In South Africa, last week Sunday we celebrated the Feast of the Assumption of our Lady, Mary raised in her bodily form to heaven. However, in many other parts of the world, where Mary’s feast was celebrated during the week and not transferred to the Sunday as we have chosen to do here, the readings heard would have been very different.
This means that our ordinary cycle of readings has been interrupted which, makes today’s Gospel difficult to follow given the missed context.
If we look at the two Sunday’s Gospels, there appears to be a contradiction. On the one hand, Jesus seems to emphasize flesh and blood; and on the other the spirit.
This is the problem, it seems to me. The disciples hearing of the flesh and the Spirit immediately think that Jesus is referring to them – condemning their bodies and exalting their Spirits. But, if this were the case, then how are we to understand the Assumption of Mary into Jesus’ own ascension into heaven? Clearly, they are not saying that bodies aren’t important.
The disciples missed Jesus’ point. Jesus was not talking about them – or for that matter us -– who read his words today. He was referring to himself, the Spirit of God, of which he is a part and to which he belongs, and to which we, by adoption, belong. In fact, he was saying that by eating his flesh and drinking his blood, his life was theirs too. Their bodies mattered, their lives matter. Our bodies matter and our lives matter.
There is a vital learning in this for us. Like the disciples, we too are often stuck in our own world and problems and think that everything we hear is intended as a condemnation of ourselves. But, what if we were to expand our horizon and look beyond our own flesh and blood, quite literally to that of others.
This is the life of the Spirit that he leaves to us. It is a life that is deeply embodied and carnal, we cannot spiritualize our service it is concrete and real and demands the sweat that falls off our brow, the fruit of the earth and the work our hands, as we will hear before we break and eat the bread of life and drink the cup of our salvation.
Join Ricardo da Silva SJ as he reflects on the readings for the Scriptures of the Twenty-First Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B.
You can find the texts that this reflection is based on in your bible:
Joshua 24:1-2,15-18; Psalm 33(34):2-3,16-23; Ephesians 5:21-32; John 6:60-69
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Image: Unsplash / Daniel Hjalmarsson