August 29, 2009


22nd Sunday - B

After 5 weeks reading Jesus' teaching on the Bread of Life from the Gospel according to John, today, we return to the Gospel according to Mark. And here Mark reports a new development in the life and ministry of Jesus - a conflict with "the Pharisees and some scribes."

The conflict begins with their observation that "some of Jesus' disciples eat their meals with unclean, that is unwashed, hands." (v. 2) This seems to mean that while some of the disciples do not observe Jewish ritual purity, other disciples do. [1]

Yet, the Pharisees and the scribes do not challenge just the disciples who they judge have broken the law. They question Jesus. Moreover, they phare the question to include all of Jesus' disciples, and in that manner, they include even Jesus himself, "Why do your disciples not follow the tradition of the elders...?

This Gospel passage should remind us to examine ourselves when we disagree with a person or some people, "Am I fair and objective?" or "Do I stereotype and discriminate?"

[1] Francis J. Moloney. The Gospel of Mark: A Commentary. Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 2002; p. 138.

August 22, 2009


21st Sunday - B
John 6:60-69

The Words of Jesus - do I find them shocking or life-giving?

In chapter 6 of the Gospel according to John, there are three groups of people who hear Jesus' words: the crowd, the Jews, and the disciples.

The crowd listens to Jesus mostly out of curiosity and self-interest, as Jesus observes their motivation, “you are looking for me not because you saw signs but because you ate the loaves and were filled” (v. 26).

Then, suddenly, the crowd seems to disappear and the Jews become the main audience. They have a hard time accepting Jesus’ words. First, they think they know his origin, so they question his authority, “Is this not Jesus, the son of Joseph? Do we not know his father and mother? Then how can he say, 'I have come down from heaven'?" (v. 42) Later, they quarrel among themselves, saying, "How can this man give us his flesh to eat?" (v. 52) As a result, they could not accept his teaching.

Next comes another sudden shift when the disciples of Jesus take the front stage again. [1] (They have disappeared after the crossing of the sea in verses 16-21).

Earlier, the disciples witnessed firsthand the power of Jesus’ words when he multiplied the loaves and the fish (vs. 5-13) and when he calmed their fears at the stormy sea. Most significantly, during the crossing of the sea, it was the disciples alone, and not the crowd, who had the privilege of witnessing the divine authority of Jesus as he revealed himself to them. In fact, Jesus showed his divine power over the sea just as Yahweh did in the Old Testament. Moreover, his words “It is I” (v.20) resembled God’s self-revelation to Moses at the burning bush in Exodus 3:14 and elsewhere.[2]

Many of these very disciples now find Jesus’ words “hard” and challenging – “who can accept it?”

To all the disciples, Jesus asks, “Does this shock you?” Some of them find his words so shocking that they leave him. Thankfully, Simon Peter and the Twelve answer him, “You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe and are convinced that you are the Holy One of God.”

Jesus might be asking me the same question today. What would be my answer?


[1] Francis J. Moloney, SDB. This is the Gospel of the Lord, Year B. Homebush, NSW, Australia: St. Paul, 1993; p. 176.

[2] Francis J. Moloney, SDB. The Gospel of John. Sacra Pagina Series (Collegeville, MN: Liturgical Press, 1998), p. 203-204; and The New American Bible, footnotes on John 6:20 and Mark 6:50, available on

August 15, 2009


20th Sunday - B
John 6:51-58

Eat My Flesh

In Greek, just like many other languages, there are different verbs used to describe the same activity, each with its own nuances. Similarly, there are different verbs that can be used for "to eat."

However, there are only two places in John's gospel where the verb trogein is used, here in 6:54,56,57,58 and 13:18, when Jesus told the disciples at the last supper, "The one who ate my bread has lifted the heels against me." (1)

Trogein literally means to chew, to munch, to crunch with the teeth. And here, it is used intentionally to replace a more polite verb for to eat. (2)

Obviously, Jesus is not speaking in symbolic language. He really means "my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink," and "whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life."

(1) Francis J. Moloney, SDB., The Gospel of John. Sacra Pagina Series (Collegeville, MN: Liturgical Press, 1998), p. 224.
(2) Ibid., p. 221.

August 7, 2009


19th Sunday - B

They Shall All Be Taught by God

In the Jewish religious tradition, the food that comes from heaven is not just the manna that nourished them in the desert. It is God's words given in the law that is the true food from heaven.

Jesus declares that he is the true bread that comes from heaven. He is God's Word who has come to fulfill the promise God made through the prophets, "They shall all be taught by God."

It is no longer a chosen few who can hear God's words and be taught. In Jesus, God now draws all people to God's love and salvation. In Jesus, all shall be taught by God. In Jesus, all can receive the food of eternal life.

August 2, 2009


18th Sunday - B
John 6:34-25

Losing sight of the bigger picture

This passage of John 6:24-35 follows the Gospel of last Sunday (6:1-15), but not directly. In between the two passages, Jesus has sent the disciples across the sea. He then walks on the water to meet them during a storm. That is why the crowd has to come to Carpenaum looking for him.

Regardless of that fact, the crowd’s question, “Rabbi, when did you get here?” is quite lame, given that they have witnessed the miracle of the loaves and the fish. They still cannot recognize who Jesus truly is. And Jesus knows them well, “you are looking for me not because you saw signs but because you ate the loaves and were filled.”

And their shortsightedness seems to be the reason behind their demand for more signs. When Jesus asks them to believe in him, the demand, “What sign can you do, that we may see and believe in you? What can you do?”

It is also worth noting here in the theology of John’s Gospel, a faith that is based on seeing signs is shallow. Such is the faith of the disciples at the wedding in Cana. John comments, “Jesus did this as the beginning of his signs in Cana in Galilee and so revealed his glory, and his disciples began to believe in him” (2:11). We know that the disciples’ faith is not strong enough because they will abandon Jesus at the hour of the cross. In contrast, not only does the mother of Jesus believe in his words, she also tells the waiters to do whatever he tells them. Her unconditional faith will enable her to be with Jesus at the foot of the cross.[1]

The crowd, unlike Mary, cannot be satisfied with one sign. They ask for more. That is the danger of the kind of faith built not on a total trust in God, but on our own ideas of God. Our human limits can cause us to lose sight of the bigger picture as we try to make God fit out idea of God.

Jesus gives us the challenge, “This is the work of God, that you believe in the one he sent.”

[1] Francis J. Moloney, SDB., The Gospel of John. Sacra Pagina Series (Collegeville, MN: Liturgical Press, 1998), p. 69.