are we really satisfied with our lot in life? When we moan, what’s it about? Deep down what is missing from our lives? What is the main thing that would really improve our quality of existence?

 

Usually people answer these questions with money. If only I had so many millions, everything would be OK. If I had a better house, could pay off the bills, have a few luxuries, then I’d be content. But we only have to look at the rich and famous to see people whose lives can be empty and shallow. Drugs and alcohol become their attempt to try and fill in the void.

 

Jesus told the crowd that they would always be hungry, always have that deep down empty feeling inside them, unless they ate the food of life that the Father sends. What he means is that only God can satisfy our longings and yearnings. Only he can fill that inner gap we carry round with us and make sense of why we are here on earth.

 

It is his teachings and our relationship with him that opens us up to the fullness of life. We may search frantically here and there for substitutes, but it is Jesus, the Word of God, who alone can satisfy our real needs. For he is the bread of life.