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JULY 29, 2012: SEVENTEENTH SUNDAY OF THE YEAR

Readings: 

II Kings 4:42-44
Ephesians 4:1-6
John 6:1-15

As I mentioned last week, each of the four evangelists has his own unique theology. That's why we have four gospels, not just one. In some sense they write against someone (other evangelists) as well as write for someone (their communities.) John, for instance, wants his readers to concentrate on Jesus' divinity more than his humanity. That's one of the reasons he makes several changes in a story Mark first narrated more than 30 years before.

In Mark's chapter 6 account of the first bread miracle, Jesus simply forces his disciples to share the little food they've brought with everyone in the crowd. He only instigates and blesses; his disciples do the rest. But from the beginning, John's Jesus takes charge of the situation; initially calling attention to the impossibility of buying enough food for such a huge crowd and ending by personally distributing the boy's bread and fish.

We presume John's familiarity with today's II Kings reading, in which Elisha the prophet feeds a hundred people, is partially behind the peoples' remark, "This is truly the Prophet, the one who is to come into the world." Although, following John's belief that anything Judaism can do, Christianity can do better, his Jesus feeds more with less and is far beyond being just an ordinary prophet; he's the Prophet - a special Yahweh-sent person who will be the new Moses, liberating people from oppression.

Once fed, this particular crowd has the wrong idea about what this prophet should do and be. "Since Jesus knew they were going to come and carry him off to make him king, he withdrew again to the mountain alone." Jesus is a different kind of liberator than they had in mind. They think of an external liberation; Jesus focuses on an internal liberation - a dimension which John will explore over the next couple of weeks.

Yet even though John puts a spotlight on the divine Jesus, the author of Ephesians reminds his readers that their actions are at the heart of Christian faith. "I... urge you to live in a manner worthy of the call you have received with all humility and gentleness ...." The Pauline disciple who penned these words presumes each follower of the risen Jesus has received a personal call from him/her. No matter the importance of the divine Jesus, his disciples share in that importance by continuing his/her ministry.

But, agreeing with John, the writer presumes such importance differs from a "common," non-Christian definition of importance. We're accustomed to deferring to "important" people, putting them on pedestals, treating them with a respect ordinary people don't normally receive.

At odds with that definition, the Ephesians author encourages the other Christs in his community to "... bear with one another through love, striving to preserve the unity of the spirit through the bond of peace: one body and one Spirit, as you were also called to the one hope of your call, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all."

Important people in the Christian community constantly work at helping others discover their importance. Everyone in our communities is so important that we want to be one with each of them, just as Jesus, the Spirit and the Father are one with us.

Constantly maintaining such a vision of unity demands lots of hope: trust that with the risen Jesus' help we can pull it off. A personal divinely-inspired vision of oneness is more liberating than any change of political leadership. Just ask our sacred authors.