The pericope in John 6, 22-59 primarily talks about the identity of Jesus as the Bread of Life. In this pericope, Jesus asserts His identity as the Incarnated Logos in spite of the disbeliefs of the crowd.
I think it is very important to take note that before this passage Jesus performs a miracle of feeding the multitude by bread and fishes and walks in the water. The preceding texts, the multiplication of the bread, set the tone where Jesus finally clarified and identified Himself as the Bread which gives life that comes from the Father. He continues to disclose and reveal himself as the incarnate Logos in the passage in the walking in the water.
Again, the pericope shows how Jesus in spite of the “evidence” disclosing his identity, through the miracles, yet people, including some of the apostles if not all, are still hesitant to believe. They ask for signs. They grumbled and demanded concrete material evidence, like the manna. Although there are traces that they somehow “believe” in him, however, there belief is superficial, on the physical level. It is noticeable that they see the miraculous element but they did not see the meaning of it – it seems that there is a persistent inability to see on their part.
This is true to us contemporary Christians, although we know who Jesus Christ is, yet we have doubts not only about His identity but about His influence over our lives. There are some of us who witness how he miraculously tended our lives, yet, in spite of these wondrous deeds, we remain shallow in our understanding the person of Christ in our lives. He remains material bread. Like the material bread that only satisfies the basic need, we cannot go beyond this materiality. We are invited to decipher the effect of this bread into our daily lives – in the way we live and relate with other people.
manny amanence, sj
“I am the true vine and my Father is the vine grower.”
This passage talks about a relationship not only of a kin but also of friendship. Some says it mirrors a relationship between the Father and the Son, the strong bond between the two. Jesus Christ being the vine and the God the Father, the grower of the vine. He personifies the true vine and then uses the image of the vine grower to describe his Father.
However, according to Raymond Brown, the vine and branches is a metaphor expressive of the intimate love between Jesus and his followers. This part of Jesus’ last discourse shows intimacy with his beloved disciples. Again, this intimacy is mirrored in the allegory of the vine and the branches.
This allegory speaks about an important element of intimacy – that is trust. Jesus intimacy with his apostles is build and founded on trust. He knows that when he will be going away he can trust his followers to continue the work that he had started. He is a bit certain that he can entrust his mission to them as He was trusted by His Father the plan of salvation.
We are called to be intimate to God. We are challenge to relate with Him with trust and confidence. With this trust, we are able to do our part well. We give our best so that we can bear good fruit from our labor so that we will not be pruned.
manny amanence, sj
One of the emphasis on this scripture reading is on the man being blind since birth. His blindness is attributed because either his parents are sinful or he is sinful himself. It is a common accepted understanding during that time that when a person is born blind that person in punished by God. That blindness is seen as a punishment for those who are sinners.
Alan Culpeper notes that this Chapter in John explores the meaning of sin – that naturally the existing belief is the disability of the man is attributed his culpability to sin. But Jesus does not affirm this. Instead he heals the blindness of the man even if it is against the law. Jesus Christ even goes beyond the natural constructs in understanding blindness as not so much about physical blindness but more importantly psycho-spiritual blindness. It is unfortunate that the man was born blind, however, it more unlucky like the Pharisees who not physically blind yet cannot truly see.
John makes an ironical contrast – between the man who was blind but came to sight because of Jesus, and the Pharisees who could see were brought to blindness because of Jesus. The blind man knows little and yet learns much while the Pharisees seemingly know everything but cannot be taught.
John speaks to us, contemporary Pharisee-like. He challenges us to become more aware of our own blindness than looking and judging at others’ blind spots. Sometimes, we are blinded by our pride. We think that we know everything. We feel that we have better answers and solutions than others. But in truth, we are almost and always need guidance.
If we are humble enough to accept of our blindness then probably we can help others especially those who are psycho-spiritually blind. If we can be truthful enough to admit our limitations – that we don’t brag about our know-it-all attitude then we become Christ. Jesus who is the true is our exemplar of bringing light to others.
manny amanence, sj
One of the characteristics, according Raymond Brown, of Jesus Christ as a good shepherd is his knowledge about his sheep. It means that the good shepherd possesses not only a particular knowledge about his sheep but most importantly he has an intimate knowledge of his flock. This knowledge is not only an “alam” rather it is a “kilala” knowledge.
In Filipino, the word “alam” pertains to some degree of familiarity. If you have “alam” about someone you probably know some information about the person. Maybe you know the person’s name, address, age and other personal information about him or her. Or maybe you are familiar with the person’s hobby, interests, and likes. However, “alam” would not be enough if you really want to know the person better. The Filipino word for this knowledge is “kilala”. “Kilala” entails a degree not of familiarity but of a deeper and an intimate knowledge about the person. It is not only about the facts and data about the person but, again, the being of the person. “Kilala” is much concern of a deeper relationship with the person. When someone will say “kilalanin” it takes some effort to know really the person. It also takes time to build a good rapport and trust. If you make “kilala” the person it means you want to build a lasting relationship to him or her compared to “alam” which very transient and shallow.
The good shepherd willingly lays his life for his sheep because, I believe that, his knowledge and his relationship about his flock is deeper. He knows intimately about his sheep unlike the hirelings who just shear the sheep because of his job but the good shepherd go beyond what is only expected on him – to really care and tend his sheep with love.
As good shepherds, we are challenge, to know our flock well. To know them is to deepen not only our knowledge about them but most importantly deepen our relationship with them. It is phrased beautifully in Filipino regarding the challenge to really the person – “kilalanin ang kanyang pagkatao” than “alamin kung sino ang tao”.
I think to be a good shepherd like Jesus Christ we should get to know the being-ness of the person than knowing only something about the person. “Kilalanin natin ang pagkatao ng tao at hindi lamang ang kanyang katauhan”
manny amanence, sj
In the gospel of John, the Holy Spirit is named as the “Paraclete” – which means “to call to one’s side”. It is used mostly in juridical or courtroom contexts when in outside the New Testament. Raymond Brown states, “the Paraclete is an Advocate like a counselor who supports a defendant at a trial. The Spirit will be the great defender of the disciples.” Here the “Paraclete” is “another Advocate” (John 14:16), implying that Jesus was the first “Advocate.” With this, the “Paraclete” does many things as Jesus said and did. Besides being an advocate, the Paraclete is also an intercessor, helper, comforter, or counselor.
Moreover, the gospel of John describe the “Paraclete” has several roles. The first role is a ‘companion’ – the one who will be with the disciples forever, after Jesus is gone, “And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, to be with you forever.” In this passage, Jesus prepares and promises that another one who will stand as an “Advocate” to be with His disciples after his departure.
The second role is a teacher – who reminds the disciples of Jesus’ own words and teachings. As a teacher the Paraclete will continue doing what Jesus has began to do. Alan Culpeper phrases it, “the Paraclete teach the disciples all things and remind them of all that Jesus said.”
The third role of the Paraclete is a legal witness – who will give testimony to the disciples and world about Jesus. John 15:26, the Paraclete testifies on Jesus behalf, “When the Advocate comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who comes from the Father, he will testify on my behalf.”
The fourth role of the Paraclete is a judge – who will convict the world about the sin and righteousness and Judgment. Another role of the Advocate of Jesus is a revealer – who will guide the disciples to the truth about God and Jesus.
The allegory of the Vine and the Branches (Jn 15,1-8), followed by the exhortation to abide in the love of Jesus (Jn 15,9-17), is an invitation to each priests to remember that, “Christ is the true Vine.” The vine is the source of nutrition and life of the braches; apart from it the branches will wither and die. Jesus is now the vine “transmitting life to the branches.” As branches withers if detached from the vine, “Jesus declares that life depends on abiding in Him.” It is this intimate oneness and union with the Vine, that is an inexhaustible source of formation especially for priests.
Pastors should always remember that they are participating in the eternal mission of Christ. Thus, each priest is always called to have an intimate relationship with Jesus as, “there is an intrinsic communion with God in which one shares the life of God, which constitutes the true nature of being a disciple.” In his Apostolic Exhortation, Pastores Dabo Vobis, Blessed John Paul said that, “the Church knows that Jesus Christ himself is the living, supreme and definitive fulfillment of God’s promise: ‘I am the good shepherd.’ It is the condition in which we can see again that priesthood is always grounded and connected in Christ. Without this essential and innate connectedness, priesthood is nothing, irrelevant, and insignificant.
This connectedness and grounded-ness of the priest in Christ does not remain abstract. Abiding in Jesus means sharing with and in his very life and ministry. The call to abide in His love, is the call to imitate His love. And this very expression of love from a priest is a constitutive element of abiding in Christ. If Christ loves to the full, the priests tries even though how hard it is to truly love amidst a world that is filled with hatred and pride. Oneness with the vine means fruitfulness, for one is filled with the love, one could not just but be fruitful. The superabundance a priest receives from his relationship with God, is overflowing and concretely manifested in the love he offers to people. Thus, pastors are called to share the love and compassion of Jesus for sinners, and His constant care for ordinary people, the laity. (Coke Prieto)
 R. Alan Culpepper, The Gospel and Letters of John, (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1998), p. 215.
 Rekham M.Chennatu, Johannine Discipleship as a Covenant Relationship, (Peabody, MA : Hendrickson, 2006), p. 115.
 Pastores Dabo Vobis, 1.
One best description of the Good Shepherd that R. Alan Culpepper gave us in his commentary on the Gospel of John is that, “the Good Shepherd ‘knows’ his sheep, and they know him.” He lays down his life for the sheep and he cares for the sheep and does not run away when he sees the wolf coming.
The recent event on the election of the new pope amazes me so much, which drives me to connect the character of the new pope to the character of the Good Shepherd. I listed below ten important things that we should know about the pope, which I got from the social media. I believe these are the characteristics that we are looking for in a Good Shepherd.
- Earlier, in February 2005, He chose to celebrate the Mass for Holy Thursday in a maternity hospital in Buenos Aires, where he washed the feet of 12 expectant and new mothers. Before he washed their feet, he told them that “Some of you are holding your babies in your arms. Others of you are carrying them in your womb. All of you are women who have chosen life. I, as a priest, am going to repeat the act of Jesus, and carry out a concrete act of service for women who have said yes to life. In washing your feet, I am washing those of all mothers, and of my mother, who felt me in her womb.”
- In 2008, on the Holy Thursday, he washed the feet of 12 recovering drug addicts at a rehabilitation center in Buenos Aires, Argentina. He showed compassion for the victims of HIV-AIDS and in 2001, visited a hospice to kiss and wash the feet of 12 AIDS patients.
- His episcopal motto: When he became a bishop in 1992, He chose as his motto miserando atque eligendo, “lowly and yet chosen.” The phrase comes from a homily of the Venerable Bede reflecting on the Call of Matthew. Matthew knew himself to be unworthy (read: “human”) yet Jesus chose him, not despite but because of, his humanity. These words signal humility, and may also reflect a common formulation of Jesuit identity: “What is it to be a Jesuit? It is to know that one is a sinner; yet called to be a companion of Jesus.”
- His reputation for simplicity: Media outlets have already reported that he leads a simple life. He lived in a small apartment instead of the bishop’s palace, prepared his own meals, and took public transportation to work. (The past tense in all of these verbs is deliberate, because as pope, that degree of simplicity will likely be impossible. Unless, that is, we can reclassify the Popemobile as a kind of public transportation…) Still, all accounts suggest that Pope Francis’s simplicity is authentic and not limited to externals, and it will be exciting to see how it shapes his papacy.
- His clothing: All the popes from (at least) Pius XI up to Benedict XVI opted to don the traditional red shoulder cape (a mozzetta) when they first appeared on the balcony of St. Peter’s Basilica. Pope Francis did not. This could be for any number of reasons, but one fact remains
- His first speech: NPR has this quick translation of Pope Francis’s first Urbi et Orbi message. Reading that message now, after hearing it, consoles me. Two notes: first, the pope led us in prayer. In his first words therefore, Francis united the throngs of people gathered in St. Peter’s Square, to speak with one voice. Second, the pope asked for the blessing of the entire People of God, bowing before them as a servant (or a servus servorum) bows before the one served
- Tomorrow: It’s no easier to predict the trajectory of a papacy than the election of a pope. His biography, though, suggests that his ministry will be learned. Before he showed up on the balcony, even before he was a priest, he was a student of high intellectual curiosity. He has degrees in chemistry, philosophy, and theology, and has taught all of these (and literature and psychology as well) as a Jesuit. In addition to his formal teaching assignments, he also served (twice) as a superior for Jesuits in formation. A hunger for learning – as a teacher and a student – has been central to Jorge Mario Bergoglio’s life so far. indisputable: today, the world met a pope who could not possibly have dressed any more simply.
- Dolan also noted that Francis declined a chauffeured limousine that was prepared to take him back to the group’s accommodations for the evening. “He got back on the bus with us, like he had been doing for the whole conclave,” he said. “Those are little signs that send signals.”
- This is a man of dynamic orthodoxy, genuine missionary fervor. He could be very appealing to young people,” said George Weigel, a frequent commentator on Catholicism and a biographer of Pope John Paul II. “This is a man who knows that there’s a lot that needs fixing in the central machinery of the church here in Rome, and I think he will go about fixing it very quickly.”
- The Holy Father left as he had arrived, with a minimal escort and entourage. He was accompanied by Archbishop Georg Ganswein and Msgr. Leonardo Sapienza, S.C.I., respectively prefect and regent of the Prefecture of the Pontifical Household. Along the way, however, he surprised everyone by first sending an affectionate greeting to children from a nearby school and then by asking his driver to stop by the Domus Internationalis “Paulus VI” near Piazza Navona where he had stayed before entering the Conclave. The Pope greeted those working there, gathered his belongings, and paid his bill. [From the Vatican News Service].
Pope Francis is indeed an alter Christus, a true disciple of God, and a true follower of the Good Shepherd. We continue to pray for him and his pontificate.
JAMES B. ABELLA (San Jose Seminary)