Gospel of John Chapter 6

We hope that you are enjoying this week and the next lesson in our study. This lesson on the Eucharist is so rich and has so much good commentary for us to ponder. So many theologians and saints have written so much about this, and I love the poem “Adoro te devote” which is attributed to St. Thomas Aquinas, and translated by the 19th century Jesuit priest Gerald Manley Hopkins, and which is found in our Catechism at #1381. I know that first verse is something that I repeat often when I am in the Adoration Chapel, as it seems to sum up our natural reaction to this great Mystery of God’s great love for us.
And since so much has been already been given to us by such smart people about the Eucharist, I thought a lot about the short segment of Chapter 6, where Jesus walks on the Sea, and calms His frightened disciples. I can think of all of the times in my life when I felt like I was in a small boat in a big sea, with the darkness and storms all around me. I can worry with the best of worriers, and I know that that just made the waves seem to loom larger around my little boat. And even when the disciples see Jesus walking on the water toward them, they are frightened because they don’t understand what is happening, and that probably adds to their sense of fear. When Jesus tells them “It is I; do not be afraid.” then they were glad to take him into their boat, and the storm abated and they landed safely. A footnote in my Bible says that “this reassurance that Jesus gives to the disciples is also an act of self-revelation. His words recall the holy name “I Am” that Yahweh revealed to Moses at the burning bush.” And then this is made even clearer to the disciples with His power over the laws of nature in the storm at sea.
I can also think of many times when I was glad to welcome Jesus into my rocking boat, and how differently I was able to perceive things once I did that. Even if the storm doesn’t immediately calm, we are not left alone and frightened, and we know that we will land safely at the shore in His company. I think that as we grow in our faith we realize that we need Him and don’t want to separated from Him in our daily life and adventures.
And I’ve read that some of these seas were known by different names: the Sea of Galilee, the Lake of Gennesaret, or the Sea of Tiberias. I’ve included a poem I love by another 19th century poet which reminds me of this chapter we’re studying, and it always makes me think of this story in the present tense–Jesus is walking toward us right now and offering us His love and protection.
The Kingdom of God
O world invisible, we view thee,
O world intangible, we touch thee,
O world unknowable, we know thee,
Inapprehensible, we clutch thee!

Does the fish soar to find the ocean,
The eagle plunge to find the air–
That we ask of the stars in motion
If they have rumor of thee there?

Not where the wheeling systems darken,
And our benumbed conceiving soars!–
The drift of pinions, would we hearken,
Beats at our own clay-shuttered doors.

The angels keep their ancient places–
Turn but a stone and start a wing!
‘Tis ye, ’tis your estrangèd faces,
That miss the many-splendored thing.

But (when so sad thou canst not sadder)
Cry–and upon thy so sore loss
Shall shine the traffic of Jacob’s ladder
Pitched betwixt Heaven and Charing Cross.

Yea, in the night, my Soul, my daughter,
Cry–clinging to Heaven by the hems;
And lo, Christ walking on the water,
Not of Genesareth, but Thames!

By Francis Thompson
I hope that you will find in this chapter several good things to ponder in your life. Franciene and I hope that you are enjoying this lesson, and–as always–feel free to call or email either of us with any questions. We look forward to seeing you next Tuesday!