19th Sunday of the year
Today we hear all about Jesus as the Bread of Life. I live near a bakery in Belfast and up until a few months ago you always woke up in the early morning to the smell of the baking bread and cakes and it was so good. Also I remember the same smell when we had the soda bread baking in the oven here at home or wherever we might have been on holiday or whatever. There is nothing quite like getting the first bit of fresh crusty bread or the end of the soda loaf just out of the oven with LOADS of butter melting into it and maybe a bit of strawberry jam as well. The two staple parts of anyone’s diet in the western world always have been bread and milk. But the bread that the Gospel of today tells us about is so much more than the bread that we get from our local bakery , it is as Jesus puts it the bread of life which in reality is our spiritual nourishment.
How would you and I tell someone that we do not live by bread alone? What would we give or say to make them understand the idea of the bread of life in the sense of today’s readings? Our first thoughts would probably be to give them a lecture, or to try to arrange a spiritual experience. Or maybe to offer a really spiffy education class, with professional videos and worksheets and breaking into small groups to go over some discussion questions – maybe that would do it. How about it I know that I don’t do lectures and I certainly am not Spiffy.
In simple terms the Eucharist, the Body of Christ, stands as the greatest sign of contradiction against the culture of death and destruction that are so much the norm in today’s world. I think that I would tell them that Jesus is The “Bread of Life”, and he calls all of us to recognize our own dignity and the dignity of others as Sons and daughters of God. As Jesus continues his discourse on the Bread of Life in our Gospel reading today, he faces the complaints and criticism of the crowd, who take a very short-sighted view of what he says, and he affirms for them that true life, a life the will never end, is found in him, he is the one who has come from the Father, and so he simply is the living bread which gives life. There is an explicit link between “belief” and “eating the bread of life”: the two lead to each other, and they both bring about that which man most desires ‑ to live forever in God. In our world today it is easy to be negative instead of being positive and for many faith filled people there is such negativity towards faith and people of faith. Negativity is an infectious disease, and the two old men who were on at the end of the Muppet show set the bar high for holding a negative position, boy were those two a pair of old grumps. One negative thought leads to another. One negative person easily infects another.
We shouldn’t forget that above and beyond all the negativity about many aspects of religion life and living we have been gifted with the antidote that is the Positive joy of Eternal Life which the Bread of life really is about. The eternal Word has become one of us. He who for all eternity is in intimate union with divinity, shares His life with us.
When we see only what is right in front of us in black and white and nothing else we are impoverished, we are living on the cold outside surface of our lives. To live by bread alone, that is food that will not last means to see no farther than the particular things themselves, and as a result we miss the presence the love and the call of God that are really a part of every piece of the spiritual bread we have. The bread that God gives us is seen in all we have for life and living – so that we may be drawn beyond all the passing things of life. Jesus says that he is the Bread that came down from heaven. He came to give his life for us. No one takes it from him. He freely gives it. The good news of the gospel is that the Father gives us this bread that draws us to our Father and teaches us all about him. This is the gift of faith that enables us to see that it is Jesus, given by the Father, who will satisfy our deepest hunger for eternal life.
We believe God loved the world so much that he gave his only Son so that the hunger of every human being may be satisfied and that means you and me along with everyone else. May we not be afraid to partake of the bread of life.