Sunday, August 9, 2009

"I am the Bread of Life"

Artist: Francisco de Zurbarán

The readings for today are so moving, so powerful, so heart-wrenching and heart-opening that I want to cry. Depending on which choice one's parish selects for the first reading, we either have the story about the death of Absalom or that of Elijah being fed by the angel. The choice of Psalms is likewise profound: "Out of the depths have I called to you..." or "Taste and see that the Lord is good." The Epistle reminds us to put away malice, bitterness, slander and to be tenderhearted toward each other. And then, of course, we have the gospel reading. "I am the Bread of Life." Here's a reflection about the "I am" passages of John's gospel that represents something about how I have thought of them for a long time now:

The "I am" passages may be Jesus’ poetic expressions of ... a mystical experience in which his personality and ego fell away and the only reality he sensed was that of God. If this is how we understand the passages, then when Jesus said "I am the way ... no one comes to the Father, but by me", this may mean that the way to God is to become one with God, as Jesus did. It may mean that we do not get to God through dogma or doctrine, but rather through mystical union with God, an experience shared by mystics of many religions throughout history.

-- Jim Burklo

Yes, many biblical scholars say that these sayings have been put in the mouth of Jesus by "the teaching Church" and I agree with that too. I would also say that, by the grace of the Holy Spirit, the Church recognized that what really mattered about Jesus was not his personality or ego but, rather, his shedding of those things about himself. Our epistle today from Ephesians tells us to be "imitators of God". Letting go of our ego definition will bring us into that mystical union indeed.

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