Ephesians 4:25 — 5:2
Year B — the summer of bread. It seems like we read the sixth chapter of John’s Gospel for months in the summer of Year B. To me, the sixth chapter of John reads like the minutes taken during a bitter debate: Only those who eat my flesh have life; the flesh counts for nothing, only the Spirit matters. Back and forth it goes.
It is striking about this week’s readings, from both Deuteronomy and John, that the food comes to us without human involvement. All the regulations about food, about sacrifice and offering and eating, in Deuteronomy, Leviticus and elsewhere, recognize the human factor. The first of the produce of your fields, bring to the holy place and set it before God and then have a good time. Only domesticated animals are suitable for sacrifice and for eating. Centuries of human effort have gone in to the domesticating of those animals, the husbanding of those flocks, so that they can be offered to God. The cereal offering is the same. Cultivating the crops has taken huge human effort. That is what is being offered to God. In our offertory procession, we place money on the altar to represent the fruits of our efforts.
But in these passages, it seems God shuns our offerings and feeds us without any effort or involvement on our part. No wonder the people grumbled in the wilderness. What do we offer in return? At least in Deuteronomy, however, the feeding is remembered as a thing of the past — now we have entered the promised land, and can offer the fruits of our labors to God, in order to share them with others. I wonder if the reason John inverts the sea crossing/feeding (in John the feeding happens first) is to suggest that we have now crossed Jordan into the promised land and can now offer God the stuff of our lives in the same way God has offered the stuff of the divine life in Jesus. For a gift to be a true gift, it has to be mutual, we have to be able to return the offering, or sooner or later we will resent being freeloaders.