8 May 2016

posted 5 May 2016, 23:00 by C S Paul

8 May 2016

Scripture reading and Sermon

Based on the Lectionary of the Syrian Orthodox Church

Sunday before Pentecost (Sunday of the Monks)

35 And Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life. He who comes to Me shall never hunger, and he who believes in Me shall never thirst. 

36 But I said to you that you have seen Me and yet do not believe. 

37 All that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will by no means cast out. 

38 For I have come down from heaven, not to do My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me. 

39 This is the will of the Father who sent Me, that of all He has given Me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up at the last day. 40 And this is the will of Him who sent Me, that everyone who sees the Son and believes in Him may have everlasting life; and I will raise him up at the last day.”

Rejected by His Own

41 The Jews then complained about Him, because He said, “I am the bread which came down from heaven.” 

42 And they said, “Is not this Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How is it then that He says, ‘I have come down from heaven’?”

43 Jesus therefore answered and said to them, “Do not murmur among yourselves. 

44 No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up at the last day. 

45 It is written in the prophets, ‘And they shall all be taught by God.’ Therefore everyone who has heard and learned from the Father comes to Me.46 Not that anyone has seen the Father, except He who is from God; He has seen the Father.

Devotional Thoughts for the Sunday after Ascension

by Rev. Dn George Mathew

On the Feast of Pentecost, we celebrate the birthday of the Holy Church and the coming of the Holy Spirit, which our Lord promised would be the Helper and Comforter. On the Sundays that follow Pentecost, the readings revolve around two major themes: Christ being the Bread of Life and the Mission of the Church. This Sunday's passage is about the Bread of Life.

This episode in the Gospels follows the feeding of the 5000, where Our Lord fed 5000 people with five barley loaves and two small fish. After seeing this incredible miracle and receiving the physical nourishment, many believed and sought to follow Christ. In Christ, some saw a miracle worker and healer, who might solve all of life's physical problems. Others saw in Christ a political King, who would free the people from the tyranny they faced. But our Lord, through this passage, attempts to correct the people's incorrect assumptions and allow them to experience the divine. I would like to focus on two points from this passage:

1. "I am the bread of life."

While the Israelites were wandering in the wilderness, they began to grumble to Moses about all that they were missing. So, God provided manna, bread from heaven, to satisfy their physical needs. This manna was unique in that it was a very temporary substance - it could not be kept to last for more than one day. Every day, the people had to gather up enough for that day. So, the manna itself could not be relied upon to satisfy man's insatiable hunger.

We even today grumble about what we are missing or coveting what others have. By our Lord declaring that He was the Bread of Life, He promises that all who feed on Him will neither hunger nor thirst, spiritually. Christ must be the center of our lives and our greatest desire in this life. In the world today, many seek power, position, wealth, material goods, wisdom, etc. Our priority is to live our lives to fullest, achieving as much as we can. But, our Lord reaffirms for us that all of these worldy desires are temporary and can be taken away in the blink of an eye. True abiding Christian joy can only result from a relationship with Christ. Our focus in life should be on growing in Christ and continuing His mission in the world, showing love to those who desperately crave it.

2. "You have seen Me, yet do not believe."

Through the Incarnation, our Lord became flesh and dwelt among us, seeking to save that which was lost. He came to fulfill the will of the Father. Many had come before our Lord - prophets, kings, judges - but no one could complete the mission in full like our Master. Although the people heard His messages, saw His healing and miracles, and ate the multiplied bread and fish, many still did not believe.

This is an important point for us even today. We have seen the fruits of God's merciful bounty, yet we continue to put our hope and trust in ourselves and our abilities. We think that it is our wisdom and knowledge that takes us through this life, rather than being carried by our loving and living Savior. This is especially noticeable in our tithing (or lack thereof). How many people really tithe and give back a portion of what they have back to God? We have to remember that all that we have are free gifts from God. By tithing, we are only returning what belongs to God. Some people struggle to put $1 in the offering plate, or pay $500 a year in membership to the church, yet these same people have no qualms about spending $40,000 on a new car or buying name-brand clothes and shoes. These things are not wrong or bad in and of themselves, but when they take a higher place than God, then become wrong. Our priorities get mixed up thanks to Satan.

We have to tithe and give back to God what He deserves to receive. And, it is not the amount He is after, for what use does the Creator of Life have for mere mortal tokens? He wants to see us give freely and cheerfully. It is our attitude and heart he examines. If we put our complete trust and hope in God and open our hearts and wallets to Him, the blessings will multiply and shower down upon us as rain. It is a great challenge we must face and overcome in this world.

To grow spiritually, we have to eat and be full of the Bread of Life. For if we leave even a little space in our hearts for the world, Satan will enter and crowd our hearts with ungodly desires. Our Lord promises we will never hunger or thirst if we feed on Him. For, when Christ is the center of our lives, nothing else matters, and He will provide for all our necessities. That is faith that can move mountains. Do we have such resilient faith? Are we feeding on the true, lasting Bread of Life? Are we living our faith through acts of charity and love? The harvest is great, but the workers are few. And, soon the night will fall. We must work while there is still light and time.

In this part of our liturgical calendar, our Lord gently shakes us to put life into perspective. May the Holy Spirit guide and direct us unto all righteousness. And, may we continually feed on the true Bread of Life and experience the lasting fulfillment that only comes from Christ.