APRIL 12, 2008: SATURDAY OF 3RD WEEK OF EASTER; ACTS 9:31–42; JOHN 6:60–69
THE WORDS I SPOKE TO YOU ARE SPIRIT AND LIFE. From the first page of the Bible spirit is intimately associated with life. This association is brought out with a more striking clarity in the Hebrew text. (&9, the word ’ruach’ means ‘wind’, ‘breath’, ‘spirit’ depending on the context. In the first account of creation we read in one translation that the Spirit of God hovered over the waters.” The Greek Septuagint translated it with the equivalent of these words, as did the Latin Vulgate. Another reading of the same text, as one English version brings out, would be “a mighty wind agitated the waters.” Significantly, the statement immediately following this mention of the Spirit of God declares that “God spoke and said ‘Let there be light.’” In this way then life, Spirit, and light are closely associated in the Bible from the beginning with the word of God. The same intimate connection is present at the beginning of the Church as in the beginning of creation, for the Spirit, sent by Jesus with the Father in fulfillment of his word of promise, descends in the form of fire, giving new life and understanding to the faithful gathered in fervent prayer.
In the Gospel we have just heard, Jesus contributes fresh significance to this tradition, that was appreciated only after his death and resurrection when the Spirit was given with a fullness unknown prior to that event. The claim he makes here as he interprets the deeper meaning of his multiplying the bread is that he speaks with the creating power that was present in God’s word that imparted life and light to the created world. “My words are Spirit and life” He makes this statement to those disciples who did not accept his claim to be the bread descended from heaven that gives eternal life, after telling them that “it is the Spirit who gives life, the flesh profits not at all.” This was his way of instructing them to look beyond the surface event by which their hunger was satisfied to its spiritual significance.
Those who remained with the Lord did not understand fully the implications of his teaching. After the resurrection he himself would explain how his suffering and death was the fulfillment of God’s promises as revealed to Moses, the prophets, and the inspired wise men of Israel’s writings. He then sent the Spirit from the Father to fortify them in their faith that his words are in all truth Spirit and life—indeed, eternal life.
Jesus’ words continue to live today as we listen with ears of faith. They have power to unlock doors that open into hidden places of our very self where they vibrate with a life that transcends all we have known in the past. There is a freshness in his words that contains a promise of life that resonates within the mysterious depths of our own heart. May this Eucharist we celebrate renew this promise within each of us and impart to us the strength of the Spirit of God as we place our faith in the words that we have just heard from the mouth of the risen Lord Jesus. !
Abbot John Eudes Bamberger