God's Gift, Our Resistance

20th Sunday of OT: Year B

The liturgy continues to offer us portions of John’s Gospel on feeding and eating, bread and Eucharist, paired with various OT readings on God’s provision of food (loaves multiplying for Elisha’s people, manna in the wilderness, baked bread for Elijah): today, Wisdom’s banquet.  Notable is the “persistence of resistance,” the unwillingness of most to accept the food (Elisha’s disciples question, the desert-Israelites complain and test, Elijah goes back to sleep after seeing the baked bread and has to be awakened and told to eat it): Wisdom’s subtext, clear elsewhere in the passage, is that the banquet is under-populated.

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In John’s Gospel, the refusal builds. Why do humans, and specifically believers, resist the gift? You will be preaching these texts to those who are present at a Eucharist liturgy, so at one level they with us have not refused. But the readings maintain that we are not so eager for the bread of journey, the food that will make us wise, immortal, and participating in eternal life—three ways of saying the same basic thing: We draw back from intimacy with God. A gift God longs to give and that we should desire deeply to receive, we resist. Perhaps we are afraid, or we sense we are not in adequate control. It may be that our fundamental experience of mortality makes us suspicious of what lies beyond it, or beyond our experience of being mortal. We may fear what will be asked later, if we take the food. Why the sense of being pushed toward the bread rather than being drawn by it?  God is patient, continuing to offer the gift. Why do we as a species, as communities visible in these readings, as a Church, and as individuals not rush forward more eagerly? We have several Sundays to ponder this mystery.    

Barbara Green, O.P.

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