Reflection for Sunday – June 11, 2023

Readings: Deuteronomy 8: 2-3, 14b-16a; 1 Corinthians 10: 16-17; John 6: 51-58 
Preacher: Sr. Joan Sobala

Today, the feast of the Body and Blood of Christ, I can’t help praying that this feast will touch each of us  deeply with Jesus’ very own depth of generous loving and self-giving. But the story of generous nourishment of God’s people began many centuries before Jesus.

Our readings prompt us to meet and value God’s presence in three such holy meals:

  • God who in Deuteronomy, fed the Israelites in the desert with manna and water from the rock;
  • The oneness of the loaf and the sharing in the cup at the First Eucharist, as told in First Corinthians;
  • And the undeniable truth of Jesus giving us His very self as food and drink in John 6.

Three memorable meals, spanning the centuries, from Moses to Jesus. They are ours today to relish.

We pass on to one another “a taste for this meal,” which we call Eucharist. We cultivate that taste. We hunger to be fed by the bread of life and to drink from the cup of salvation.

To stay the course of faith and life, each of us—all of us—need nourishment of many kinds, all of which ultimately comes from God, but proximately, that nourishment comes from others, strangers as well as family, friends, coworkers in the vineyard of the Lord.

I am speaking of food for our minds and hearts—that’s what the Word of God is. Food we eat so that we can be strong and determined enough to serve the poor, the outcast, the whole community.

We need the food of incongruity to make us laugh, the food of wonder as we behold a child learning life’s quirks, the wonder of people’s stories of survival, the giants that swim in the depths of the ocean, the longed for, fragrant, springtime- blossoming of fruit trees.

Sometimes we need the food of fasting so that we can be disciplined enough to hear the Word of God and keep. It.

Even as Jesus poured out his blood for all people on the cross. We pour out  our own blood, so that others may live—transfusions we call them. Blood that once was ours becomes the blood of life for others. We become blood relatives of one another and in this way, are called to be faithful to all people, for we do not necessarily know who got our blood.

We are nourished and we nourish, endlessly reaching out in tangible or symbolic ways to those who journey with us.

To preside at the table of the Lord is the honor and responsibility of the priestly minister. It has been said that there is a dearth of vocations to the priestly ministry. Not true. Women and married men experience the call to priestly service, but the official, institutional Church does not recognize these callings. Such vocations have been found wanting without being tested. It’s hard to believe that the God who fed the people in the three mystical readings today would starve future generations.

As we move toward the beginning of the Synod in October, we remember  Ludmila Javorova,  ordained in the underground church of Brno, Slovakia, in 1970, to minister to  imprisoned women, including nuns, who were denied priestly support or the sacraments in the official church. Ludmila, in a visit to the United States in 1998, told a group of us gathered in Washington DC, how she would go into women’s prisons, bearing a roll of bread, and ask for a glass of water into which she would drop a raisin, thus making wine for the Eucharist. She would console, anoint, absolve. After the dissolution of Communist rule, Ludmila was not allowed by Rome to continue her priestly ministry.

The coming Synod, 2023-2024, will consider the life of our Church and its essential mission of pastoral care.  We find ourselves in a new period of history. Assumptions about the way the church has deployed priestly ministers in service of the reign of God, the way the Church has fed the People of God, are giving way to new realizations about human life and what we can be and do, male and female. We desire to see our Church responding to the call of Jesus to serve in new unexplored ways. It is time.

As Jesus fed the multitude, no one ever went away hungry. Each of the six accounts of the feeding of the many said there were leftovers. More than enough. Enough for the next people who came with their hunger. Thank God for Jesus’ foresight. Can we do anything less?

Sr. Joan Sobala, SSJ
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