This week’s scripture readings provide a superb example of how the Sunday lectionary actually develops themes which are intended to TEACH us basic lessons regarding our ongoing relationship as Christian...
Last week “the whole community … began to complain against Moses and Aaron”(Exodus 16:2), and THIS SUNDAYS GOSPEL READING [6: 41 – 51] we find another group complaining. “The Jews were complaining to each other about Jesus … .”(both sources of the complaining arose from bread or the lack thereof).
So it is interesting to bear in mind how the CONCISE OXFORD DICTIONARY defines the word complain! Two of the three versions given arrest our attention. The first is “to express dissatisfaction.” The second, tells us not only that we “state a grievance” in the sense of moaning but begin to “to creak under a strain.”
Now, as far as we (disciples of the Lord, and members of the Church) are concerned it is quite acceptable (or it should be!) for us to express dissatisfaction. In fact, as we noted a few weeks back, we should do so (the bureaucratic Church needs to learn how to handle and heed expressions of dissatisfaction). Too often, those who express dissatisfaction are either silenced or ignored. So complaints turn into a muted anger. “Just the basic courtesy of a crumb of consultation would stop the whole process feeling so alien and so alienating ….” is how an intelligent, thinking, and committed Catholic recently explained it.
However, we all need to ensure that our expressions of dissatisfaction do not take on the vestiges of a constant grievance which becomes a permanent moan, and eventually makes us creak under the strain. To ensure this is seldom easy, but self-imposed restraints must release positive, renewed energy to continue working for realistic change and progress. There is little useful room for a moaning disciple, creaking under the strain, and always moaning. Yet, the need for todays prophets remains urgent. Yes, the prophets of the Old Testament were regularly given a hard time but they continued to express (often in forceful and forthright language) their complaints and dissatisfaction. However, they never moaned, carried grievances, or creaked under the strain!
All of this has real application to our contemporary Church, and so the opening words of this SUNDAYS NEW TESTAMENT READING [EPHESIANS 4: 30 – 5:2] have an immediate importance and application. “Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God who has marked you … never have grudges against others … lose your temper … raise your voice … call each other names … allow any sort of spitefulness.” All of this applies to each one of us as we continue to work for meaningful change and effective consultation. Our opinions are worth something – and should be heard with a humble sincerity. The fact that often they are not should not motivate us to change tactics. It is always disappointing to hear a Councillor describe the work of a Pastoral Council as “what Father needs our help on.” Too often this is a profound limitation – the fact is that FATHER needs help on everything pertaining to the PASTORAL LIFE of the Parish (and, perhaps moreespecially, in areas where he believes he needs no help!?).
Of course, our GOSPEL EXTRACT forms part of Johns Eucharistic teaching which should never be confined to the bare essential facts of the REAL PRESENCE, and HOLY COMMUNION. The Eucharist means much, much more. It especially challenges us to become, ourselves, EUCHARIST to the world in which we live.
Why was Elijah, in this weeks OLD TESTAMENT READING [1 KINGS 19: 4 – 8] fed by God? He was fed because otherwise “the journey (would have been) too much for (him).” He had work to do. He had become discouraged: “I have had enough.” However “he got up and ate … and strengthened … he walked (on).” He became what God intended him to be, and did what he was called to do.
In our Gospel verses the Jews were complaining in the sense of developing a moaning grievance which prevented them from focussing on the essential truth of what Jesus was teaching. We cannot be “drawn by the Father … and come to (the Lord)” if we are creaking under the strain! Eucharist is the antidote to moaning and creaking, and empowers us to continue being prophets in our own time and Church. We become Eucharist through the Eucharist.
Get up, eat, be strengthened – and walk on!