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Who Is This?

Thirteenth Sunday afar Pentecost
Twenty-First Sunday in Ordinary Time

John 6:56-69

It is at the eucharistic table and in our liturgies that we likely most often encounter Jesus’s words in the gospel of John, that his flesh is true food, his blood true drink, and that when we eat and drink, we abide in him and he in us.

Perhaps we couldn’t be blamed then if such claims of Jesus slide down into the belly of our hearts with ease, like comfort food, filled with familiarity and fond association. For those who have lived this story long, we hear bread and think body, body and think bread – a mingling of symbols and referents that comes as a hard-won accomplishment of good formation.

Add to our formations the distance most of us typically experience between our food and its source. The realities of eating the body of another being are somewhat muted by a food industry that does the hard work for us, and conveniently renames body and flesh as “meat.” To eat a body is a rather pedestrian act that the majority of us easily embrace without too much reflection.

Given our grasp on eucharistic symbols and our eating formations, perhaps it is then difficult to identify with the Jews’ disgusted question, “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?” (6:52) and Jesus’s disciples who ask, “This teaching is difficult; who can accept it?” (6:60)

As a child growing up on a small farm, where my family’s eating life was marked by considerably less distance between farmyard and table, it was not entirely unusual to sit down to a meal, and for one of my siblings or I to ask about the meat on our plates, “Who is this?” We hoped the answer would be no one we knew. Read more

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Body Matters

Second Sunday of Christmas
Solemnity of the Epiphany

Jeremiah 31:7-14
Psalm 147:12-20
Ephesians 1:3-14
John 1:1-18


“The Word became flesh and lived among us…”

The deepest of human hopes has taken body, form: there is skin on God. Soft tissues wrap bone, the divine bound willingly in the swaddling clothes of human substance, fibered all through with yearning and will. The creator inhabits created form. There is no room for metaphor here; flesh on God is no parable, no allegory. Make no mistake: this is body, like yours, like mine, mystery as intimate as your own face.

What difference does it make for flesh to mean flesh? How much would it matter if the scriptures said instead, “the Word became soul and lived among us?” Is an enfleshed God just a magnanimous detail for the sake of good story? Read more

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The Way the World Works?

First Sunday after Pentecost
Trinity Sunday

Romans 8:12-17

John 3:1-17

Two of our scripture passages for today – the story of Nicodemus from John 3 and Paul’s admonition to the church in Rome from Romans 8 – wrestle with the nature of spirit and flesh.  Throughout the history of the Christian tradition, interpretation (or mis-interpretation) of passages like these has led many Christians into the sort of gnostic dualism that condemns the flesh and elevates the spirit. In recent years, a subtle sort of Christian Gnosticism – that literary critic Harold Bloom has called “the American Religion” – has tempted us to be careless in our stewardship of our bodies and the creation at large (the “God is going to destroy it anyway” mentality).  In the late 1990s, for instance, one research study found that evangelical Christians tended to be more obese than other sectors of the US population, and more interestingly, that this tendency was even stronger among those Christians who claimed to read the Bible literally.

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