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19th Sunday in Ordinary Time

August 8, 2021
Ana Cloughly, OSB, Sisters of Benet Hill Monastery, Colorado Springs, CO

We are continuing the sixth chapter of St. John’s gospel today. In the past two weeks we have heard about Jesus multiplying bread for a group of five thousand people and then we heard Jesus telling the people not the work for food that perishes but for the food that endures for eternal life. Today’s gospel reading gets to the heart of the matter. Jesus begins to shift the conversation from earthly concerns to the tremendous gift of God’s love standing there before the people.

Often the first reading at Mass sheds some light on the gospel. Today this is the case. We hear the narrative of Elijah’s discouraged prayer for God to let him die. But God has other ideas. Elijah is exhausted. He is running from the wrath of Jesebel whose god Baal has been defeated and whose husband, Ahab, and his band of 450 prophets are slaughtered. Elijah ends his prayer and falls asleep under a broom tree. An angel brings him hearth cake and water twice. The angel tells him he must eat because he will need strength for his journey. Earthly food.

Jesus makes a distinction between earthly food and the bread that he will give. Earthly food gives one strength for a short time and decays if not consumed. But the bread Jesus gives will last until life eternal. Finally, Jesus says it outright, he himself is the bread of life. Jewish people are not cannibals so how can Jesus even say this? Understandable disgusted, people are very confused. The conversation turns to the relationship that Jesus shares with the Father. The bond between God the Father and Jesus, God the Son is a privileged relationship, therefore no one can come to the Jesus unless the Father beckons. And no one can know the Father except through the Son. Reading the scriptures today gives us a significant advantage. All of this is new to both the disciples and the people, not to mention the Jewish leadership.

My reflections on this reading took and interesting turn and are not meant to explain the profound mystery of the Eucharist. They are just my ponderings.

I am fascinated by what we are learning in science these days. Astronomy and quantum physics have revealed much about the universe. The more I learn, the more I question. Quantum physics has revealed an interesting phenomenon called quantum entanglement. Years ago, there was an experiment where a quantum particle was divided in half. One half remained on the east coast of the United States and the other was taken to the west coast. The spin on the particle was changed on one half and amazingly, the spin on the other changed at the exact same moments. Somehow these two halves are connected in a way that defies physical proximity. Physicists have found exchanges of particles happen all the time and there is a bond between particles which has a lasting influence even while separated by great distances i.e., the term quantum entanglement. I’m not necessarily suggesting this is the force behind the change or “transubstantiation” (the term the Church uses to describe what happens to the bread and wine at Mass). What I am suggesting is that the possibilities are infinite.

The tender love God that Jesus embodies was presented in a way that some of the people standing with him that day accepted by faith and moved to belief. For others, the teaching was too hard to accept. With 20/20 hindsight, we must walk that same journey from faith to belief. Elijah needed food for his journey, and we need food for ours. In Christ though, the food we eat changes us. The bread we eat is changed from earthly bread to the living Christ. By consuming it, we move from earthly life to eternal life with Christ. The key according to Jesus is the movement from faith to belief. Consuming the Bread of Life changes us. You might say that our spin orientation changes through our entanglement with the influence of Christ.

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Sister Ana Cloughly is the Director of the Contemplative Vision Ministry at Benet Hill Monastery in Colorado Springs, CO. She facilitates courses in contemplative prayer  practices and Christian mysticism, leads group retreats and is a Spiritual Director. She is a member of the planning committee for the 100th Anniversary Celebration of the Federation of St. Scholastica.