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A Chase After the Wind?
A Reflection on the Gospel of John 6:52-59 - 28 April 2023
Internet Image from DSouza
The Happy Life
The Old Testament is a beautiful library of different genre. I particularly like the Wisdom Books; Job, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes (Qoheleth), Wisdom, and Sirach (Ecclesiasticus). These books concentrate on the daily human experience and ultimately focus on the question of; “how is the good or happy life to be lived?” Ultimately, the answer is that for the wise, it is the life oriented on God that really matters. For those who reject wisdom, seek happiness outside of God, they turn away from life in loving the created instead of the Creator. They turn from true life and “love death”. The author of the Book of Proverbs writes,
“Happy the one who listens to me [Wisdom], attending daily at my gates, keeping watch at my doorposts; For whoever finds me finds life, and wins favor from the Lord; But those who pass me by do violence to themselves; all who hate me love death.” (Proverbs 8:34–36 NABRE)
The human problem is that, though we may recognize the wisdom of achieving true happiness through God, we often allow sin to get in the way, and from the very beginning in the Garden of Eden, we reject God and so, in the words of Qoheleth in the Book of Ecclesiastes, chase vainly “after the wind”.
I have seen all things that are done under the sun, and behold, all is vanity and a chase after wind. (Ecclesiastes 1:14 NABRE)
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What do you chase after?
The word used in Ecclesiastes for vanity in Hebrew is, hebel (הֶבֶל). It means emptiness, futility, absurdity. Everything in human life without right orientation toward God, is absurd, subject to loss: “What profit have we from all the toil which we toil at under the sun?” Without God, no absolute profit or gain is possible. Even if some temporary profit or gain is achieved, it is ultimately cancelled out by death, the great leveler. Wisdom has some advantage over foolishness, but even wisdom’s advantage is temporary and qualified. In the end, true wisdom leads us to God, all else is vain, empty, absurd. Sin gets in the way. In a culture that consistently turns away from God, should we wonder that it has become what Pope St John Paul II calls a, “culture of death?”
That they might have life …
Is this what God wants for us? How then, can our life have meaning? The Lord gives us the answer today within the Eucharistic Discourse in the Gospel of John. Our life only has meaning in remaining, abiding, in Him. This is the drumbeat of the Gospel. God emptied Himself (Philippians 2:6–8) so that we may live. Jesus tells us that,
A thief comes only to steal and slaughter and destroy; I came so that they might have life and have it more abundantly. (John 10:10 NABRE)
Given human concupiscence, our inclination to sin and death, even after Baptism, we cannot truly live outside of God’s self being constantly poured into us. Just as God “empties” Himself to become man, so we too, must empty ourselves in humility when we sin, seeking reconciliation, so that God may again pour Himself, his divinity, into us. This is what Jesus is telling us when in John Chapter 6 He tells us,
For my Flesh is true food, and my Blood is true drink. Whoever eats my Flesh and drinks my Blood remains in me and I in him. Just as the living Father sent me and I have life because of the Father, so also the one who feeds on me will have life because of me. (John 6:55–57 NABRE)
In the Eucharist of Christ’s real presence, we are filled with His resurrected life, death has no hold over us. Not only do we receive life, but with Christ pulsing through every fiber of our being, remaining in Him as He remains in us, we are filled with His purpose. We are filled with His, and therefore our, life’s true meaning. We no longer “chase after the wind” but, after the Kingdom of God. St Peter tells us very directly of the effect of being filled with our Lord,
His divine power has bestowed on us everything that makes for life and devotion, through the knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and power. Through these, he has bestowed on us the precious and very great promises, so that through them you may come to share in the divine nature, after escaping from the corruption that is in the world because of evil desire. (2 Peter 1:3–4 NABRE)
The entire goal of the Christian life is to become another Christ. It is a matter of being transformed into continuations of Jesus’ own divine life, of allowing the Lord’s own tenderness, joy, and offering to the Father to be reproduced in each of our lives as well. Without being filled with the Eucharist, the body, blood, soul, and divinity of Christ, true life, eternal life, is only possible through God’s infinite mercy. Jesus tells us,
“Amen, amen, I say to you, unless you eat the Flesh of the Son of Man and drink his Blood, you do not have life within you. (John 6:53 NABRE)
One final note. Sometimes I have heard people lament that they are frustrated with their own return to sin, time after time. They worry that the life of Christ is not filling them in the Eucharist. To them I offer the words of St Josemaría Escrivá,
“‘Going to Communion every day for so many years! Anybody else would be a saint by now’, you told me, ‘and I … I’m always the same!’ ‘Son,’ I replied, ‘keep up your daily Communion, and think: what would I be if I had not gone’” (St Josemaría Escrivá, The Way, 534).
Don’t “chase after the wind” but, be filled with your life’s true purpose, Christ. Then, get out of the way. Quoting St Josemaría Escrivá once more,
…if you don’t allow God’s grace and your director to do their work, the sculptured image of Christ, into which the saintly man is shaped, will never appear. (St Josemaría Escrivá, The Way, 56)
DSouza, M. (2013, August 5). Ecclesiastes 1:2; 2:21-23, Colossians 3:1-5, 9-11, psalm 90:3-6, 12-14, 17, luke 12:13-21. Whom Sall I Send? Send Me Lord. Retrieved April 26, 2023, from https://whomshallisend.blogspot.com/2013/08/ecclesiastes-12-221-23-colossians-31-5.html
Josemaría Escrivá de Balaguer. (2004). The Way; Furrow; The Forge. Scepter Publishers. Print
New American Bible Revised Edition (NABRE). Washington, DC: The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, 2011. Print.