Gospel – John 6: 41 – 51
We continue with the Sixth chapter of Bread of Life Discourse from John’s Gospel, and in the Gospel for this weekend we hear the negative response that Jesus received from some of the crowd. Some are not pleased that Jesus said, “I am the bread that came down from heaven.” They knew Jesus as the carpenter from Nazareth, how could he claim to come from Heaven, and how is he the bread? Jesus responds directly to them and their murmuring and repeats that he is the bread of life that comes down from heaven, and he is the living bread. If they receive the living bread they shall not die. Some of those present responded by murmuring against Jesus and this teaching. The Oxford English Dictionary defines murmuring as; “A subdued or private expression of discontent or dissatisfaction.” As subdued and private these murmurings might have been, Jesus hears them and directly confronts them with the command, “Stop murmuring among yourselves.” He then goes on to repeat what he said about him being the Bread of Life, and adds to it his relationship to God as His Father.
When I hear of the Israelites murmuring against Jesus I think of the Israelites in the desert. After Moses led the Israelites out of Egypt with the miraculous help of God, they began to murmur against Moses and Aaron. The accounts of their murmuring can be found in both Exodus and Numbers. We can also go back to the prophets and how the people murmured against them. It seems that whenever God acts in a mighty way there are those who find something wrong with it and murmur. It can be like when the Israelites murmurer in the desert that they had no food, and God provides them with manna. At first they are grateful, but it doesn’t take long for them to murmur again because they get tired of the same menu. The people of Israel crying out for God to send someone to restore them are grateful when the prophets first appear, but when the message of restoration involves making radical changes in their own lives, they murmur. It is no surprise that when Jesus comes preaching the Kingdom of God, and performing great works the crowds flock to him, but when he begins to get to the crux of who he is, and what they must do to be faithful to him, they don’t want to accept his radical teaching and they murmur.
This Gospel leads us to the question of whether or not we find ourselves murmuring. It could be over a particular teaching from the Gospel that we struggle with, and rather than embrace the need to work at change in our lives, we murmur against that particular teaching. We expect God to reform his teaching around us, rather than for us to reform my life around the Gospel. It could be some teaching of the Church that we disagree with. Rather than seek to better understand the teaching, we murmur and work at finding a way around it. It could be a teaching or exhortation of the Holy Father, rather than accept the challenges that the teaching gives us, we criticize the Holy Father and murmur that he is wrong.
Murmuring is divisive and destructive and should be avoided. Those who murmured against Jesus risked separating themselves from him and the gift of salvation. May we be able to avoid murmuring and accept the challenges that come from difficult teachings. Accepting these challenges rather than the easy reaction to murmur helps us grow in our faith and to grow closer to Christ.
Father Killian Loch, O.S.B.
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