This morning, Benedict XVI’s last day as our active pontiff, successor of St. Peter, I watched the live broadcast of the Holy Father’s personal meeting with each of the cardinals. It was very moving, because the “up close” view of these interactions showed so clearly the deep appreciation and genuine love between the Pope and the various cardinals. What came to mind was what Jesus said, in another chapter of St. John’s gospel which we will approach in future months, “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another…” The secular press, with its political agendas, will not see this love as it truly is, this gift of the Holy Spirit among the bishops of the world, but it is a tremendously encouraging sight to those with eyes to see it, giving us confidence that God’s choice of the next successor of Peter will indeed come about, despite the human weaknesses and sins to which even these cardinals are susceptible.
And, I thanked God this morning for this amazing and powerful way He has chosen to remain with us always, in this leadership of His Church, this Apostolic Succession. The fact that our Faith on the Ferry book study has led us, in this distant part of the world, to the Bread of Life discourse in John’s gospel (Jn. 6:35-71) at the very time when St.Francis Parish will begin a few hours of Eucharistic Adoration after First Friday Mass, is remarkable.
I hope that those of you involved in this book study, on or off the ferry, will take time to read carefully and meditatively this sixth chapter of John’s Gospel, and will prayerfully consider spending a holy hour (or even part of an hour) in adoration on First Fridays. Our own U.S. bishops have asked us to do so, whenever possible, in our parishes. This is the other amazing way in which the Lord has promised to be with us always, really and truly present, glorified body, blood, soul and divinity. A great mystery, a great reality.
Here are some more things to ponder from John 6. I am going to draw on notes and commentary which we find in the Ignatius Study Bible, this time:
– 6:58 “….will live forever”: This is a rare expression in the Bible, occurring twice in John 6 and otherwise only in Genesis 3:22, where the Tree of Life bore the fruit of immortality, and could no longer be eaten, by God’s command, after the Fall of Adam and Eve. So, this certainly points to something very new happening in and through Jesus Christ’s coming into the world.
– 6:35-47 is an Invitation to Faith and 6:48-58 is an invitation to the Eucharist. Try to pinpoint the differences between these sections of the Bread of Life discourse.
– 6:63: “the spirit…the flesh” : This contrasts the Spirit’s ability to enlighten our minds (see also Jn 14:26) and human reason’s inability to comprehend revealed truths apart from faith (see also Jn 8:15). Note that Jesus is not speaking here of His own “flesh” which does indeed give life to the world (see Jn 6:51, Eph 2:13-16, and Hebrews 10:10).
– 6:69: “…the Holy One” : This is a title found in Mark 1:24, Luke 4:34 and Acts 3:14 under very different circumstances than this one in which Peter makes a great profession of faith. And yet, what is it here that relates to those other circumstances?
I look forward to seeing some of you next Wednesday morning, March 6, on the ferry as we continue this wonderful study of John’s Gospel, and pray together for the great Conclave in which the cardinals will be listening to the leading of the Holy Spirit. Lenten blessings, JC