September 2021: Lectio Divina
‘I Am The Bread of Life’ (John 6:35)
Lectio: What the word says in itself …
We meet Jesus as the Bread of Life. He feeds the hungry. He shows the disciples that there is no scarcity to God’s abundance – represented in a nameless boy who has five loaves and two fish. Bread is a powerful symbol. We live in a part of the world where we have bread in abundance and we have never experienced hunger. Television brings us the reality of hunger and famine in Yemen, Sudan, Syria and other parts of Africa and Asia. From the comfort of our couches we recline as we see queues of people undernourished and malnourished, starving people, desperate for bread. We appreciate the delicate command Jesus: ‘gather up the fragments left over, so that nothing may be lost’ (John 6:12).
Meditatio: What the Word says to
Richard McIlkenny was one of the ‘Birmingham Six’. He wrote these words: ‘As outcasts of society/locked up in prisons bare,/the Eucharist, Lord is the gift to us/in which we all can share./In communion, Lord, we are made as one by you,/our God and gracious king;/by your sacrifice you give us life,/and we in joy your praises sing’.
Symbols are the very essence of religion. They can carry us to mystical levels of awareness and to states of consciousness which are completely unknown to the theory of theology. The Eucharist is a symbol and it is also a reality: the body of Christ. It is REAL PRESENCE.
Oratio: what the Word leads me/us to say …
Edith Stein (1891-1942) known as St Teresa Benedicta of the Cross walked into the Gestapo office with the greeting in German: ‘Gelobt sei Jesus Christus’, ‘Praised be Jesus Christ’. For the Nazi’s, it was as if a bomb had fallen in their midst. She made a profession of faith. Her life was in perilous danger. She was taken to Auschwitz concentration camp where she says ‘that she was ready to live and ready to die.’ She was a prisoner who had an inner freedom in the profound belief and friendship in Jesus the ‘Bread of Life’.
Contemplatio: Being transformed by the Word …
There is a painting in the National Gallery in Dublin of Jesus feeding the crowds. It is by an Italian artist Giovanni Lafranco (1582-1647). The gospels tell us that ‘Jesus saw the crowds’. This 1623 painting depicts the crowds waiting and longing to be fed. Today, 398 years since this was painted, we live in a world where hunger is a stark reality for ‘crowds’ who long for hope and a home of welcome and belonging. One of our familiar prayers is: ‘Give us this day our daily bread.’
690 million people in the world regularly go to bed hungry according to a United Nations Report. If this continues to rise it will exceed 840 million by 2030.
Actio: Putting the Word into practice …
Conversion and discernment are key words of St Ignatius Loyola (1491-1556). For Pope Francis these two words are linked in our throwaway culture today. Conversion is a renewal and discernment involves a new appreciation of the moment-by-moment love leadings of the Spirit in our lives. May our ACTIO lead us to encounter and accompany one another with the food that is the bread of God’s forgiveness, friendship and freedom.