Our Biblical Blog /'Examined Life'
Our Biblical Blog /'Examined Life'
‘I am the living bread which has come down from heaven. Anyone who eats this bread will live for ever, and the bread that I shall give is my flesh, for the life of the world.’ Life is something, which we take for granted. Life is such a wonderful gift that it is ok if we have got used to that it is ‘always there’. As in our illustration imaginatively shows, God’s heart, full of the fire of his love, has continuously creating the world. The playful dance of the tongues of fire show this: God, out of love, every moment re-creates our world and keeps it in existence.
The Feast of the Body and Blood of Christ, however, is a reminder, that this gift is not to be taken for granted. Corpus Christi Sunday invites us to think about ‘God’ as our daily Bread. Just as we have got used to food (somehow there is always something to eat and drink), it is just as easy to take God’s ‘Creation’ and our life to be granted. Have we thought of the fact that ‘bread’ is our most important, and most frequently used word?
John’s Gospel explains why, if we are attentive, God’s Name and Bread are synonymous. We Christians can recognise that it is the same Gift, it is the same source of Life. Ó artos ó gon, ‘The Bread of Life’, that is, the ‘Bread that belongs to the true life’, the Bread that is full of the life it is intended to impart, the Bread which lives and makes everyone alive who partakes of it.
Our painting shows this complex mystery. God wants to share his Life with us. The Holy Trinity ( candles, holy spirit, redeemer-Son) offer the same life that they have for the Earth Community, for the whole of Creation. God has been holding our Earthly home (history), keeping us on his breast, transforming us into his Life. The Cross expresses us the Biblical truth: Jesus is full of Life and the Giver of Life. He ‘has come down from heaven’. This bread is coming down from Heaven. This ‘vision’, as our painting shows, appears from among the gentle clouds which surrounds this Life-Giving Heart, which look like a rich table…
Can we live without eating and receiving this food? Can our faith remain alive? Can our love and compassion be renewed without this daily, weekly sustenance?
When we are eating the Body and Blood of Christ, to eat means to ‘believe in Jesus’. That explains why it is God’s purpose that we eat this Bread, or literally that we believe in his Son. ‘If anyone shall eat this bread he shall live for ever.’ As our painting shows, God reaches out to everyone and offers this Bread, this faith. But the wording shows that there shall be those who eat. Some will refuse to eat, but many will be moved to eat!
Those who eat this Bread, those who believe, they ‘shall live for ever’. Wow! One act of eating bestows life! So, we can recapitulate today’s gospel expressed in our painting. The Bread lives. Those who believe, who eat this Bread, have life eternal. The wonderful circle of salvation is closed: Jesus, the Life, is the centre. All who are made one with him by faith and the Sacraments, are joined to him and are made full partakers of his life, all what he has, or what he does, of what he himself is.
The centre of our image is the Cross. Worth noticing, it connects the continents: Jesus’ Cross unites all peoples. ‘And the bread that I shall give is my flesh, for the life of the world.’ The Bread of Life, come down from Haven was the Father’s gift… The Incarnation of the Son and his saving mission. ‘and the Bread which I shall give is my flesh for the life of the world’. This is the gift that Jesus presently gives! It is the gift of his flesh and his blood in the sacrifice upon the cross. This is the gift Jesus himself makes, and will make in every Eucharistic celebration.
The ‘body of Christ’ always one with his sacrificial death on the cross. Jesus By giving himself into death Jesus gives himself to us as the Bread of Life. The Bread, the flesh, the act of giving, all together have one purpose: they intend that the world may have the true heavenly life.
Let us go back to our starting point. Today’s feast (with the help of our image and today’s Gospel) encourages us to see the Source. All the life, all the food, we receive, heavenly and earthly Bread, is the gift of Jesus’ saving death and Resurrection. Let us see the person of Jesus, our friend and Redeemer, as if through a window, in every gift of our lives.
Our Life from Above (The Architectural History of Grahame Park), a sermon and reflection on Trinity Sunday
In brief, Trinity Sunday is about how our life is seen ‘from above’, from God’s point of view. Today, God lifts us up all. May be, we don’t see our life as satisfied. May be, we are not exactly where we should be, emotionally, health-wise, or in our relationships, or neighbourhood. However, today God lifts us up all, to his eyes. Then, the whole landscape of our life changes.
What happens when we see things from God’s perspective? It is a bit like the exhibition on the architectural history of Grahame Park was yesterday. The talk on the estate, the visual illustrations, seeing Grahame Park above made me proud. The place, which is engulfed in sad stories, in an ignored state, and negative social narratives – turns out to be a remarkable design. Once upon a time an empty airfield, the last plane took off from here in 1958, Grahame Park was designed to serve the human community. Two churches, a community centre, a library, lots of playfields for children were built. A remarkable humaine vision. Today’s developers are unable to put human connectedness first. Instead of restoring its original vision and beauty, something lower quality will be built, in terms of humaineness, green-ness.
From God’s perspective, our experience is a true appreciation of our life. God does not demolishes our old life, does not throw us away. He restores us, gives us strength to amend our lives, to continue according to his vision of our ‘original happiness’.
Just like in our Gospel. The conversation with Nicodemus continues with Jesus’ own reflection on God’s saving work. Instead of ‘demolishing’ the world, Jesus tells Nicodemus that the Son of man must be lifted up. For ‘God loved the world so much that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not be lost but have eternal life.’ This is God’s perspective.
This is the perspective of Trinity Sunday. The ‘must’, the compulsion, lies in the wonder of God’s love and purpose. Just like the blueprint of Grahame Park design, by telling Nicodemus this in such lucid, simple language Jesus sums up the entire gospel in one lovely sentence. IT is so rich in content that if we had only these words and nothing of the rest of the Bible, by apprehending them, we could be truly saved. These words (and think of the genuine and generous amount of community space in the design of GP) flow like milk and honey, ‘words which are able to make the sad happy, the dead alive, if only the heart believes them firmly.’ (Luther)
‘What a revelation for this old Pharisee Nicodemus who all his life-long had relied on his own works! And this testimony of what is in the heart of God comes from him who came down from heaven, came down so that he still is in heaven, from the Son of man and son of God himself.’ The word, ‘thus’ loved God the world… this ‘thus’ means ‘in this way’, ‘to such an astounding degree’ did God love the world. No human mind would have thought it: God had to reveal it. The persons of the Holy Trinity, together reveal this ‘higher perspective’.
The word, which the Gospel uses, agapón, denotes the highest type and form of loving. It is different than our human love. It is a bit like the present day ‘unpleasant scenes’ of Grahame Park. ‘How could God like the sinful, foul, stinking world? How could he embrace and kiss it?...But he could and he did love it, comprehending all is sin and foulness, purposing to cleanse it and, thus cleansed to take it to his bosom.’
This is the mystery of the Trinity. That God is a community of Love, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Perhaps, just as an analogy, when in the One God the Three Persons, there love is seen, is like suddenly understanding the ‘richness’ of Grahame Park’s original design. May this Trinity Sunday, and visiting the original design, how Grahame Park ‘is its first love’, help us to see our lives in God’s joy. Also, may it help us to make the necessary adjustments to return to his ‘original plan’ about us.
Before our Biblical reflection, let me share with you an image, perhaps, my earliest memory of school, which I regard as one of the most influential events in my life. It is seemingly insignificant, as I attended a preparatory class before year 1 in primary school. We children were given the task of building a tower from a big building block set. We managed to build a really tall tower. The head teacher liked it so much that she invited all the other teachers to see it. We were taken to her office, where all the teachers praised us and congratulated for building such an outstanding tower! Why am I mentioning this? For that positive confirmation, I am convinced, was the most decisive moment on my outlook on the world. This has granted my interest in art thinking creatively in solving problems.
I imagine that when Jesus set the scene of the ‘harvest’, as it were, the task of building ‘a tower’ from the building blocks of the Kingdom of God, he did something similar than my head teacher. You can do it! ‘You yourselves have seen what I did when the Egyptians, how I carried you on eagle’s wings and brought you to myself. From this you know that now, if you obey my voice and hold fast to my covenant, you of all the nations shall be my very own from all the earth. I will count you a kingdom of priests, a consecrated nation.’ Every Eucharist we celebrate on a Sunday echoes this positive confirmation, now, in the words of Jesus. And indeed, just let us have a look at what we have built since last Sunday, as a community. Our lunch-club, our exhibitions, a concert, a community garden, youth activities, contribution to the life of Colindale Gardens, our coming retreat for families, the hoped installation of our tapestry. And, what you have done, the efforts to prove good in situations…Yes, the building blocks of the Kingdom are there, it is up to us, to put them together. But who is the builder?
Today’s Gospel takes us to the motive that lay back of all Jesus’ work, the Lord’s great compassion. But this is fascinating. In our Lord’s compassion, when he sees our world, our lives as ‘unbuilt’, when the pieces of the Kingdom of God are scattered, not in place, he is not only that ‘his heart was stirred’. Oklagseisonai, the verb, which is translated ‘being compassionate’ indicates not only a pained feeling at the sight of suffering. But in addition a strong desire to remove the suffering. It is a sympathy which feels the other’s suffering and means to show mildness and kindness. And this is the moment of creativity. He tells us: you ‘can build this tower of healing’, the church. You can build and create a healing environment which heals through its nourishing beauty and order. So, whenever suffering and sorrow of body or soul met his eyes, his heart was moved with compassion. This compassion of Jesus is one of the deepest, richest, most comforting of all his Saviour qualities. And the same should be said of us. Whenever suffering and sorrow meets our eyes, our heart is moved with compassion.
‘When Jesus saw the crowds he felt sorry for them because they were harassed and dejected, like without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples: “The harvest is rich but the labourers are few, so ask the Lord of the harvest to send labourers to his harvest.”’ (Matt 9:36) This is the commissioning of the apostles. ‘Build my Kingdom!’ We also see how his compassion is at once manifests itself in action, in creativity. The situation is never a problem for him, but a creative task of healing. ‘The harvest is abundant’, the workers are few.’ Jesus does not say, ‘the field is large, it is too big to till and to sow.’ No. He views only the harvest. The harvest has already been produced – Jesus sees it!
But what is this harvest? What are the building blocks of the Kingdom which we have to find, and put into its right place? There are many answers, and many concrete pieces, which only you can find and put to its place, or we, as a community. Let us pray about it, let us be ready. But let us have this personal vision, too as our horizon for mission. The harvest represents the seekers after God. Jesus’ invites us to suppose that even among the ‘lost’, who are deeply lost, who at present don’t seek after God, they can come to their true shelves.
And this is the moment of being ‘creative builders’. For the task is exciting, but even more that Jesus is working by our side. This positive confirmation of our work generates a very special energy. It is like the joy of the joy of the head-teacher, who summoned all the other teachers. The remarkable thing is that Jesus asks the disciples, ‘we are to ask the Lord of the harvest to throw works into the harvest.’ Jesus has already brought into the harvest his atoning death and resurrection. Without him, the harvest could not be brought in. (‘Our tower could not be built’). But on this Sunday, however, he trains us so that we can join in his concern, and to see the need for more workers, and we are moved to pray for them.
These are verbal Icons, expressions of how the world is seen from Saint Augustine's..