God Has Chosen You
In this beautiful homily for 19th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B, Father Hanly reminds us that it is not we who have chosen God, but God who has chosen us. God is the one who says, “Come and follow me.” And then you stop and you have to say either “yes” or “no.” It’s a great moment and a terrific moment and a difficult moment.
First Reading: First Kings 19:4-8
Responsorial Psalm: Psalms 34:2-3, 4-5, 6-7, 8-9
Second Reading: Ephesians 4:30–5:2
Gospel: John 6:41-51
You can tell from the readings today that Jesus is back in this place, the Sea of Galilee. The readings move from one to five (of the five Sundays on the Bread of Life) very easily, but they get more and more obscure in some ways.
But, as you know, it all began with Jesus going across the sea on a boat to go on a short period with his disciples and there were lots of people waiting for him on the other side.
And instead of this short period of rest, he began to preach and teach them.
And then, having taught them, he said, “How are we going to feed them?” And, of course, this is the desert part across the Sea of Galilee and nobody had any solution. But the little boy had a solution. He came up and he had five barley loaves and two fishes and he offered them. And Jesus took it and he fed five thousand people.
This is a lovely story and you can hear it again and again and again. Philip says, “Where are we going to get the money?” He still had that idea that money can do anything. And the little boy was just holding these little rolls out, five barleys loaves, very small little barley loaves.
Then we know that he begins to, after they feed them, all these five thousand people, Jesus says to take up the scraps that nothing be lost, which is a very famous line. As they take up the scraps they fill up the baskets and there are a large number of baskets, twelve baskets, of leftovers left.
Anyhow, the people look at it, and, of course, the people came to hear the word of the Lord and came to hear all kinds of things, but they saw what was happening and they came to decide to make Jesus a wonderful king.
Why? Because he delivers the bread, you see. They’re all excited now. They’d forgotten all the lovely things about, “If you love me, I will love you and I will call you my friends,” etc, etc. Now they’re thinking about, “Well, now we’ve got this man on our side, because he does wonderful things, he takes little loaves of bread and creates wonderful possibilities for us, one way or another.”
And so Jesus does the only credible thing. He runs away and he hides, and that’s how he goes to the other side to go to retreat to Capharnaum.
And, at first, they chase him, because they’ve got, you know, someone like Jesus, who can do miracles all day long for you, then you don’t have to worry about anything.
Poor Jesus, he always sees…
He does something that has incredible meaning.
What is the incredible meaning?
Well, he’s brought five thousand people who all didn’t even know each other, he’s brought them into one family. He has broken the bread with them and he will give them the Eucharist and all of these wonderful things that we have.
And they’re worrying about… Will he drive the Romans out? Will he create a world free of (inaudible) we don’t have to worry about anything anymore, because Jesus of Nazareth will supply us with everything.
So what they think is the beginning of new life is really the beginning of new death, because he doesn’t work that way.
Anyhow, we are now where Jesus is being confronted by the people who are his own neighbours.
As you notice, the Gospel begins,
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?
He couldn’t possibly be anything special. He’s Joseph’s son.
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.
And then he says these words which are very true:
No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draw him,
We take our faith for granted, but the reason that you are here and others are not is because you have answered, whether you realise it or not, the call of God. You have been touched with the belief that Jesus is indeed what he says he is.
He is the Bread of Life, and we come to give our lives to him.
They shall all be taught by God.
This is an old saying that when the Messiah comes, they shall all be taught by God.
Everyone who listens to my Father and learns from him comes to me.
And what he’s really telling us is this that we feel that we come to him because we’re interested in him or because we want to be with him or whatever it is.
And what Jesus is saying is that, no, it’s just the opposite. God wants you. God has chosen you. God is the one who says, “Come and follow me.” You don’t say to Jesus, “Come and follow me.”
“Come and follow me,” means come and give me your life, give me your love, give me everything, don’t hold back, nothing.
And then you will know what it means when he says, “I give you the Bread of Life,” because the meaning of bread is much larger than just eating your breakfast rolls or something like that.
What is this meaning of bread?
Jesus himself will take that bread at the Last Supper and he will break it and he will say, “Take this and eat it, because this bread is me, myself, me, body and soul.”
And then they will all stare at him and they will not understand, because they never understand.
But, ultimately, they will understand.
And why do they understand?
Because they love him.
Everybody’s running away from him now because he says these things.
And then Jesus says to his disciples, “Will you run away, too? Are you going to run away? Is it too tough for you? Is it hard for you to understand? Are you disappointed?”
And then you stop and you have to say either “yes” or “no.” It’s a great moment and a terrific moment and a difficult moment.
And Peter has the right answer. Peter says, when Jesus says, “Will you, too, Peter, go away?” he said, “Who can we go to? You have the words of eternal life.” You have the words of eternal life. We love you. We accept you. And there is something when we are with you that is different from any place or any other person that we’ve ever been with.
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.”
“I am the Bread of Life.” And you should know this, because every time we come to Mass, we break the bread and we say those words, “This is my body. This is my blood.” And you are given to take the bread and eat it.
And having done that, you begin to realise that this bread is the Bread of Life, not just for you, individually, but it is the Bread of Life that makes us a community, that locks us into something that we would never dream of on our own or make up for ourselves on our own. It locks us into an eternal life, with walking through life with Jesus our Lord, one with him.
And, of course, that is the mystery that we are celebrating each Sunday as we come.
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.
We have two more Sundays where we will talk about the Bread of Life.
But the main idea is Jesus stands before us, he has always been with us. And each time we look and we come to the Mass and we pray and we sing and we do all these things, he stands there and he says, “Come, follow me.”
In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.