Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Prayers today: All you who fear God, both the great and the small, give praise to him! For his salvation and strength have come, the power of Christ, alleluia. (Rv 19:5; 12:10)

Father, you open the kingdom of heaven to those born again by water and the Spirit. Increase your gift of love in us. May all who have been freed from sins in baptism receive all that you have promised. We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who liveth and reigneth world without end. Amen. Alleluia.

St. Conrad of Parzham (1818-1894)

Conrad spent most of his life as porter in Altoetting, Bavaria, letting people into the friary and indirectly encouraging them to let God into their lives. His parents, Bartholomew and Gertrude Birndorfer, lived near Parzham, Bavaria. In those days this region was recovering from the Napoleonic wars. A lover of solitary prayer and a peacemaker as a young man, Conrad joined the Capuchins as a brother. He made his profession in 1852 and was assigned to the friary in Altoetting. That city’s shrine to Mary was very popular; at the nearby Capuchin friary there was a lot of work for the porter, a job Conrad held for 41 years. At first some of the other friars were jealous that such a young friar held this important job. Conrad’s patience and holy life overcame their doubts. As porter he dealt with many people, obtaining many of the friary supplies and generously providing for the poor who came to the door. He treated them all with the courtesy Francis expected of his followers. Conrad’s helpfulness was sometimes unnerving. Once Father Vincent, seeking quiet to prepare a sermon, went up the belltower of the church. Conrad tracked him down when someone wanting to go to confession specifically requested Father Vincent. Conrad also developed a special rapport with the children of the area. He enthusiastically promoted the Seraphic Work of Charity, which aided neglected children. Conrad spent hours in prayer before the Blessed Sacrament. He regularly asked the Blessed Mother to intercede for him and for the many people he included in his prayers. The ever-patient Conrad was canonized in 1934.

The Holy Gospel of Jesus Christ according to Saint John (6.30~35)
So they asked Jesus, "What sign then will you give that we may see it and believe you? What will you do? Our forefathers ate the manna in the desert; as it is written: 'He gave them bread from heaven to eat.'" Jesus said to them, "I tell you the truth, it is not Moses who has given you the bread from heaven, but it is My Father who gives you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is He who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world. "Sir," they said, "from now on give us this bread." Then Jesus declared, "I am the bread of life. He who comes to Me will never go hungry, and He who believes in Me will never be thirsty."

The True Bread
(Homily by Fr. E.J. Tyler)

If there is one thing which is obvious from a reading of the Old Testament it is the defining character of the Exodus events. The departure from Egypt, the years in the wilderness, and the entry into the Promised Land, profoundly shaped the religious outlook of the children of Israel. So marked is this memory as evidenced in the Old Testament Scriptures, that one cannot but be a little sceptical of the weight given by many to the current lack of archaeological evidence for the great events referred to in the Hebrew Scriptures. Where is the archaeological evidence, it is urged, for the event of the departure from Egypt, the long sojourn in the wilderness, the mass invasion by Israel of the land of Canaan — and for other supposed facts such as the career of David, Solomon, and so forth? While there is a present lack of that kind of evidence, there is the fact of the great memory by the chosen people, so manifest in their Scriptures. The nation was shaped by this memory, and our Lord himself, true God and true man, refers explicitly to these past historical events. In our very passage today he refers to Moses and to the manna he gave from heaven. I make these points simply to stress how much the Exodus events were a criterion of religious truth for the children of Israel. Our Gospel scene today (John 6:30-35) opens with the crowds making a demand of Jesus. He had told them that the work that God asked of them was to believe in him. To this they responded, “What sign then will you give that we may see it and believe you? What will you do? Our forefathers ate the manna in the desert; as it is written: 'He gave them bread from heaven to eat.'” In the desert, Moses fed the people with manna from heaven for their entire sojourn. You, Jesus of Nazareth, have multiplied the loaves and the fish, could you not do what Moses did, and feed us continually with bread from heaven? What sign will you do that we may see and believe you? Our Lord replies by pointing prophetically to what will be the true bread from heaven — his own person.

Though the manna which Israel received in the desert came from God in answer to the prayer of Moses, it was not heavenly food. It was earthly and served to sustain life on earth. It was a material substance which modern scholars have even attempted to identify. Some suggest it was the resin from the Tamarisk tree, others a form of plant lice, or the thalli of certain lichens, or Psilocybe cubensis mushrooms, or a kosher species of locust, or the sap of certain succulent plants. The manna in the desert had the powers of material food — it was God’s miraculous gift of earthly food. Our Lord says that the true bread of God is heavenly. It does indeed come down from heaven and give life to the world. It is heavenly bread which gives life forever and to all mankind. The manna in the desert had none of these powers. This is a remarkable announcement which those who are fully familiar with the doctrine of the Eucharist may take too much for granted. Our Lord is heralding an extraordinary food for the journey. He is acting as a new Moses for the children of Israel, and for all of mankind. A new sustenance is coming for all. As Moses, by God’s power, provided earthly food for the journey of the children of Israel, so Jesus Christ will provide heavenly food for the journey of the whole world. It will be the true bread from heaven, the bread that manna prefigured. Manna was merely a pointer to the true bread from heaven that would take all of humanity to life in God and heaven. What is this heavenly food? “Sir, they said, from now on give us this bread. Then Jesus declared, I am the bread of life. He who comes to me will never go hungry, and he who believes in me will never be thirsty” (John 6:30-35). Our Lord calmly and publicly makes a breathtaking claim which had no precedent in all of the Scriptures, and which placed himself far above all. He himself is the bread of life that God has sent from heaven. It is he himself who gives life to the whole world. He is the answer to true hunger and true thirst. If a person lives on him, his true hunger will be satisfied.

Our Lord is placing himself at the very centre of revealed religion. Never before had certain things been said that Jesus Christ was now saying. He is himself the heart and soul of true religion, and a person who lives on him and in him will possess a heavenly life that is far more than this terrestrial life. In order to live, in order to survive the journey through the wilderness of life, we must go to Jesus. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry. He is the source of life, life here and life everlasting. He is speaking as God would speak. Let us then look on Jesus Christ as our all. If we truly possess him by our love and our faith, by our devout hearing of his word from the Church, and by our sincere reception of him in the Sacraments, life will be ours forever.


Get used to saying No.

(The Way, no. 5)

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