Meditation and Questions for Reflection or Group Discussion
1st Reading: Exodus 16:2-4, 12-15 Responsorial: Psalm 78:3-4, 23-25, 54
2nd Reading: Ephesians 4:17, 20-24 Gospel: John 6:24-35
Be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and put on the new self. (Ephesians 4:23-24)
There are usually two sections to an epistle by St. Paul. The first section usually focuses on theological teaching, and the second section on practical living. Today’s second reading is no exception.
St. Paul understood that the next step after Baptism and initial conversion was sanctification. Paul knew that we all have many valuable gifts and virtues—kindness, patience, peace, and courage. He also knew that we have many attitudes and philosophies that wage war against these gifts and virtues—anger, maybe, or resentment, lust, or selfishness.
Paul called these virtuous ways the “new self” and he called the sinful ways the “old self.” His approach to this battle is probably still the best way for us to grow in holiness. Simply put, it is “Put away the old self” and “Put on the new self” (Ephesians 4:22, 24).
Paul saw this process of “putting on and putting off” as the true battle going on in our hearts and minds. He was sure that if we could win little battles each day, then we could gradually be transformed into the very likeness of Jesus.
Thinking this way can lead us to conclude that this battle is all up to us. But that is far from the truth. Even Paul, who was as self-confident as they come, believed that he needed God’s help to win the battle. That’s why he liked to emphasize the presence of the Holy Spirit in our hearts (Romans 8:9; 1 Corinthians 3:16; Galatians 4:6).
So be alert today and every day. Pay attention to the battle going on inside of you. Ask the Spirit to help you see why you acted with kindness and love on one occasion and why you fell to deception or resentment on another occasion. Do this every day, and ask the Spirit to strengthen you for this battle. Over time, you’ll find the “new self” becoming more and more prominent.
“Lord, help me to win the spiritual battle.”
Questions for Reflection or Group Discussion:
1. The first reading begins with these words: The whole Israelite community grumbled against Moses and Aaron. The Israelites said to them, “Would that we had died at the LORD’s 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! This is how God responded: I have heard the grumbling of the Israelites. Tell them: In the evening twilight you shall eat flesh, and in the morning you shall have your fill of bread, so that you may know that I, the LORD, am your God.
- Why do you believe the miracles God performed in freeing the Israelites from slavery in Egypt were insufficient for them to put their faith in Him when they experienced difficult times in the desert?
- Why do you believe God would respond in such love rather than punish the Israelites for their lack of faith and trust in him? How would you describe the message this reading is intended to convey to us?
2. The Responsorial Psalm describes in this way the “bread from heaven” the Lord gave the Israelites: He commanded the skies above and opened the doors of heaven; he rained manna upon them for food and gave them heavenly bread. Man ate the bread of angels, food he sent them in abundance.
- In what ways is this bread that the Lord “rained” down from heaven a foreshadowing of the Eucharist?
- In what way is it different?
3. The second reading is an exhortation by St. Paul to his brothers and sisters in Christ (and to us): I declare and testify in the Lord that you must no longer live as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their minds; that is not how you learned Christ, assuming that you have heard of him and were taught in him, as truth is in Jesus, that you should put away the old self of your former way of life, corrupted through deceitful desires, and be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and put on the new self, created in God’s way in righteousness and holiness of truth.
- In what way is this reading similar to these words from Romans 12:2: Do not conform yourselves to this age but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and pleasing and perfect.?
- Do you see this reading as a call for your own life? How can you respond to this call to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and put on the new self, created in God’s way in righteousness and holiness of truth?
4. In the Gospel reading, even though the crowd had seen Jesus multiply the loaves, they still asked him to perform a sign: What sign can you do, that we may see and believe in you? What can you do? Our ancestors ate manna in the desert, as it is written: He gave them bread from heaven to eat. The reading ends with these words of Jesus: I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me will never hunger, and whoever believes in me will never thirst.
- Why do you think the crowd was not able to see Jesus as the “true bread from heaven” (John 6:32)?
- In what ways were the responses of the “crowd” that followed Jesus to Capernaum similar to those of the Israelites in the desert? In what ways were they responding as men and women of the flesh, not of the Spirit?
- Though it is not included in this Sunday’s reading, what do you think the crowd’s reactions were to the ending words of Jesus, and the other words in the Gospel reading – and why? What is your reaction to these words?
5. The meditation is a reflection on these words of St. Paul from the second reading: Be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and put on the new self. It describes these words of St. Paul as a battle that he fully understood: “Paul saw this process of ‘putting on and putting off’ as the true battle going on in our hearts and minds. He was sure that if we could win little battles each day, then we could gradually be transformed into the very likeness of Jesus.” It ends with these helpful suggestions on how to fulfil these words of St. Paul: “So be alert today and every day. Pay attention to the battle going on inside of you. Ask the Spirit to help you see why you acted with kindness and love on one occasion and why you fell to deception or resentment on another occasion. Do this every day, and ask the Spirit to strengthen you for this battle. Over time, you’ll find the ‘new self’ becoming more and more prominent.”
- Do you see the need to “Put away the old self” and “Put on the new self” (Ephesians 4:22, 24) as a battle? Why or why not?
- How can you implement the meditation’s ideas for winning the battle? Are there others steps you can take?
Take some time now to pray for grace to win the spiritual battle between our “old self” and our “new self.” Use the prayer below from the end of the meditation as the starting point.