Saturday, 8 August 2009

I am the living bread which came down from heaven (Jn 6:51 RSV)

This week I had a conversation with a few people on the course, and we were talking about the mass, and one of the comments was that in the experience there seems to be something missing, going to mass does not seem to do anything... I try and tie this in to the gospel of this weekend: John 6:41-51

Off course there can be many responses to this reaction, and the first that came up it the way the Mass is calibrated in a lot of places which does not really inspire (young) people. Their response is that there is "something missing". First of all, this is a strong indication that they actually do expect something more than that they are getting, but that this what they are looking for is not there. I found that when I just became a Catholic, that I picked and choose my mass to go to, as in a lot of places I felt exactly the same.

I think it is really important that we think about this and realize that we need to help ourself and others to open up to the full mystery of God. Especially these days contemplating chapter 6 of the gospel of John, where Jesus lays out the doctrine of the Eucharist: "I AM the bread of life" (Joh 6:48 RSV) He is inviting us into communion with Him through the "living bread which came down from Heaven", and it is important that we do help people to tune into the reality of what is happening and what Jesus is really offering us!

I won't dwell to long on this point, but just want to mention it. Young people do want to know God, but we need to help them to open their hearts to the mystery in which we enter as mass, and the trap we are often falling into, as I feel it, might be making it too casual, by too much taking the mystery out of God... if the mystery is gone what is left?

The second reaction is what I often say that we should not expect to sense anything in prayer. However I don't think these reactions are an either/or answer, but a both /and as Fr. Harris OP so often has pointed out to us in class.
It is not that we should not experience the mystery at mass because we are not to expect sensual satisfactions all the time, but rather that once we have engaged in a relation with God, we should not expect to be sensually satisfied all the time.

I belief God always helps us initially to make the step of faith to start a real relationship, and it is my personal experience. God is always drawing us towards Himself, our hearts are always yearning for Him even though we might not realise it and our flesh is weak.

We read in the gospel that "No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him;" (Joh 6:44 RSV), the word draws indicates resistance as the lexicon gives drags as a option. The Father makes effort to drag us into communion, He wants us, He loves us, and He helps us to enter into communion.

"Because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, "Abba! Father!"" (Gal 4:6 RSV), the desire is there, planted there by God, and when in communion with Jesus, the stronger this relation becomes, the stronger the cry and desire "Abba! Father!".

But to come back to the notion of sensual silence, our relation with God is not based on sensual experiences, it is a more deeper spiritual reality, which takes time to understand, recognize and discern. St. Paul hints as this more developed relation with Jesus when he writes tot he Corintians:
The unspiritual man does not receive the gifts of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned (1Co 2:14 RSV)
The spirit is dwelling in us, and "His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence [...] and become partakers of the divine nature" (2Pe 1:3-4 RSV) We get to really "know" (which is often used as the "knowledge" two people have in marriage of each other) God and He allows us to become partakers of the divine nature!!!

And when does this fore mostly happen? Exactly when we actually receive Christ during receiving Him during Mass: "I am the living bread which came down from heaven; if any one eats of this bread, he will live for ever; and the bread which I shall give for the life of the world is my flesh." (Joh 6:51 RSV)

So Mass can never be boring, once we realise what is really happening! God comes down to us as he transforms the host into His own Body and Blood, in order that we may enter in communion with Him when we receive Him into our own body. He becomes part of us, and we become part of Him. Again Jesus is calling us to communion. "Father, I desire that they also, whom thou hast given me, may be with me where I am, to behold my glory which thou hast given me in thy love for me before the foundation of the world." (Joh 17:24 RSV)

Once we grasp this, once we enter into this communion, it does not really matter anymore to what Mass we go. We learn to discern God in the silence of our hearts, and the desire to know him becomes stronger and stronger. But let us try and help others who have not found this gift in their lives yet, the great of gift of God, the gift of Himself, and I feel that one of the places this should be done is exactly in our weekly (or daily) celebration of the Eucharist.

This week I did a lot of meditations on these few lines mentioned above, and it is interesting how they came together (as subsequent some came up in the Office of Readings yesterday and today). So I decided to just throw them out there, even though the reflection is not really a unity, but just a few scattered thoughts...

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