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By Fr. Jerry Pokorsky (
) | Aug 03, 2021
How dare you! The exclamation expresses outrage, a response to gross injustice, disappointment, a personal disagreement, or plain old hypersensitivity. Many contemporary variants go beyond disagreement and demand silence. No tweets dissenting from the CDC are allowed, for example.
In the Book of Exodus, we hear the outrage of the Israelites. Their voices dripping with sarcasm, they complain: “Would that we had died by the hand of the Lord in the land of Egypt, when we sat by the fleshpots and ate bread to the full; for you have brought us out into this wilderness to kill this whole assembly with hunger.” (Ex. 16:3) How dare you, Moses!
After the multiplication of the loaves, the crowds set up Jesus for the “How dare you!” moment. They have just witnessed a great miracle after hearing Jesus preach the Kingdom of God. Quickly returning to their materialism, they eagerly chase Jesus and catch Him in Capernaum. They are no longer interested in His messianic teaching. They are interested in matters close to their hearts: Who will feed them for the rest of their lives?
“Rabbi, when did you come here?” An amusing question, deflecting attention from their materialistic self-interest. So Jesus answers them, elevating their attention to the higher gifts: “Truly, truly, I say to you, you seek me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves. Do not labor for the food which perishes, but for the food which endures to eternal life, which the Son of man will give to you...” They seem to respond well and ask: “What must we do, to be doing the works of God?” Jesus reveals: “This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent.” (cf. Jn. 6: 25-29)
But for materialists, belief comes at a price: “Then what sign do you do, that we may see, and believe you? What work do you perform? Our fathers ate the manna in the wilderness; as it is written, ‘He gave them bread from heaven to eat.’” (Jn. 6: 30-31) We’re hungry, so keep those miracles coming! Imagine a world without hunger, without work, without cares—and without compassion, generosity, and human interaction in pursuit of the common good.
Jesus returns to the spiritual meaning of the miracles: the multiplication of the loaves as well as the manna in the desert. “Truly, truly, I say to you, it was not Moses who gave you the bread from heaven; my Father gives you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is that which comes down from heaven, and gives life to the world.” Pretending to understand, they respond with their stomachs: “Lord, give us this bread always.” (cf. Jn. 6: 32-33)
So the stage is set for the grand finale, the schismatic “How dare you!” moment. The Gospel continues with the extended Eucharistic Discourse that concludes: “This is a hard saying; who can listen to it?” (Jn. 6: 60) “After this many of his disciples drew back and no longer went about with him.” (Jn. 6: 66) So Jesus loses His entire congregation—except the Twelve—because he would not back down from promising us Holy Communion.
Saint Paul teaches that we no longer live as the gentiles in the futility of their minds. In the truth of Jesus, we have put away our former way of life with all its deceitful desires and are renewed in spirit, living in righteousness and holiness and truth. (cf. Eph. 4: 17-24) But have we? Or maybe we’re not much different from the ancient Israelites or the fat and happy disciples looking for endless entitlements from the Lord.
Ready for a “How dare you” moment?
Satire is useful. Punchy, funny, over the top, with outrageous nuggets of truth. Consider this guest commentary (abridged here) by a fictional crotchety old man in the Christian satire site, the Babylon Bee :
…long, long ago—[in] the good old days—when men were men, women were women, and you weren’t allowed to switch. Back then, we weren’t scared of any little old disease. And guess how we fared? Well, yes, a lot of us died. Medicine was not quite as good back then. A lot less medical debt, a lot more dying. It’s a tradeoff. But we weren’t as whiny about it. And man, we had some diseases. Smallpox. Polio. Spanish. Those things, they’d kill you. But we didn’t care. We just lived our lives... well, some of us. Others dropped dead. We had a lot more funerals back then, but those are good social gatherings to meet and talk to each other, as we didn’t have Twitbook and Facer. So it all worked out. And because we stood up to disease and death, we built this country into something great, with nuclear power and moon landings. You people can’t do that these days because you’re all hiding in your houses waiting for things to fall back to the stone age. So that’s why you need to be like your ancestors and get out there and say, ‘I ain’t scared of you, disease! I ain’t even believe in germs and viruses; I’ve never seen them, and scientists could have just made those up!’ And then get on with your life. What’s the worst that could happen? Well, yeah, you could die... but nothing worse than that.
Last year, the pandemic spooked the world—including the entire hierarchy of the Church—into a massive shutdown. In retrospect, as we warily consider the tyranny to come, we might demand: How dare you shut down the Eucharistic reception of Jesus, Who promises: “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me will never hunger, and whoever believes in me will never thirst.”
That fictional old man makes a lot of sense. None of us will make it out of this world alive, so maybe we should get to work without fear and seek the things above. Jesus, the Bread of Life, saves us from something more terrible than death.
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