ne of the most interesting side effects which comes from studying
Scripture is the realization that our sacred authors often interpret the same biblical
event in diametrically opposed ways. Each writer feels free to examine the happening from
a different perspective.
No incident in the Hebrew Scriptures
is more important than the Exodus and its sequel events essential to Jewish faith.
Yet different writers give different interpretations of the Chosen Peoples 40-year
trek through the wilderness. The prophet Hosea, for instance, in the second chapter of his
oracles, depicts that period as Yahweh and the Israelites honeymoon experiences. The
two are as intimate and loving as a husband and wife immediately following their marriage.
On the other hand, the author of the
Yahwistic source of the Torah regards the same period as a time of testing. Yahwehs
continually doing things that irritate the Chosen People. They grumble and gripe, never
satisfied with Gods actions on their behalf. This is one of the reasons we know the
author is responsible for Sundays Exodus passage (Ex 16: 2-4, 12-15).
"The whole Israelite
community," the writer tells us, "grumbled against Moses and Aaron...
Would that we had died at Yahwehs hand in the land of Egypt, as we sat by our
fleshpots and ate our fill of bread. But you had to lead us into this desert to make the
whole community die of famine!"
God provides quail and manna; the
griping stops. But the message is clear: "Those who follow God arent the most
perfect individuals on the face of the earth.
The same is true of those whom Jesus
feeds in the Gospel (Jn 6: 24-35). Even after theyve been fed, they still dont
understand the meaning of what happened. Their first reaction is to search for Jesus so
they can get more food. "You are looking for me," Jesus reminds the crowd,
"not because you saw signs but because you ate the loaves and were filled."
Bread of life
Like the wilderness-roaming
Israelites, Johns crowd is so imperfect that they miss the significance of being
part of an action that people would reflect on for centuries. No doubt theyll also
begin to grumble and gripe if Jesus produces no more food, never understanding how they
fit into this essential piece of Johns theology: "I [Jesus] am the bread of
life; whoever comes to me will never hunger, and whoever believes in me will never
John explicitly ties the miraculous
feeding into the Eucharist. But, faithful to his biblical roots, he gives us a different
angle from which to view the Lords Supper than the ones his theological predecessors
gave us. Unlike Paul or the other evangelists, he forces us to focus on the actual bread
and wine as one of the major places to encounter the risen Jesus in our lives. Most
scholars believe wed have no tabernacles in our churches if it werent for
Johns unique take on the Eucharist.
No matter how we interpret God
working in our lives, Paul is convinced our interpretation effects the way we live those
lives. In the second reading (Eph 4:17, 20-24), he encourages the Ephesians to "put
away the old self of your former way of life...and be renewed in the spirit of your minds,
and put on the new self, created in Gods way in righteousness and holiness of
truth." Because were imperfect, our renewal of spirit is an ongoing process. We
cant see everything at one time.
If the ancient Greek philosophers
were correct in their contention that the "unexamined life" isnt worth
living, our sacred authors are even more correct in their contention that "unexamined
faith" isnt worth believing. We simply have to be prepared for the diversity
which results from our examination.